Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Best Film Changed The Ending Because Of Sylvester Stallone

The ending of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Commando was changed to compete with Sylvester Stallone's Rambo 2.

By TeeJay Small | Updated

Arnold Schwarzenegger Commando
Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando

Legendary screenwriter Steven E de Souza recently sat down with Radio Times to discuss his iconic legacy and his classic collaboration with Arnold Schwarzenegger for Commando. Apparently, the film had initially planned a longer and more explosive finale, only to run out of budget part way through production. In an intense scramble to cobble together a functioning ending, de Souza joked that the budget disaster was Sylvester Stallone‘s fault, as the film had to be rewritten to compete with Rambo 2 at the box office.

In a film so intensely jam-packed with explosive action and iconic Arnold Schwarzenegger one-liners, it’s hard to imagine how the writers planned to make the film even bigger. According to de Souza, Commando‘s final sequence was originally intended to be a high-octane speed boat chase through land-mine infested waters, with enough pyrotechnics and bursting flames to blow the whole production back into the stone ages if anything went awry.

Steven E de Souza, who is credited with writing some of the best action thrillers in cinema history, including Die Hard, Judge Dredd, and Beverly Hills Cop 3, claims that his initial ending didn’t require all these flashy pyrotechnics until director Mark L. Lester had seen an early cut of Rambo 2.

Afterward, he began panicking that the film was too action-packed and would blow Commando out of the water, so to speak. Producers knew from the beginning that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Stallone would be compared to one another after these films debuted, with the two muscle-bound action stars each going down in film history, and didn’t want to risk Commando falling flat for lack of action.

Of course, one of the central differences between the careers of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger is that Stallone’s films often focused on gritty realism and intense drama, whereas the action in Schwarzenegger’s films often aimed to go over the top in a highly absurd and comedic fashion.


De Souza and Schwarzenegger both reconciled this fact during the pre-production process, but Lester still felt that the film would suffer if it had to compete with the intense finale of Rambo 2 directly.

After Mark L. Lester blew the budget with the speedboat scene, de Souza was tasked with rewriting the ending in a 24-hour period with almost no financial resources. As a result, the final sequence takes place in a basement that de Souza claims is an actual basement in a Fox studio lot.

The climax of the film, which sees Arnold Schwarzenegger bursting the abdomen of his nemesis Bennet by impaling him with a steam pipe, became an instant hit with audiences, though the scene originally came about as a cheap workaround to a budgeting failure.

The rest is history. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s lucrative film career went on to catapult him into position as the Governor of California, putting a hold on his action hero career until recently, when he starred in Netflix’s FUBAR as a retired CIA operative.

A special Commando screening is set to take place Sunday June 25, at the upcoming London Action Festival, with Steven E de Souza in attendance to answer fan questions. If you’re concerned about the original ending or the filmmaking process, be sure to get a ticket before it’s too late, or you too could be left blowing off some steam.