MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: The Jean-Claude Van Damme film Cyborg was originally going to be both the sequel to the Masters of the Universe film AND a Spider-Man film.
Cannon’s rights agreement with Marvel required Cannon to release a Spider-Man film by 1990, so they came up with a clever approach. Writer/director Albert Pyun explained how it would work:
The concept was to shoot 2 weeks of “Spider-Man” first. The section of Peter Parker’s story before he was bitten. Then we would shoot 6 weeks of “Masters 2″. The actor cast to play Parker would undergo a streneuous 8 week workout regimen supervised by a fitness professor at UCLA, Dr. Eric Sternlicht to build size and muscle mass. After shooting “Masters 2″ we would resume shooting “Spider-Man”.
Pyun doesn’t recall who was cast as Peter Parker. The projects were to be filmed in Wilmington, North Carolina, where they created all of the sets and costumes for Masters of the Universe and the New York City sets for the early Spider-Man sequences. Pyun estimated the budget for Spider-Man was roughly $6 million (the largest he had ever worked with), while the one for Masters was about $4.5 million. Mattel had submitted all of their approvals, and production was ready to get under way.
Then, two weeks before filming began, the bottom fell out.
Cannon had bounced its licensing checks to Marvel and Mattel, and negotiations fell apart, as the studio had little money to spend. Suddenly, neither film was going to be made. Pyun was left sitting there with all of these sets and costumes but unable to start filming. However, he had an idea. Cannon was already in the hole about $2 million on the two projects, so why not just make a different film that would incorporate the sets and costumes but wouldn’t require licensing fees? Cannon agreed. and Pyun spent the weekend putting together a script for a new film called Cyborg.
I wrote a first draft of what became “Cyborg” over a weekend and brought in a young actor — who wanted to be a screenwriter — to do polishes. His name was Don Michael Paul and he has gone on to write and direct “Half Past Dead” and Harley Davidson and the “Marlboro Man”.
Pyun wrote the script with Cannon star Chuck Norris in mind for the lead role, but instead he was given Jean-Claude Van Damme, who starred in the Cannon-financed film Bloodsport the previous year. Naturally, Pyun had to re-write the lead character (originally an over-the-hill ex-Army Ranger), making him the mercenary character Van Damme eventually played. Pyun recalled that the budget, with Van Damme’s salary included, was roughly $500,000.
The film was a modest hit, taking in more than $10 million at the box office. It has become a cult classic in the years since. However, from an ingenuity standpoint, it was clearly a major success.
The legend is…