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Why Sylvester Stallone Chose To Shoot Rambo III In Israel

"Rambo III" hit theaters in 1988, following Vietnam veteran John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) from Thailand to Afghanistan and Pakistan on a mission to rescue his friend and former commander, Colonel Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna), who is captured by Soviet military forces. With Rambo's globe-hopping and the change in setting, finding an appropriate shooting location proved challenging. Stallone told The Los Angeles Times he pondered several locations in the American southwest before deciding the vibe wasn't right. 

"For a while, we talked about doing this movie in Arizona or Nevada," Stallone said. "But then I thought, 'Hey, what's everyone going to do — hit the crap tables every night after filming?'" 

The production team then turned their attention to locations abroad. According to the Times, they visited Italy, Morocco, and Australia. They even built and scrapped $5 million worth of sets in Mexico before taking a trip to Israel. The country not only offered the geographical diversity needed to represent the different corners of the globe portrayed in "Rambo III," but the film's stars knew immediately it was the right place for the film. 

"I got off the plane and said, 'Yeah, this is it,'" Stallone said. "It feels like the kind of place where you should make 'Rambo.'"  Along with the impression Israel left on Stallone, Crenna said there was an authentic tension when filming in Israel due to ongoing tensions there. 

"We drive through a military checkpoint each day to get to the set, then get into our soldier costumes and 'go to war,'" Crenna said. "Then, when the jets fly overhead, we look up and wonder where they're going — or where they've been."

Temperatures during filming reached nearly 120 degrees

Sylvester Stallone co-wrote "Rambo III" along with David Morrell and Jean-Claude Van Damme collaborator Sheldon Lettich, and the trio picked up a Golden Raspberry nomination for the screenplay to go along with the Worst Picture nomination and Worst Actor Razzie win for Stallone. The main storyline centers around the war between the USSR and Afghanistan. Filming "Rambo III" in Israel's active war zone provided the film some authenticity along with some challenges. 

Mother Nature even presented additional dangers to the cast and crew of "Rambo III." Some of the film was shot near Sodom, where temperatures approached 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and the large cast and crew consumed nearly 400 gallons of water a day.

The remote location of the "Rambo III" set also presented logistical challenges. Transporting the heavy military equipment used in the film was difficult and expensive, and the cast and crew had to be housed nearly an hour from the set, which was another half hour from the production facilities. 

All of this combined made "Rambo III" the one of the most expensive movie ever made, with a budget approaching $63 million. It ended up earning nearly three times that amount worldwide, making it a decent bet for Tri-Star Pictures when all was said and done.