The Last Action Heroes

Nick de Semlyen

24 August 2023
352 pages


'A blast' - Ian Rankin
'A joyous celebration of 80s action cinema' - Robbie Collin, Telegraph
'Vastly entertaining' - The Times

The behind-the-scenes story of the action heroes who ruled 1980s and 90s Hollywood and the beloved films – from Die Hard to The Terminator – that made them stars.

This wildly entertaining account of the golden age of the action movie charts Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s carnage-packed journey from enmity to friendship against the backdrop of Reagan’s America and the Cold War. Revealing fascinating untold stories of the colourful characters who ascended in their wake – high-kickers Chuck Norris and Jackie Chan, glowering tough guys Dolph Lundgren and Steven Seagal, and quipping troublemakers Jean-Claude Van Damme and Bruce Willis – it chronicles the rise of the invincible action hero who used muscle, martial arts or the perfect weapon to save the day. And how, as the 1990s rolled on, the glory days of these macho men – and the vision of masculinity they celebrated – began to fade.

Drawing on candid interviews with the action stars themselves, plus their collaborators, friends and foes, The Last Action Heroes is a no-holds-barred account of a period in Hollywood history when there were no limits to the heights of fame these men achieved, or to the mayhem they wrought, on-screen and off.

'Highly entertaining' - Sunday Telegraph
'A rollicking, anecdote-packed tribute to the cavalier days' - Literary Review

A book as big and brash as the stars who are its focus. I had a blast reading it - no CGI required.
A lively celebration of 1980s action stars: Sly, Arnie and ‘the muscles from Brussels’
This book takes you so close to the action, you can smell the sweat, cigar smoke, and bad cologne that brought these movies to life. Along the way, Nick de Semlyen reveals tales of stunts gone wrong, conversations between Stallone and Reagan, the origin of Jean Claude Van Damme’s buns, and all of the stories from set that people were too afraid to tell—until now.