In 1986, a sequel was written by Steven E. de Souza, and revised by Frank Darabont, with an eye to having John McTiernan direct. The script was based on the book 'Nothing Lasts Forever' (1979) by Roderick Thorp, but Schwarzenegger wasn't interested in reprising the role. The script was then reworked with a new central character, eventually played by Bruce Willis, and became Die Hard (1988). The plot of the abandoned sequel would had seen Matrix being hired by a big corporation to oversee their security to protect their executives from being kidnapped. To stop people breaking into their building and to make sure their computers are secure. So he sets it up and hires the most dangerous people to be guards in the building and then lo and behold - he discovers the people he's working for are in the illegal arms business and the big corporation is a simply a front. The end of the movie would see Jenny and Cindy, who is now a lawyer, trapped in the building and Matrix now has to defeat all the people he hired - all the meanest, toughest guards - as well as the security systems, the guard dogs, everything.
Vernon Wells wasn't the original actor cast to play Bennett. He did audition for the role, lost to another. On the first day of filming, however, director Mark L. Lester fired the other actor and hired Wells. This is the reason that Bennett's clothes seem so tight, because Wells was bigger than the original actor, and the production didn't have time to make a new costume. Over the years, a rumor has developed that Wells originally auditioned for the part of Matrix, but this is false.
Arius (Dan Hedaya) is said to be a deposed dictator from the country of Val Verde. Val Verde was a fictionalized South/Central American country used by Hollywood from the 1980s to early 1990s to depict a Spanish speaking country similar to Cuba or Nicaragua without encountering diplomatic problems. It is also referenced in the films Predator (1987), Die Hard 2 (1990), and the made for TV movie Supercarrier: Deadly Enemies (Pilot) (1988).
Martial arts expert and fight choreographer Michael M. Vendrell worked with Arnold Schwarzenegger on the film, and, by the end of production, Vendrell estimated that Schwarzenegger had become a second degree black belt.
The surplus store where Matrix picks up all the war toys during his night "shopping" was "Surplus City" in Sun Valley, California. A movie addition to the building (on the driveway) allowed for the secret room, where the machine guns and the other fun stuff was hidden. In the 1960's, this company had the largest collection of military surplus 'jeeps' and 'mighty mites' for sale in the US.
The shot of Matrix standing on the landing gear of the plane as it races down the runway was shot by constructing the wheel section of a plane and attaching it by hydraulics to the side of a camera truck.
The introduction to Matrix as he comes out of the forest, with close ups on his boots, chest, biceps etc was shot and edited in a similar fashion as Leni Riefenstahl's Nazi propaganda movies. According to director Mark L. Lester this was done to represent the notion of the invincible man of the earth emerging from the forest.
A scene that was filmed, but cut sees General Kirby arrive at the shopping mall following Matrix's rampage and tells the investigating police officer to reconsidered going after Matrix and warns the officer that Matrix was trained not to surrender and not go down without a fight and that he is on a mission and that the police force cannot stop him and advises the officer to back off. The scene was reinstated for the Director's Cut.
Arnold Schwarzenegger performed many of his own stunts, as producers found it difficult to find a stunt double for the bodybuilder. The actor suffered a dislocated shoulder and several stitches during the shoot.
Screenwriter Jeph Loeb originally wrote the script with the intention of having Gene Simmons play Matrix, but Simmons passed on it early in the developmental stage. Loeb then rewrote the script with Nick Nolte in mind as an out-of-condition former Commando. The storyline was to concern a special forces agent working in the Middle East who becomes sick of the continuous death and destruction. He leaves Israel, returns to the United States and retires, but he is then forced out of retirement after the kidnapping of his daughter.
Matrix goes into battle with an Valmet M78 light machine gun, an Uzi submachine gun, a Remington Model 870 combat shotgun and a Desert Eagle semi-finalautomatic pistol. He also commandeers an M60E3 belt-fed machine gun and an M16A1 assault rifle.
The combat vest that Matrix wears is a real combat vest used by the Air Force's Parachute Unit. The vest was designed by Group 5, a combat clothing manufacturer from Texas who do not sell to the public.
The script went through numerous rewrites and writers. Larry Gross and Richard Tuggle were both attached to the project during production, but neither appear in the film's credits. Tuggle's name appeared on advance posters for the film, despite his omission from onscreen credits. Despite earlier reports of an initial $8 million budget, the $9 million picture was $3 million over budget, and revisions caused production delays of two or three days.
