Western legend Kirk Douglas was originally cast to play alongside Sylvester Stallone in the original Rambo. But after he was treated as a secondary star, he stormed off the set and never returned.
According to an archived article in The New York Times, the three-time Oscar nominee was hired to play the small yet important role of Rambo’s Army trainer, Trautman, in First Blood. However, he became enraged when the director altered and cut his scenes. So, he quit.
Screen Rant further detailed the story by adding that the problems didn’t begin or end with too many cuts. As it wrote, Douglas also had a toxic relationship with director Ted Kotcheff.
Kotcheff claimed that the star constantly demanded script changes and asked to take lines away from other actors. And the attitude wore on the director.
After months of trying to find common ground and meet Douglas’ requests, Kotcheff finally reached his limit and told Douglas that he could either accept his part the way it was written or he could leave.
Sylvester Stallone Recalls Doulas Pitching an Alternate Ending to ‘Rambo’
Then in 2014, Sylvester Stallone added one last piece of the story. During an interview with Empire, Stallone claimed that Kirk Douglas also pitched a strange alternate ending for the film, which Kotcheff promptly rejected. And Douglas resented the choice.
In Douglas’ preferred ending, Trautman would have killed Rambo, just as he did in the book. But in the final scene, a cop car would drive into a fog. Stallone then shared the most bizarre part of the twist.
“…a hand reaches up in the rearview mirror. The camera turns up and we see me,” he recalled Douglas pitching. “Then it turns a bit higher and I am wearing your headband.”
The meaning behind the scene would be that Trautman had coincidentally become possessed by Rambo’s ghost after murdering him. And he would carry on the story with the same personality as his slain student.
Stallone believed that being denied the ending played a major part in Douglas’ exit. But it all worked out in the end.
Once Kirk Douglas left, the film had a difficult time re-casting Trautman. But eventually, Richard Crenna filled the part. And apparently, that turned into a whole new disaster.
As The Times wrote, Crenna had a clause in his contract that required the film to dramatically up his pay if he worked past a certain number of weeks, which he did.
Thanks to various hold-ups such as bad weather and a reported stunt injury involving Stallone, production fell behind. And by the time that the allowance was up, Crenna still hadn’t filmed his scenes. So, the movie decided to let him go.
Eventually, Crenna made his way back into the franchise, however. The actor appeared as Trautman in First Blood, Rambo: First Blood Part II, and Rambo III.