Saturday, June 22, 2024

Sgt Rock: Arnold Schwarzenegger and John McTiernan’s movie was sunk by John Cleese?

Back in the early nineties, Arnold Schwarzenegger and John McTiernan almost made Sgt Rock, only to be torpedoed by an unlikely hold-out.

In the late eighties/ early nineties, shortly after they did Predator together, Arnold Schwarzenegger, John McTiernan and writer Shane Black were all set to team on a big-budget movie adaptation of the DC comic book Sgt. Rock. This is why, at the end of Predator, Black is seen reading a Sgt Rock comic during the cast roll. According to author Nick de Semlyan’s new book, “The Last Action Heroes” (buy it here), the project was heavily developed in ’88 and ’89, only to be demolished by an unlikely candidate – Monty Python’s John Cleese.

At the time, Cleese was riding high on the success of A Fish Called Wanda, and McTiernan thought he would be an ideal addition to the movie’s cast. The film was set to adapt an old Danny Kaye comedy called Imitation General. Cleese would play an English cook posing as a general during WW2 and being protected by Schwarzenegger’s Sgt Rock. Rock was reimagined as a German who fled his homeland after Nazis killed his family. Everyone involved was sure this would be an action-packed epic – except for Cleese. According to McTiernan in the book, during a meeting, Cleese was “very polite, but as far as he was concerned, we were just a couple thug American action-movie makers.” McTiernan admits that, at the time, Die Hard hadn’t hit theatres yet. “If he’d seen Die Hard, I think he probably would have signed up. But he judged us on our reputation.”

As McTiernan explains, everyone was so attached to the idea of Cleese co-starring with Schwarzenegger that when the actor passed, the project fell apart. “It would have been delightful – John Cleese would have had so much fun making fun of Arnold and vice versa. That was the whole essence of the movie.”

Ultimately, things worked out well for all involved, with Arnold making Total Recall instead, while McTiernan went on to make The Hunt for Red October. Even still, one wonders what Sgt Rock might have been like had it been made in ’89/90. It might have been another action movie classic. Eventually, Schwarzenegger and McTiernan would reunite for Last Action Hero, which was a massive flop in 1993 but has since gone on to become a pretty big cult classic. McTiernan would bounce back with Die Hard With A Vengeance, but sadly, his career would make a major downtown in the 2000s with his ill-advised Rollerball remake and his eventual arrest and incarceration for perjury.

Looking back at Cleese’s filmography, there’s a curious lack of projects following A Fish Called Wanda, with him mostly cameoing for his Python pals in movies like Erik the Viking and Splitting Heirs, starring his frenemy Eric Idle. It looks like Cleese was actually trying to change up his career a bit, with his most prominent role being a serious turn in the Kenneth Branagh film, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, before returning to comedy shortly after. Maybe Cleese needed a break, but if we would have to trade The Hunt for Red October and Total Recall for Sgt. Rock, maybe it not being made was the best thing.

Originally published at

author avatar
NY Editor

Similar Articles

business banners

Most Popular