Marvel Entertainment brought the idea of a shared cinematic universe to the forefront with the multibillion-dollar MCU. In the years since Robert Downey Jr. first suited up as Iron Man, Warner Bros. has worked to catch-up with their DCEU. Universal ventured into shared cinematic universe territory with their cache of classic monsters, sticking Dr. Jekyll squarely into their rebooted Mummy movie. But did you know 20th Century Fox had their own secret shared cinematic universe going back in the ’80s, stretching across multiple franchises, with over 20 films and counting?
It all starts with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Communist dictators and related thugs were often the villains in the TV shows and action movies of the ’70s and ’80s. But given the sensitive nature of international relations, not every movie was willing to go full on Red Dawn and point the cinematic finger at the Soviet Union or Cuba.
So screenwriters would cook-up fictitious communist countries, usually situated in South or Central America, to avoid antagonizing any real life governments. To this end, screenwriter Steven E. de Souza used the same trick he’d employed on TV’s Bionic Woman; he came up with a new pretend country for Arnold to invade as a one-man army to rescue Alyssa Milano in Commando. The former dictator of the make believe country of Val Verde kidnaps the daughter of the kickass commando who overthrew him in an effort to strong arm him to assassinate his successor.
As every ’80s action fan knows, John Matrix takes out every single mercenary in the former dictator’s employ, eventually fighting his way to his old teammate, Bennett. Steven E. de Souza wasn’t involved with Schwarzenegger’s Predator, but like Commando, the 1987 jungle based action flick was produced by Hollywood heavyweight Joel Silver. In many Q&As and interviews since, including a 2017 anniversary screening of The Running Man, which was written by de Souza and also starred Arnold, the screenwriter has said he believes Predator takes place in Val Verde. Later Predator films and comic books mention Guatemala and Colombia, but de Souza contends that the movie in fact spends a little bit of time in different countries. Val Verde then connects Commando to Predator, which in turn invites in all of its sequels, as well as the Alien franchise, thanks to the Alien vs. Predator films.
Die Hard was initially conceived as a vehicle for Frank Sinatra, the sequel to the 1968 movie The Detective, as the script was based on the novel Nothing Lasts Forever, itself a sequel to The Detective. After Ole’ Blue Eyes turned it down, Fox offered the lead role to Arnold, with the idea that it could be retooled as a sequel to Commando. He passed as well, but Commando writer Steven E. de Souza was on-hand for the screenplay, along with Joel Silver, and Predator director John McTiernan.
See how many connections we have here? In Die Hard 2: Die Harder, which was also written by de Souza and produced by Silver, John McLane fights a group of mercenaries who are loyal to General Esperanza, the deposed leader of the Latin American country of… that’s right, Val Verde. Steven E. de Souza himself used Val Verde again in two different TV series: episode five of the show Supercarrier in 1988 and episode 10 of Adventure Inc. in 2003. His script for a 2015 Sheena comic book took place in Val Verde as well. But even with Commando, the Predator films, the Alien movies, and the Die Hard franchise, we aren’t finished with the pieces of this secret shared movie universe puzzle.
In the first Die Hard, a stolen Pacific Courier vehicle serves as the Trojan horse that allows the bad guys to quietly enter Nakatomi Tower. In the third Die Hard film, Die Hard with a Vengeance, we see the fictitious company’s fictitious sister company, Atlantic Courier. Die Hard director of photography Jan de Bont directed the Keanu Reeves action vehicle, pardon the pun, Speed. Pacific Courier shows up again there, too. Speed was basically Die Hard on a bus and its sequel, Speed 2: Cruise Control, was Die Hard on a boat.
But unlike Jean Claude Van Damme’s Die Hard in a hockey rink and Steven Seagal’s Die Hard on a train movies, we can place both Speed movies squarely in this shared movie universe thanks to the inclusion of Pacific Courier from the Die Hard movies, which we know exists in the same universe as the fictitious country of Val Verde.
We’re now talking about more than 20 films under the Fox umbrella but we still aren’t finished. Joel Silver strikes again! He was one of the folks behind the 1991 movie Ricochet, which he actually produced at Warner Bros., the same place where he’d later produce the Matrix movies. Denzel Washington stars in Ricochet and among his co-stars was Mary Ellen Trainor as news anchor Gail Wallens. We have to give a hat tip to Forbes Magazine for pointing this out. Yes, the same actress plays the same character in both Die Hard and Ricochet. Which puts Val Verde there, too. Val Verde shows up in video games, too, like Predator: Concrete Jungle.
Scientists even named a real life spider after Val Verde. The Predatoroonops spider is named after the cinematic race of alien hunters due to the resemblance of the spider’s mouths to a Predator’s face. The Predatoroonops valverde is a subspecies.
While we can’t visit the country of Val Verde in real life, cinephiles and pop culture aficionados can always pay a visit to some of the locations that were used in the country’s portrayal. The Long Beach Airport passenger terminal served as a Val Verde airport in Commando. San Pedro, California doubled as the port of Val Verde in Supercarrier, with Valencia, California used as the location for its countryside. Now imagine if Samuel Jackson had invited Bruce Willis to join the Avengers.