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Lethal Weapon, released in 1987 starring Mel Gibson as Martin Riggs and Danny Glover as Roger Murtaugh is continually alluding to the fact that Martin Riggs is much younger than Roger Murtaugh.

Other characters have their age well established: We are introduced to Roger Murtaugh on his 50th birthday, so we know how old he is. Martin Riggs' late wife, Victoria Lynn Riggs was born in 1953 and died in 1984.

The only hint to the age of Martin Riggs comes from a discussion he has with Roger Murtaugh:

RIGGS: I do it real good, you know.

MURTAUGH: Do what?

RIGGS: Kill people ... Only thing I ever did good. When I was nineteen, I did a guy in Laos from a thousand yards out. Rifle shot in high wind. Ten guys in the world coulda made that shot. Huh. Only thing I was ever good at.

We are not informed of the year that Martin Riggs joined the armed forces or the years that he served in the Vietnam war.

This wiki page displays the birth date of Martin Riggs to be October 16, 1949, but they don't say where they got this information from.

Has Martin Riggs' age ever been mentioned in any of the Lethal Weapon movies or are there more hints to make an accurate deduction? Is there an outside source that confirms this actual birth date?

  • LMAO. How crazy is it that I watched Lethal Weapon two nights ago, but of course I didn't pay a bit of attention to Riggs's age. This site has changed the way I watch movies and the frequency with which I watch them. I wish I had a better answer for you but from someone who watched it two nights ago I'm fairly certain there is no specific reference to his exact age. The research you've done already is a pretty good starting point. It seems pretty evident that he is in his mid thirties. Mel Gibson was born in Jan of '56 so was 30-31 when he played the part. – sanpaco Dec 9 '15 at 1:51
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    @sanpaco Yeah, I just watched lastnight. It is one of my "Christmas" movies that I watch every year. – steelersquirrel Dec 9 '15 at 1:53
  • It was actually the first time I had seen it amazingly. – sanpaco Dec 9 '15 at 1:56
  • @sanpaco Really? Did you watch the whole series or just the first one? – steelersquirrel Dec 9 '15 at 1:58
  • just the first one but I've got the rest sitting in a pile ready to go. I've seen some of the others before, just not the first. – sanpaco Dec 9 '15 at 1:59
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Riggs' actual age has never been mentioned in the movie, nor in the sequels. Using clues in the movies we can conclude he is in his early thirties.

The script

In an early draft of the script by Shane Black from January 86 it's said on the second page with the character descriptions that Riggs is 36 years old (thirty-six in August, says the script).

However, since Roger Murtaugh is in this very same draft of the script described as being 40 years old (and BTW not necessarily black as the description in the script doesn't mention his skin color) and not - as the Murtaugh later in the movie - as 50 years old (and black), I think it's safe to say that the filmmakers didn't feel obliged to stick to the original descriptions by Shane Black very much and Riggs doesn't really have to be 36 in the movie, too.

Clues from the movie

There are a some hints in the movie, though, that can help - together with some real history - to make deductions about Riggs' age in the movie (not very accurately, but at least roughly).

As you already mentioned here Riggs says in the movie that he was 19 when he did that rifle shot in Laos. But since the secret war in Laos ended in 1973, this means Riggs can't have been born later than 1954, because if he had been born later it would have been impossible for him to make that shot in Laos at the age of 19.

There are also other hints in the movie that add to the assumption he can't have been born later than 1954.

Another hint is that Murtaugh mentions to Riggs that Riggs' file says he's worked for the Phoenix Program in Vietnam (in the "Nobody wants to work with me"-scene).

The Phoenix Program began in 1967 and ended in 1973. So Riggs' can't have worked for the Phoenix Program longer than until 1973.

And from Victoria Lynn's headstone shown in the movie we know that Riggs' wife lived from 1953 to 1984.

With the additional information that Riggs has been married 11 years as the police psychologist tells Captain Murphy when they talk about Riggs' psychotic behavior, one can calculate that Riggs must have married his wife in 1973.

And since it's likely that he has met and married his wife in America (and not in Vietnam) this means that Riggs had returned from the Vietnam war either already before 1973 or at the very latest in (early) 1973.

All this hints together imply that Riggs must have been born 1954 or sooner. And since the movie's events are likely meant to take place in December 1986 (because Black wrote the script in 1986 and principal photography of the movie also started already in August 1986, see Wikipedia) this means Riggs must have been at least 32 or older during the events of the first movie.

But how much older could he have been? There are also some hints in the movie that can help to make a deduction.

When Riggs is captured by General McAllister at the Dry Lake in Victorville, Riggs says (to McAllister) that he ran into some of that "Shadow Company pussies" in Saigon in 69. Which means that Riggs has served in Vietnam already in 1969.

It's not said in the movie how old Riggs was in 1969, but from the knowledge that it was legally possible to volunteer for service in the Vietnam war at the age of 17 (illegally already at younger age, as a matter of fact the youngest American KIA of the Vietnam war, Dan Bullock, was only 15, see Wikipedia) one could assume that Riggs was probably at least 17 in 1969. Or born not later than 1952.

But: if Riggs took illegal measures to get recruited and serve as a volunteer in Vietnam already at younger age, for example by faking his birth certificate (as the above mentioned Dan Bullock did), then Riggs could have been even younger than 17 in 1969, of course.

But still not younger than 15, because of the shot he did in Laos at the age of 19 (which can't have happened after 1973) and because it's not known that any American boys younger than 15 have served in Vietnam.

The last hint about Riggs' age in the movie is Murtaugh's angry remark that he was already driving before Riggs was an itch in his daddy's pants (i.e. before Riggs was born). If one assumes that Murtaugh got his driver's licence with 16, this would mean that Murtaugh must have been at least 16 years older than Riggs in the movie.

So when Murtaugh turned 50 in December 1986 (which means Murtaugh was born in December 1936), then Riggs can't have been born before 1952 (only later).

Conclusion

So I'd say Riggs was born either 1952, 1953 or 1954 (but 1953 or 1954 only if he's messed with his birth date at the recruiting office, so he could volunteer to serve (illegally) already in 1969 in Vietnam), which would make him in the movie either 34, 33 or 32 years old (by events in December 1986).

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As much as I remember, nothing in the movies indicates his age, nor gives a clue.

This is a quote from the French Wikipedia's page about Martin Riggs:

Martin Riggs est né le 16 octobre 1950. En 1969, il rejoint l'Armée de terre des États-Unis à l'âge de 19 ans en tant que membre des Forces spéciales

Roughly translated:

Martin Riggs was born on 16 October 1950. In 1969 he joined the US Army at the age of 19, as a member of the Special Forces.

So now we know at what age he joined the armed forces.

Wikipedia is sourcing Joël Norst's (whose real name is Kirk Mitchell) "L'Arme fatale" (and other international versions doesn't seem to source it) which is a story written in 1987. As far as I can get information about it, it seems to be a novelisation of the movie, and the only outside source (available to the public, I assume there is some production note about that) that confirms his birth date.

  • Greetings! Could you provide a link or any other information that provides a reference to this being a novelization of the movie? – steelersquirrel Jan 16 '16 at 16:50
  • I don't know if this is relevant enough cause it's a comment on amazon: amazon.com/Lethal-Weapon-Joel-Norst/dp/0515091790/… As soon as I cant find his wikipedia page again, I'll post it here – Tloz Jan 16 '16 at 17:57
  • Well, it's on his french Wikipedia page, but every words are transparent, so understanding should not be an issue even if you don't speak french fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Tloz Jan 16 '16 at 18:01

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