Set Visit: The Expendables 3 - Part Three - Talking with The Action Gods
It’s hard to put into words what it’s like to meet one of your favorite action stars growing up. It’s even harder to put into words what it’s like meeting a gaggle of them all at once. What starts as excitement (“Holy shit, I’m gonna meet Stallone!”), quickly turns to anxiety (“Holy shit, I’m gonna meet Stallone!”) and when the moment arrives, the out-of-body experience begins (“HOLY SHIT, I'M GONNA MEET STALLONE!”). While I can typically keep my fanboy anxiety to a minimum, when you’re seated at a table that literally curves around you, trapping you in the middle, and are suddenly surrounded by a bunch of action gods all clad in black military gear. looking like they just flew in from a mission you may feel a drop of sweat or two roll down your back.
Once situated and with a huge brunt of the cast assembled before us, the game was on. From my Left to Right was Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Antonio Banderas, director Patrick Hughes, Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Kellan Lutz, Victor Ortiz, Glen Powell, and Ronda Rousey. What I noticed right away was that everyone seemed really relaxed and friendly, which isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of The Expendables, but there it was. For one thing, the older cast are seasoned vets for this kind of sit down and the new guys (and girl) seemed genuinely excited to discuss their involvement in the franchise.
When asked if they did any special physical prep for the film:
Ronda Rousey: I did a cardio and kickboxing class.
Jason Statham: We just do Ronda’s workout – that’s tough enough already, believe me.
Wesley Snipes: I watched Expendables 1 and 2 [laughter] I do my research…
Antonio Banderas: you try to understand what is the tone of the movie, the tone of the story. Definitely when I arrived here on the first day and I saw all these muscles, I said to myself, that’s not my forte! I think it’s a metaphor for violence in a way and humor plays a very big part in it. I loved when I saw the first and second part, the possibility of putting so many stars in the same cast is not that easy. But the feeling on the set is of camaraderie and friendship and everyone’s having so much fun, actually.
Wesley Snipes, when asked why he signed up for the film:
Wesley Snipes: Definitely to be a part of the franchise. Sly and I did a film a long time ago called Demolition Man and that was my first foray into big action movies. So, in some sense he’s my mentor for that. And, to get the call to come and join this wonderful cast and work with my friend again, it was a no-brainer.
Jason Statham: I was really happy to see all these familiar faces again – because I could get the $100 that Dolph owed me…
Dolph Lundgren: $95, actually. Yeah it's nice to be back. It’s a cool group of guys and now we have some new additions that make it even more exciting. And to have all these kids back there, doing a good job, I think it’s going to bring in a new audience.
Randy Couture: you come back and you put on the same clothes and it's almost like you never left…
Dolph Lundgren: same underwear, just turned inside out…
Sylvester Stallone: Don’t wake me up, I’m trying to get some sleep over here [laughter]… Do I what, like this? It’s horrible. It’s the worst thing to me ever. Running around with bombs and guns and dressing up in black clothes, hanging out and having fun, pretending you’re a soldier… who would want to do that? No, we’re having a great old time. And then – we get ready to do 4, 5,6 and 7. You and I are going to get real close…
When asked if there was any “initiation” for the Young Expendables by the Old Expendables:
Glen Powell: I had to spar with Ronda and Victor, that was my initiation.
Victor Ortiz: That’s why you look like this… and we’re not done.
Kellan Lutz: No, it’s really quite a unique experience to be working with all these legends. And you step into a franchise like this where these are all superstars and you’d think maybe they’d have big heads or not be so personable. But for all of us young guns it’s just been really cool to have them joke with us on set and be really communicative and just fun. Everyone’s joking around on set. Like Sly said, it's a blessing to get to play soldier and wear cool clothes and run around with guns – and to do it with your favorite action heroes growing up – it’s a bit surreal. And then to have them be as cool onscreen as off-screen, you can’t wish for a better cast to work with. So, no hazing. Yet, anyways.
Glen Powell: I had a pretty surreal moment…
Dolph Lundgren: …and he forgot his line…
Victor Ortiz: The cat they had me stare down was Randy and I was like, ‘are you serious?’ [laughter] “it looks good, looks good” “I’m glad you think so, cause I’m fearing for my life right now!” My heart’s pounding. “How’d I look Patrick?” [laughter]
When asked if there would be an Avengers style shot of The Expendables cast and who would be the Hulk of the bunch:
Sylvester Stallone: Randy’s the hulk – he’s the toughest guy – no question about that…Yeah, we got some surprises for you. I think the best one so far. And that’s the hardest thing about doing sequels-people think it’s easy, it’s not, ‘cause you’ve lost the element of surprise and how to you keep putting on layers without being too pretentious or trying too hard, which is when in doubt push too hard. But, this time we actually have got a blend here. You’ve got yourself a very, very serious film and then you have adult humor, y’know what I mean, we’re not going for the cheap laughs. You gotta work for the laughs a little bit, y’know what I mean? They come out of the human comedy- the human error and that sort of element, so I think what you’re going to have here is a very glad surprise.
