In the last 20 years, so many new nations have appeared on the map that being able to pinpoint every country on the globe is quite an accomplishment. How confident are you in locating Turkmenistan or Eritrea? How about Val Verde, a country Arnold Schwarzenegger has visited in more than one movie. While Val Verde may look like your stereotypical Latin American nation — lush rainforests and a harsh military dictatorship — there’s one big difference between it say, Guatemala or Panama: Val Verde doesn’t exist.
Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, screenwriter Steven E. de Souza and producer Joel Silver used the fictional Latin American country to stand in for any number of politically tumultuous areas, including Cuba and Nicaragua. With both Commando and Predator set there and references to it throughout Die Hard 2, the country has gained a cult status among film fans.
Perhaps part of Val Verde’s appeal is its constantly shifting political structure. In Commando, the former leader of the country blackmails an American soldier into assassinating the current president. Two short years later, in Predator, the local army captures U.S. soldiers and is then attacked by a very similar-looking American mercenary. One year after that, in Supercarrier, the USS Georgetown docks in Val Verde, just as civil war is breaking out. Die Hard 2 revolved around a drug lord and former general in the Val Verdian army.
There have been references to Val Verde on de Souza’s television show, Adventure, Inc. It is also the setting for the upcoming Sheena comic-book series.
With late-eighties nostalgia at an all-time high, a resurgence of interest in Val Verde film tourism is upon us. Commando, which plays this week on AMC, would be a fine place to start your journey.