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Tag Archives: Rambo

Stallone in Thailand

When filming began on the third segment of the Rambo adventure in mid-1987, I was called to work on the film. I was told we would be working in Thailand, Israel, and in Yuma, Arizona.

As it turned out, I did the locations in Thailand and Yuma. I did not go to Israel due to work immigration problems but as it turned out, most of what was shot, or never shot, in Israel was re-shot in Yuma due to terrible production problems and the continuing threat of war breaking out at any moment.

The Stick Fight (Bangkok, Thailand)

When we filmed the stick fight in Bangkok it was very hot and the warehouse that we used was crammed with people. It was brutally hot and smelly in there during our filming, and it was not a fun place to be. We also worked in Chiang Mai, which is located in the mountainous part of Thailand and is much cooler. That’s where we filmed all of the temple scenes.

Stallone playing the rough game of Buzcari

When we were finished in Thailand, I returned home to work on the Robert De Niro film, Midnight Run and some of the cast and crew of Rambo III traveled to Israel. During the very difficult shoot in the Israeli desert, I got several phone calls asking me to please come. I could not go because I was on location in freezing, at that time, Chicago. The problem was that they had to hire an Israeli still photographer as part of the production deal to film there, and he knew absolutely nothing about working on a film set or under filming conditions. As it turned out, I had to recreate 95% of what he did when we were in Yuma. This caused some very difficult problems for myself and the second unit still photographer that I brought down there to help me.

Incredible battle scene between Russian Army & Afghan cavalry

Richard Crenna & Stallone on the attack

When we got to Yuma, The crew was split into two different units, with the first unit shooting what was scheduled to be done in Yuma and the second unit re-shooting most of what had been shot in Israel. This was very difficult on the cast members because they were running back and forth between two different locations and trying to remember what they were supposed to be doing on each one. It was professionalism at its highest level.

Richard Crenna

People always ask me why I carry so much spare equipment when I go on location shoots. On this location we were dealing with very hot days with no shelter and lots of fine sand that was always blowing around us. Everyone had huge problems with sand getting into places where it was not welcome, and I was no exception. When I returned home to LA and took my eight camera bodies in for cleaning, the man at Nikon Professional Services just laughed at me and had me deposit them in the trash bin next to him. He did offer me $50 each for the bodies in case they could salvage some parts to service other cameras in the future. Once Nikon stops making a certain camera, they stop making spare parts for it too. It is then that these old parts come in handy for repairs.

Charge of the Afghan Cavalry (no CGI)

One of the best scenes that I photographed on this location was the big battle that took place at the film’s end. We used marines stationed in Yuma as the Russian soldiers and 700 mounted Civil War re-enactors as the Afghan horsemen. Everything was real and there was no stupid CGI (computer generated imagery) to make it look like a laughable cartoon. Those were the days of real filming and when you saw it on the screen, you could certainly see it.

Sylvester Stallone

Working on the Rambo films was a great adventure. We worked with great people and we had a lot of fun. We worked hard but the end product was certainly worth it.

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Sylvester Stallone with his best Rambo look in the pouring rain (Rambo II, 1984)

In the fall of 1984, I got a call from Sylvester Stallone’s PR man, Paul Block, asking if I would be interested in working on Rambo II film in Mexico. I’d known and worked with Paul numerous times before and really liked working with him, so I said yes.

When we all arrived in Acapulco, where we were housed in a lovely hotel on the beach, we didn’t know that the biggest typhoon in years was headed our way. Our first day of shooting was in the jungle behind Acapulco and it would be pissing down rain. When we arrived it was doing just that and we started our day’s work anyway. I got some of my favorite Rambo II shots that day and it was like working in a warm shower. After a couple of hours, we were told to leave because the only road home was about to collapse. It did collapse, but only after we just left.

Stallone, Andy Wood, Julie Nickson, Harry Mok (Rambo II, 1984)

Most of our work took place in the jungle behind Acapulco and it was very hot, smelly, humid and rainy. We also shot on a river and at a waterfall only reachable by helicopter, and at a Mexican air base. We dealt with lots of small, biting insects, large nasty spiders, and really nasty biting snakes that were called ten steppers because, if one bit you, you walked ten steps before you dropped dead. In spite of all of these diversions, we managed to have many good laughs and enjoy our shoot.

Stallone and Richard Crenna

Many funny things happened on this location. Sly getting pantsed by Richard Crenna during a interview with Maria Shriver for national morning TV and then Sly hitting Crenna in the face with a cream pie during his interview; mud fights while working in the jungle; our Thanksgiving dinner with smuggled turkeys; and  the crew being so covered in soot from the burning tires at the POW camp set that our hotel security wouldn’t let us in because we were all unrecognizable.

Kay Cole, Stallone, Pamela Westmore

Stallone gets advice from legendary British Cameraman Jack Cardiff ASC, BSC

We worked with many wonderful people there and had many great times. I remember working with our wonderful Italian camera crew, grip crew, and electric crew, the legendary British cameraman, Jack Cardiff ASC BSC, our great British production crew led by the outstanding assistant director David Tomlin. I will never forget the wonderful lobster dinners with Richard Crenna and his wife at his beautiful beachside hotel.

When we got bored on our Sunday’s off, we made up our own Trivial Pursuit games about the names of movie cowboys horses and we quickly learned that if we ate a lot of garlic with our pasta, that the small, biting bugs with big teeth would stay away.

Max Sano & Dave Friedman (Rambo II, 1984)

Stallone at the waterfall

We did have a very sad moment, when our lead special effects man was killed at the waterfall after slipping on a moss covered rock. We are always reminded that filmmaking is a very dangerous business and that accident certainly drove the point across to us that day.

More photos from Rambo II:

Sylvester Stallone, doing what he does best: killing bad guys (Rambo II, 1984)

Stallone and Julie Nickson (Rambo II, 1984)

Stallone in the rain (Rambo II, 1984)

Sylvester Stallone, Poster Art (Rambo II, 1984)