Schwarzenegger Rejected $52M Paycheck in $1.4B Franchise for a Never-Made Sequel

Schwarzenegger Rejected $52M Paycheck in $1.4B Franchise for a Never-Made Sequel
Image credit: Legion-Media

He hadn't even read the whole script.


  • He was the action movie hero of the day.
  • But he turned down what went on to be a major franchise.
  • His career then took an interesting turn.

Back in the 80s, Arnold Schwarzenegger was the main man in action movies. While not all his films were up there with Terminator films, casting him in the lead role was as good as guaranteed to ensure a box office success.

Of course, when you're in such high demand, you receive a lot of scripts. And he may look back and wonder whether turning this one down was a mistake.

Arnie was riding the crest of the Commando wave when he was offered another role

In 1985, Schwarzenegger starred in Commando. The military thriller didn't impress critics, but fans flocked to see it and it grossed over $57 million against a $9 million budget.

Schwarzenegger Rejected $52M Paycheck in $1.4B Franchise for a Never-Made Sequel - image 1

A sequel seemed inevitable. In fact, Steven E. De Souza confirmed that one had been written. There was even talk of turning Commando into a franchise.

Around this time, Arnie was approached to star in a new action movie. However, with the script for that project unfinished and the Commando franchise on the horizon, he turned it down.

The franchise became huge

The partially written script that Schwarzenegger turned down became more than just a big action movie. It's also considered a bona fide Christmas movie. Yes, he turned down Die Hard.

Of course, the role went to Bruce Willis, who nailed the performance, made an absolute fortune, and became one of the most famous action movie stars of all time.

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Die Hard went on to make $1.4 billion at the box office, and the Commando sequel was never made. All talk of a franchise fell apart and Arnie moved on to other projects.

To be fair, some of them were successful. Predator made nearly $100 million and, no longer taking himself too seriously, he starred opposite Danny DeVito in Twins, which grossed $216 million against a budget of only $18 million.

It took Arnie's career in a different direction, but it wasn't the first time he had appeared in a comedy. Some of his early roles were in comedy films before he put his name on the map in Conan the Barbarian.

It wasn't to be, but Commando 2 had a decent enough plot

De Souza even revealed the premise of what could have been Commando 2:

'We figured that Arnold, after blowing up half of Los Angeles, achieves some notoriety, retires from the army and, by the time the sequel occurs, is running a security firm. The plot would have seen him 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.'

'But,' De Souza continued, '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 simply a front.'

It wasn't the only time he turned down a major role

It wasn't the only time Arnie turned down a big role. He also walked out on The Rock, and the role then went to Nicholas Cage.

According to the actor, producer Don Simpson approached him with more of a concept than a script.

'Here, look at this script. But don't read it! Just, here's what the premise is.' Schwarzenegger explained. 'He was all over the place. I said, 'Look, Don. I can't make a commitment based on what you're showing me here. You won't even let me read the script! Why don't you bake it some more, develop it some more, and then we'll talk again.''

Apparently Simpson was 'very upset' by this, and that was the end of the discussion.

Whether Die Hard would have been the same with Arnie as John McClane is up for debate. It's a role Willis made his own and it's hard to imagine anyone else playing it. But he must think about it from time to time.

Source: The Action Elite, Geek Tyrant.