Schwarzenegger initially liked the project — he’s quoted in the Empire article as enjoying the childhood fantasy of living in a movie with a movie hero, in his case John Wayne, but he didn’t like the script itself. The first draft of Penn and Leff’s “Last Action Hero” was meant to be a parody of Shane Black’s screenplays, sending plenty of action cliches popularized by Hollywood’s hottest screenwriter. Ironically, Penn and Leff were fired from the project, and Black himself was hired to rewrite them at Schwarzenegger’s suggestion. Black and Schwarzenegger had starred together on the 1988 film “Predator,” for which Black also punched in the script. Says Penn of the change:
“The irony is that we had gone to the MPAA library and read all of Shane’s scripts. We were big fans of him; he was the Elmore Leonard of action movies. So that was that moment surreal of, ‘We were parodying this guy, and now he’s been hired to rewrite us. It was just a weird, weird occurrence.’
As the script continued to shift hands, with Carrie Fisher and William Goldman also brought in for punches, production kicked into high gear. Schwarzenegger signed for his $15 million paycheck and marketing deals were done. There were to be “Last Action Hero” action figures, a tie-in video game for the SNES and Sega Genesis, and Burger King toys. What could go wrong?