‘The real star of the film is Hope’: B.C. community celebrates Rambo’s 35th anniversary

Sylvester Stallone in 'Rambo: First Blood.'. Paramount Pictures

It was 35 years ago that Sylvester Stallone burst onto the screen as wrongly persecuted veteran John Rambo.

Rambo: First Blood saw the star pursued through a small town and moody forest and canyon — shot on location in and around Hope B.C.

It was one of B.C.’s first introductions to Hollywood film production, and one of U.S. film audiences first introductions to Hollywood North.

“Really, at the end of the day, the real star of the film is Hope, British Columbia,” said Brian McKinney, an employee at the Hope Visitor Centre and one of the co-organizers of festivities taking place this weekend to celebrate the film.

“A lot of people sort of attribute the X-Files, and productions like that as kind of crowning the industry known as Hollywood North. But First Blood production, when they shot the movie in Hope, this is what actually started the term Hollywood North.”

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In 1981, Rambo (aka Sylvester Stallone @officialslystallone ) came to Hope for the filming of "First Blood," an event that the town and Rambo "First Blood" Tourism will be celebrating, on Saturday, Oct. 7. BC Transportation and Infrastructure also played a role in the production, 35 years ago. We granted a special permit for the filming which involved short detours of public traffic, with rigidly controlled and specified conditions. The ministry agreed to the temporary highway detour and other activities only on the condition that the public was not unduly inconvenienced and that absolute safety was guaranteed during the more dramatic sequences. Construction of the fake front service station began in October 1981, and Hope itself was "costumed" with American-style mail boxes, and US flags and exterior signs. This photo of Sylvester Stallone is in front of the RCMP detachment, where he was getting ready for a scene in which Rambo steals the motorcycle and makes his getaway. #rambo #hopebc #filming #tbt #throwbackthursday

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McKinney said he’s spoken to numerous people working in the film industry who got their start on the 1981 shoot and have since climbed the ranks to senior positions.

And the location hasn’t dropped off Hollywood’s radar either — most recently appearing in the blockbuster War for the Planet of the Apes.

To celebrate, McKinney said the community is hosting a pair of screenings of the cult film; the first showing on Saturday has already sold out, and a second has been added for Sunday at noon.

As many as 500 fans from out of town and as far away as Chicago and Italy have turned up, said McKinney, and while Stallone has been invited there’s no word if the star will turn up.

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Part of downtown Hope has been converted to something of a film set, and McKinney said organizers are leading walking tours of the nearby Coquihalla Canyon — where much of the film’s climactic action takes place.

“Down on Wallace Street we’ve got lights on, we’ve got cars that were used in the movie, we’ve got military vehicles that were used in the movie, we’ve got a makeshift set set up of Sheriff Teasle’s office and the outpost gun shop, we’ve got characters walking around.”

WATCH: Fans get a walking tour of Rambo: First Blood‘s key locations

First Blood is at many points extremely violent and earned an “R” rating, and McKinney said organizers are sensitive to that fact, particularly in the wake of the events in Las Vegas.

But he said the celebration isn’t so much about the film’s content as it is it’s production and connection to the community.

“We celebrate the fact that this movie is shot in Hope. Because the exact same reason Sylvester Stallone made the final decision to shoot up in Hope, Canada: Our trail system, our mountains, our rivers, our backdrop, our ruggedness.”

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