The Delta Force (1986) Biography, Plot, Development, Filming, Box office
The Delta Force (1986)
The Delta Force is a 1986 American action film starring Chuck Norris and Lee Marvin (in his final film appearance) as leaders of an elite group of Special Operations Forces personnel based on the real life U.S. Army Delta Force unit. Directed, co-written and co-produced by Menahem Golan, the film features Martin Balsam, Joey Bishop, Robert Vaughn, Steve James, Robert Forster, Shelley Winters, George Kennedy, and an uncredited Liam Neeson in an early role. It is the first installment in The Delta Force film series. Two sequels were produced, entitled Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection and the direct-to-video Delta Force 3: The Killing Game. The Delta Force was “inspired” by the hijacking of TWA Flight 847.
In 1980, Operation Eagle Claw is aborted after a fatal helicopter crash, with the U.S. Delta Force evacuating to their C-130 transports. Among them is Captain Scott McCoy, who, against orders, rescues his wounded comrade, Peterson, from the burning helicopter before the team finally evacuates. McCoy expresses his disgust for the politicians and the military hierarchy that forced the mission to launch despite the risks, and announces his resignation. 5 years later, in 1985 a group of Lebanese terrorists hijack American Travelways Airlines Flight 282, a Boeing 707 flying from Cairo to New York City via Athens and Rome. Taking all 144 passengers and crew hostage on the Athens-Rome leg, the pro-Khomeini New World Revolutionary Organization (based on Hezbollah), led by two terrorists named Abdul Rafai and Mustafa, force Captain Roger Campbell and his crew to fly the 707 to Beirut, where they make demands to the United States government that, if not met, will result in the death of each of the hostages. During the crisis, they segregate the Jewish passengers from the Americans by forcing a reluctant flight purser of German heritage named
Ingrid Harding to identify them. A Catholic priest, William O’Malley, joins the Jews in solidarity. Unbeknownst to the authorities, the Jewish hostages are then taken off the plane and transported to a militant-controlled area of Beirut, while a dozen additional henchmen are brought on board. The flight departs for Algiers, where the terrorists release the female hostages and children. Meanwhile, Delta Force, led by Colonel Nick Alexander and a recalled-to-duty and newly promoted-to-Major McCoy are deployed to resolve the crisis. Once the female hostages are evacuated, they launch their assault, only to discover too late that there are additional hijackers on board. When the Delta Force blow their cover, Abdul kills a U.S. Navy Diver named Tom Hale. He then forces the pilots to return to Beirut and takes the remaining male passengers with him.
At the 1985 Cannes Film Festival, Cannon announced they would make Delta Force with their two most popular stars, Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson. The budget was to be $12 million. “We look at Chuck as having the potential of a Clint Eastwood,” said Menahem Golan. “His acting talent is getting better. He’s in the right style, and he’s very popular.” In response to the hijacking of TWA flight 847, Norris said the United States is becoming a “paper tiger” in the Middle East. “What we’re facing here is the fact that our passive approach to terrorism is going to instigate much more terrorism throughout the world,” he said, adding, “I would have sent the Delta Force immediately.” “I’ve been all over the world, and seeing the devastation that terrorism has done in Europe and the Middle East, I know eventually it’s going to come here,” added Norris. “It’s just a matter of time. They’re doing all this devastation in Europe now, and the next stepping stone is America and Canada. Being a free country, with the freedom of movement that we have, it’s an open door policy for terrorism. It’s like Khadafy said a few weeks ago. ‘If Reagan doesn’t back off, I’m going to release my killer squads in America.’ And there’s no doubt in my mind that he has them.
Filming started in October 1985. The Delta Force was entirely shot in Israel. Pentagon scenes were shot at the GG Israel Studios facility near Jerusalem, owned by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. The Athens, Beirut, Algiers, and Tel Aviv airport scenes were filmed at Ben Gurion International Airport and its military portion, Lod Air Force Base, although one Athens airport scene where an accomplice of the hijackers exits a taxi, was filmed at the eastern terminal of Ellinikon International Airport while the Athens airport concourse (interior) scenes were filmed in Ben Gurion’s present-day Terminal (then the main terminal). Jaffa was used for scenes of the siege and hostage rescue in the Beirut countryside including midnight oceanic scenes. The film’s budget was $9 million.
The Delta Force opened in 1,720 theaters and debuted as #3 in the box office losing to The Color Purple and Down and Out in Beverly Hills; it beat A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge and Youngblood. The Delta Force earned $5,959,505 on its opening weekend and had a total gross of $17,768,900 in the United States. The film was released on DVD on September 28, 2000. The Delta Force has been released on Blu-ray in the US, and more recently in the UK by video label Arrow Films.