You know people always talk about ‘Oh, my baggage…’ Baggage is the best damn thing you can have, because that means you’ve got something to sell, to bring along with you. So, all these guys have big time bags, you see what I mean? And these guys [Young Expendables] are developing baggage – right now they’re shopping… they’re going to get it. A lot of time people are like, ‘oh, you’re stereotyped.’ Good. Good. Because, then you’re known for something, you know what I mean? The NFL is stereotyped for playing football.
Everyone has this conjecture that action films are somewhat less prestigious than dramatic films. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve done them both and this is hard and dangerous. I mean, Jason here nearly drowned to death – lucky he’s a great swimmer. All of us would’ve been walking around the bottom of the Black Sea by now. Well, not really walking, probably floating. That’s some serious stuff. Things happen here and to get all these elements to work, it’s very, very unique. They’re not going to make films like this much longer because it takes a certain person that’s willing to commit and go for it and have an aura. The hardest thing is to find an action star. I don’t give a damn what anyone says – stars, they come and go. An action star, you can count on one hand, because it’s a very interesting element. And I think all these guys [Young Expendables] have that potential, they’re right there. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be here and they all blend. And it’s something I’m very proud of. All these guys do things that are highly unique and they’ve become specialized and rare. You’re lucky to be in this room, what’s wrong, man? You’re in the presence of greatness, kid, what’s going on with you?
When asked why Stallone chooses the cast he does for The Expendables:
Sylvester Stallone: Because they’re one of a kind. They’re rare. To get them all together is very, very rare. Life takes us all down different paths, very divergent paths, so to get them together is an event. That’s the key word. An Event. We’re trying to make an Event Movie – like The Avengers. Why is that so great? You bring all these characters together. We’re trying to do that too, and I think we’ve accomplished it. Actually, even better because we’re probably even better actors. That’s the element you’re getting here, some real heart. This film has the most heart you’re going to find in an action film. I look on it as more of an Adventure rather than an Action Movie. Action Film is really easy to do – you just get in a car and smash some things and it’s called action. The real difficult and the key skill is what happens between the action – when it’s quiet. Are you in the movie? Are you liking these people? Do you care about them? Loud is easy. Quiet – ooh, real hard.
When asked if there were any changes made to the original script during filming:
Jason Statham: We don’t know what we’re saying five minutes before we say it!
Sylvester Stallone: As they say in politics, it’s a fluid situation… [laughter] “What do you wanna say today?” “I don’t know. That looks good on the page…” I’ve always recommended that a lot of writers should try saying their own dialogue – hey, woah, that’s not as easy as I thought – you get on the set, you realize it doesn’t work. And you hone it down and need an actor to step up at this point and we need that one to calm down. And you need a director who’s really attuned to that. It’s like an instrument in an orchestra, all of a sudden you’ve got the trombone guy doing his solo and it’s like, ‘Woah, shut up! Violins louder, trombone off.’ it’s the same as an orchestra. A regular movie is the same as an orchestra – moving all the different instruments and the sounds, the kinetic and the audio and the visual all [working] together.
When asked if there was the possibility for spinoff films for The Expendables:
Sylvester Stallone: You have to. Our stories by and large have been pretty much told. So now we have to branch out and investigate other people’s lives. There’s only so many times you can go to that well and you’re like, I’m sick of the taste of this water. Give me something fresh. A new spring. And that’s exactly what’s happening. This is why sequels, guys, are so hard. So when you see anyone succeed with a sequel, it’s a lotta luck, man. It really is a lot of luck.
When asked about Mel Gibson’s villain role in the film:
Sylvester Stallone: Mel has been very gracious to be in our film. He’s a fantastic filmmaker, a great actor. And he’s getting into some very physical shape for this, I mean, he’s not taking it lightly at all. I’m getting worried! [laughs] Oh my God man, it sounds like I’m going to be in some deep doo-doo. It’s going to be good. And Harrison brought a sort of elegance and class. He’s a new character, Drummer, who’s sort of the government side behind the scenes.
When asked if Clint Eastwood or any other stars were approached for the film:
Sylvester Stallone: Well, you know Clint is so involved with what he’s doing, so that’s kind of a pipe dream. I was going to go up Jack Nicholson and we just got there a little too late cause actually he had said he might be interested in it… so there are still interesting avenues out there. I want to get if possible the most unique actors from the past and just put ‘em out there once and for all, y’know, if we can. It just seems like an interesting… quest to do that, because I don’t know if it’s ever going to happen again. And we’re certainly not getting any younger. So we’re very lucky and we’re going to keep going – and it doesn’t automatically mean you have to be an action guy. Like, Kelsey Grammer’s coming in. Kelsey’s a great comedian, great actor. He’s done so many things from Boss to comedy. So you’re going to see him do something now, a unique role – he’s a mercenary’s agent. C’mon! Your client comes in with bullet holes, you’re going to take 10% off of him. It’s just a very interesting role.
