It’s been 30 years since Rambo: First Blood Part II sent veteran John Rambo back to Vietnam. Although the movie was a sequel to 1982’s First Blood, it was a much bigger hit, and gave Sylvester Stallone a second iconic character in addition to Rocky. Strangely, Stallone didn’t really want the role …at first.
More than 26 screenplay drafts of the story were written during the decade of development and dozens of actors signed on and dropped out of the role of Rambo including Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, John Travolta, and Dustin Hoffman.
Stallone was brought on when director Ted Kotcheff offered him the part because of his popularity in the Rocky franchise, but Stallone turned him down because he felt that the role passed through too many actors and the movie would never really get made. He later committed to the role when he was offered the opportunity to rewrite the screenplay (his $3.5 million salary may also have helped) in order to make Rambo more sympathetic as opposed to the PTSD-crazed madman the character resembled in the novel.