Western Airlines was an actual airline. It was headquartered at Los Angeles International Airport and operated a second hub at Salt Lake City International Airport. In 1987, Delta Airlines acquired Western, and to this date still maintains a strong presence at LAX and SLC. After the acquisition, however, Delta sold off Western's fleet of McDonnell Douglas DC-10's (like the one seen in the film) because it already had a large fleet of Lockheed L-10ll TriStars.
Shooting began on 22 April 1985 in Mt. Baldy, CA, before moving to the Los Angeles International Airport. A three-week night shoot took place in Long Beach and San Pedro, CA. The Sherman Oaks Galleria, in Sherman Oaks, CA, served as the film's shopping mall location, and was used for six days after 9pm, after stores closed. "Arius's" fortress was filmed in San Simeon, CA. There, with permission from the Hearst Corporation and the California Department of Parks and Recreation, a watchtower and five barracks were constructed, and subsequently blown up for the film's finale.
This film came out the same year as the similarly-themed Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), starring Sylvester Stallone. Both films performed well at the box office, although Stallone's film was a much bigger hit and cultural/global phenomenon. The fact that Stallone and Schwarzenegger had competing films out in the same year fueled the "Stallone vs. Schwarzenegger" rivalry that went on for years, both with each other and in the media.
In the ITV broadcast and some versions of the film on DVD, the scene which Matrix kills Henriques by snapping his neck was cut. It cuts from Matrix elbowing Henriques in the face to Matrix putting the blanket over Henriques and putting his head on his head. The editing makes it look as if Matrix killed Henriques instantly when he knocked him out with his elbow.
The location of Matrix home is somewhere near Mt Baldy. In the montage where John and his daughter are spending time together, they can be seen eating ice cream and sign in the background reads "Mt Baldy Snack Bar".
The film is inspired by DC Comics character Sgt. Rock, which star Arnold Schwarzenegger and producer Joel Silver had long attempted to make into a movie. Screenwriter Jeph Loeb had written for comics and gave Sgt. Rock's first name (Franklin) to General Kirby, and his middle name (John) to Matrix.
When John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Cindy (Rae Dawn Chong) are in the warehouse, John looks at a map and says, "these co-ordinates are somewhere near Santa Barbara". Audiences in Santa Barbara movie theaters cheered at the mention of their town.
Casa De Cadillac, where Cooke helps himself to a free Cadillac was filmed only ¼ mile (½Km) from Julie's parents' health food restaurant in Valley Girl (1983). Also, when John Matrix & Cindy (Rae Dawn Chong) are chasing Sully (David Patrick Kelly) they go through the same intersection (Beverly Glen & Mulholland Drive) as Julie, Stacey, Randy and Fred do when they are leaving the party (after Fred and Randy went back for Julie and Stacey).
After Cindy fires the rocket launcher, she says she learned how to use it because "she read the instructions." While the line was intended as a joke, if you look closely in the earlier scene when she and Matrix stock up at Surplus City, there is indeed an instruction manual for the weapon in the shopping cart as Cindy wheels the cart out of the store.
The final battle was filmed at the Harold Lloyd estate in Beverley Hills, built by the famous silent film star. An intensely superstitious man Lloyd would never drive around the circular fountain at the front of the house, believing it would bring bad luck. In this film the villains drive around the fountain and suffer massive misfortune the next day when Matrix attacks them.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The mansion used in the final shootout between Matrix and Arius (the former Harold Lloyd estate in Beverly Hills) is the same mansion see in the final shootout between Axel Foley and Victor Maitland in Beverly Hills Cop (1984).
During the scene in the shed, after Matrix cuts the soldier's arm off, he was originally supposed to hit the victim with it and say "Need a hand?" This scene was never shot however, as it was considered too macabre. Despite this, the 2007 director's cut restored a few extra seconds of footage of Matrix tossing the cut limb nonchalantly at the wounded soldier, as most likely a "lighter" alternative to blatantly hitting him with it.
Just after Matrix plants the claymore mines, he is seen shooting a knife into a guard's stomach. The knife he used is a Russian Ballistic knife that uses a spring to launch the knife blade out of the handle.
Matrix's raid on the complex at the end of the film was shot on a beach in San Simeon, California, near William Randolph Hearst Castle. Originally, the scene was to be shot on Palos Verdes Peninsula in California, but two days before shooting, the US Coast Guard pulled the permits.