When asked which of the old Expendables was the most intimidating to the young Expendables:
Glen Powell: If you look at Mr. Forearms over here [Stallone], he’s definitely intimidating. I’ve been working on my forearms, he’s been showing me forearm workouts. He has a real physical presence for sure.
Ronda Rousey: he’s not here but I became speechless and stuttered and started to act like an idiot when I met Harrison Ford. I used to watch Star Wars on repeat – like, it would end and I would press the rewind button and go back to the beginning and do it again and again and again. In terms of a guy who can look after himself, that’s Randy. People keep asking what would happen if we got into a fight and I certainly would think to grab a chair or something…I can’t be at a press conference and not, like, pick a fight…! [laughter]
When asked if there was a sequence in the film that the stars are most excited about:
Sylvester Stallone: The opening scene is the extraction of Wesley from the most heavily-fortified, armor-plated train via helicopter – and it’s real. So you’re going to see something that’s not CGI and is pretty extraordinary. And that’s just your opening. And we go from there to Somalia and it’s epic, it’s huge. And that’s where Mel Gibson makes his entrance. And right now we’re doing with Dan Bradley – who is considered the greatest action coordinator and second unit director in the world – I thought I was watching another movie – I was like, is this an outtake from Bourne? [laughs] it’s looking so good. So it’s really hard to pinpoint. These fellas here, they’re going to be doing some interesting one-on-one fights. Jason’s going to be fighting a monster, Ronda’s going to be fighting a monster. I just shoot guys, it’s easier. We developed that early into the character. But Mel and I are going to have a real one-on-one thing, that’s going to be pretty violent and interesting. Y’know, when I went into this business and did Rocky, I thought I wonder if I’ll ever be fighting that guy from Braveheart? It’s funny how all these roads end up here…
When asked if the stars get excited to square off with their co-stars after seeing them in their prior action star roles:
Sylvester Stallone: Yeah…! Absolutely! When you get some of these guys that bring some baggage with them. Like when I got to fight Van Damme, I was so looking forward to this for twenty years. Oh yeah. And I’m sure he was too. And y’know, you get slapped around and kicked in the ribs here and there but it’s interesting because it’s on film, it’s there forever and that’s why I tell all you guys [motioning to Young Expendables], this is the only business in the world that you only get one shot at. It’s like one strike baseball. You’re not coming back, this game is not going to be played again. So, you can be tired, have an illness, your joints jammed, be in pain, everyone here is hurting in one way or another, but you gotta throw yourself into it. It’s not like a drama – this is a physical – where you have to perform and it’s so gratifying. And that’s the beauty of what I like about this business: it’s one shot and if you do it right, you can sit back there and just be proud of yourself; and if you do it wrong [laughs] how many times have I gone, God what is this shit? Why didn’t I try harder kind of thing. It’s the most important thing – you gotta live with it forever and it’s the constant reminder – “god, you really sucked in that movie.” “Thank you. You want a refund?” I learned a long time ago – put it all out there while you still got it.
When asked about the inspiration to hire director Patrick Hughes and his response to getting the gig:
Patrick Hughes: Obviously it was a huge opportunity on a proven franchise. And I’d heard a couple of years ago from my agent that Sly was a big fan of Red Hill. And I thought that was awesome because it was one of the inspirations, which is pretty clear. And then it popped up about 8 months ago, I got a call from Sly and we met and hit it off straight away.
When asked if Red Hill was the film that drove Stallone to call Patrick Hughes:
Sylvester Stallone: Yeah, I watch a lot of movies and screeners, probably 300-400 a year. And if I can recall four that really stick in the mind. And I was like, what is this Red Hill? And there was one from Europe called Neon Flesh – just a couple of films. And that’s a good sign because it’s somehow gotten into your cortex and resonates. And when I found out how he did it – what was it, 18 days, for less than 500 grand in freezing weather – I said, imagine what this guy could do with some big paintbrushes. See what I mean? And then he flew all the way up from Australia, we talked for about 30 minutes, and then he flew all the way back.
Patrick Hughes: I was shooting a lingerie commercial – that’s why I flew back!
Sylvester Stallone: And then he flew back again about three days later – so he’s hungry. He’s been over here prepping for months and months and months, which I didn’t do, so that kind of crazy dedication. Plus, he’s a real film scholar, I mean, he studies it and is really immersed in it. He’s a serious director. And, so many times in the past I’ve tried to find start-up directors and been grossly disappointed. Things happen in the pressure – you buckle. And this is the hardest film – and all these people will tell you – it’s brutal. The logistics of it is gigantic. Gigantic. And he’s just chomping around, having a good time, just like he was on the first day. And he’s very specific. He knows what he wants. So he’s going to be a great one.
And that's a wrap on our set visit for THE EXPENDABLES 3! Hope you enjoyed the coverage and got a better picture on what to expect from the upcoming sequel. You can continue to follow my antics on Twitter right here.
THE EXPENDABLES 3 opens on August 15, 2014.