I don't know how long before Commando was released in October 1985 it was that the protagonist was not an ex- special forces soldier but an ex- Israeli Mossad agent and played not by Arnold Schwarzenegger but Gene Simmons, but, that, indeed, was how it was.
Yes, that Gene Simmons.
I've read that the idea may have even come from Gene Simmons, but at some point he passed on it. Some version of the script was offered to Nick Nolte and eventually it went to Arnold Schwarzenegger. I've written before about how what was supposed to be adapted into Commando 2 instead turned into Die Hard, so it should be no surprise how many changes a movie goes through when it's being developed.
Just like life, going through unexpected changes...
Kidding. One deliberately personal entry at a time is just fine.
Still, it is interesting to think about what might have been if the basic plot here--ex-whatever has to return to the violence when his daughter is kidnapped--had been led by Gene Simmons. Arnold Schwarzenegger has never been the greatest of actors and at the time he made Commando he still barely seemed to really be grasping English on some of his lines. But, one thing Schwarzenegger did have going for him even early on was that, despite his one liners, he wasn't particularly flamboyant. Watch even a little bit of Never Too Young to Die, in which Simmons plays the villain Velvet Von Ragner--you can currently watch the entire movie on YouTube--and you can see he does not leave the flamboyance of his Demon persona from Kiss behind.
I wish I could find some details on that earlier version of what would become Commando, but I cannot even tell if there was even a treatment, let alone a script, put together. Maybe it was little more than an idea, though I've also read that Walter Hill
(who had directed David Patrick Kelly (Sully) previously in The Warriors and 48 Hrs. and would later direct and get story credit on the Schwarzenegger-starring Red Heat)
was attached in some way. Don't know if that was as writer or director--unfortunately, my school's library has access to plenty of magazines and whatnot but only has industry publications like Variety or Hollywood Reporter back to the early 90s. Online anyway. Physically, they might have issues going back to when Commando was in development, but I don't know if I want to put that much effort into a blog entry, especially on this, a holiday weekend. What little I could find was reference to Gene Simmons starring as the villain in Runaway in 1984. I barely remember that movie, something about "malfunctioning" robots. I don't remember the villain at all, so maybe Simmons left some of the flamboyance behind.
Then again, maybe Commando could have done with a little more flamboyance. Vernon Wells' Bennett may have seemed a little more appropriate in his chain mail, leather pants and choke collar if the hero wore something similar. Or maybe it's important that only the villain be particularly... bizarre. I mean, we're supposed to relate to the hero, imagine ourselves in his place. He should be, on some level, an everyman, relatively normal so that we can picture ourselves in his shoes, taking on the bad guy and winning. The villain can be big and showy and flamboyant, outlandish in his dress and demeanor. But, the hero--he has to be much plainer. Arnold Schwarzenegger may be a big, musclebound guy, but John Matrix spends most of this movie in khakis and a long sleeve t-shirt. The males in the audience just have to imagine themselves bulking up to his size. They don't have to worry about fashion.