While “Rambo III” was in production, the Los Angeles Times attempted to piece together the behind-the-scenes puzzle. Sources they spoke to on set blamed a lack of vision for the film, team disputes, and even run-ins with Sylvester Stallone. After more than two weeks of filming, the conflicts finally boiled over, causing massive production changes. The first domino to fall was when cinematographer Ric Waite was replaced by P. David Gurfinkel, who had a history with Stallone as DP for his 1987 arm wrestling film “Over the Top.” After that, a chain reaction of replacements followed.
In total, the director, the assistant director, the director of photography and the entire film crew of the film have been replaced. The director of the second unit of “Rambo III”, Peter MacDonald, took over as director of the film. It was MacDonald’s first time directing a film. If you listen to Stallone and read between the lines, it sounds like the preparation was a big point of contention. The actor told the LA Times:
“The canvas of this film is so vast that you constantly have to think 10 scenes ahead. You can’t live without it. They didn’t go into the Battle of Waterloo without knowing what their strategy would be. Well, this movie is kind of like the cinematic war. We have a huge cast and crew and some tough places to deal with. Everyone and everything has to coordinate.
Ousted director Russell Mulcahy, a seasoned music video director who had previously directed “Razorback” in 1984 and “Highlander” in 1986, was cast by Stallone for “Rambo III.” And once he was gone, there was no guarantee MacDonald would take the job.