‘Rambo’ is one of the enduring cultural icons of the 1980s, owing to Sylvester Stallone‘s star-power, one of the first New Hollywood era action heroes. The first movie follows John Rambo, a Vietnam war veteran, as he copes with the traumatic memories of War in the small township of Hope. However, the situation escalates as Rambo finds himself in the bad books of a violent town sheriff. The following movies in the popular franchise take Rambo back to Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Burma. However, you may wonder if the films hold an ounce of reality. Is Rambo based on an actual war hero? Let us find out!
Is Rambo Based on A Real Person?
John Rambo is partially based on a real person. The inspirations behind the creation of the character were diverse. However, Stallone was primarily motivated by the popular novel series of Canadian-American novelist David Morrell of the same name, comprising three novels — ‘First Blood,’ ‘Rambo: First Blood Part II,’ and ‘Rambo III.’ Morrell’s inspiration behind the name John Rambo – believe it or not – was the Rambo apple since he liked the “sound of force” in the title. The name of the apple, in turn, derives from the Swedish immigrant and the “Father of New Sweden,” Peter Gunnarsson Rambo, who brought the apple from Sweden in 1637.
The name further seems to be an amalgamation of Ramberget (a hill on the Hisingen island in Gothenburg) and “bo,” meaning “resident of.” Rambo also means “tough” and “violent” in Japanese, but this happened to be a favored co-incidence. Another inspiration for Morrell was the acclaimed French poet Arthur Rimbaud, whose surname ringed similarly in Morrell’s mind. For Morrell, Rimbaud’s famous work ‘A Season in Hell’ was an “apt metaphor” for Rambo’s harrowing experiences as a prisoner of war. Coincidentally, he is of Navajo American Indian, Italian and German descent — quite a global citizen.
However, behind the tough-guy persona, Morrell’s main inspiration was war veteran and actor Audie Murphy. Apart from his sprawling acting career, Murphy was one of the most decorated US soldiers in the Second World War. At the Colmar Pocket in France in January 1945, Murphy single-handedly dealt with a company of German soldiers, earning a Medal of Honor for the courageous act. After returning from war, he would go on to star in ‘The Red Badge of Courage’ and ‘The Quiet American,’ write his memoir, and even compose a few songs before his tragic death at the age of 45. Therefore, the cultural icon adept in violent retribution borrows inspiration from an outstanding real-life hero.
Are Rambo Movies Based on True Stories?
No, ‘Rambo’ movies are not based on true stories. However, the geopolitical rumbles that the stories conceal may have some actual incidents behind them. After his ‘Rocky’ series, Stallone wanted to eschew the boxing rings in favor of the gritty reality of battlefields. At this intersection entered the novel by David Morrell. Columbia Pictures first optioned the story in 1972 for a film, with Richard Brooks scheduled to direct. However, the Vietnam War was still raging on far-flung frontiers. The project got out of Columbia’s hands after Brooks left. Afterward, Warner Bros. Pictures procured the rights, with Walter Newman of ‘Bloodbrothers’ fame writing an early screenplay draft.
Warner Bros. wanted Clint Eastwood or Robert De Niro to portray the character. Martin Ritt, Sydney Pollack, Martin Bregman, John Badham, John Frankenheimer, and Mike Nichols were among the directors whom Warner Bros. considered for rearing the venture. Despite all the efforts, the project got stalled once again. In 1981, Carolco Pictures bought the book’s rights from Warner Bros. and the script by William Sackheim and Michael Kozoll. The producers then consulted Ted Kotcheff, who offered the role to Sylvester Stallone.
The book series plunge Rambo into volatile political landscapes, from a war-torn Vietnam to the Soviet-Afghan war. These stories would mostly adhere to events unfolding in the real world. After the third book, they had no material to progress the franchise forward. Then, for ‘Rambo (2008),’ Stallone connected with the United Nations to get a crash course in contemporary geopolitics. As a result, Rambo chronicles a hellish Burma in the fourth installment. They made the fourth movie at a time when Burma was going through a crisis of some magnitude, as the military rulers and pro-democracy protesters were at loggerheads. Therefore, even if the movies are fictional, they run parallel to actual cases of widespread violence in world history.
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