Expendables 2: Interview with Sylvester Stallone
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Liam Hemsworth, Yu Nan, and Bruce Willis, “The Expendables 2” arrives in theaters on August 17.
“The Expendables,” made in 2010, was dismissed by most critics, but grossed $103 million domestically, thus the sequel
Directed by Simon West from a screenplay by Richard Wenk and Sylvester Stallone and a story by Ken Kaufman & David Agosto and Richard Wenk, “The Expendables 2” is produced by Avi Lerner, Kevin King-Templeton, Danny Lerner and Les Weldon. Jon Feltheimer, Jason Constantine, Eda Kowan, Basil Iwanyk and Guymon Casady serve as Executive Producers along with Danny Dimbort, Boaz Davidson and Trevor Short.
Some might not lament that the lone-wolf daredevils, hard-boiled justice-seekers and dogged defenders of such classics as “Die Hard,” “Rambo,” and “Predator” have been replaced by caped superheroes and surreal special effects, but Sylvester Stallone knows audiences are still very hungry for the genuine article. “For ‘The Expendables 2,’ we’ve pulled together the most phenomenal action-adventure cast that I’ve ever been involved with,” he says. “We are bringing back that old time rock ‘n roll, and giving audiences what that they haven’t seen for a while: visceral, true-to-life action.”
For Stallone, the inspiration for writing these real-deal characters came from the unforgettably rebellious yet heroically loyal compadres he cut his own teeth on in such action classics as “The Dirty Dozen,” “The Wild Bunch” and “Dogs of War.” “Our characters harken back to a time when our heroes were flesh and blood,” Stallone summarizes. “What I like about the Expendables, especially in this story, is that these guys put their lives on the line for a cause.”
Having shepherded the first film to success as director, this time Stallone happily handed off his director’s chair to director Simon West so that he could focus more on the writing and on the film’s lead character. “Simon is a wonderful shooter and he brought a lot to the heart and the action of the story,” comments Stallone. “With the scope of this production, I couldn’t have done all these jobs.”
Stallone once again takes the lead as Barney Ross, the team’s strong-willed leader who now must grapple with the sudden loss of one of his own. Stallone reveals, “The whole movie sets off on a course of, you might say… revenge . . . as our team sets out to get the people who have done one of us a great disservice. There’s this turn of events that you don’t expect. It’s a tough thing for Barney. At one point, Barney asks ‘Why is it the ones who deserve to live, that want to live the most, die — and the ones that don’t deserve to live, keep on going?’”
In “The Expendables 2,” Stallone and Jason Statham had a chance to further hone their irreverent, back-and-forth repartee as relentlessly competitive buddies. Stallone explains: “The relationship between Christmas and Barney was so good in the first movie that we’ve enhanced it with more humor and action. They’re a great team together… like the “Odd Couple,” really. They’re constantly fighting but have a great affection for each other.”
“The Expendables 2” also gives audiences another chance to see box-office behemoths Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger together with Stallone – after “The Expendables” became the first time in film history that the three biggest action stars of the last three decades were seen as a trio on screen. Willis and Schwarzenegger return in the roles of the mysterious Mr. Church and the devastating Trench.
“I’m so glad we got Bruce as Mr. Church, because he’s the key to the beginning of the adventure. Mr. Church is an enigma. We don’t really know exactly what he does, but he’s in the thick of things and he’s extremely powerful and devious,” explains Stallone.
Stallone says of Schwarzenegger: “Though our two characters are somewhat archenemies, we’re also compatriots when the stakes are high enough. Trench comes through for us this time! Last time was just a cameo. Here, Arnold’s role is more fleshed out and this will be the first time that we really join together, which we haven’t done in our entire careers. It’ll be well worth the wait when people see it. Our styles are vastly different, which makes for a great contrast. Arnold has a different way of approaching a role. It’s certainly different than mine, but we arrive at the same destination, which is to entertain the audience.”
This time around, another inimitable pioneer of the action genre – the American martial arts legend Chuck Norris — joins “The Expendables 2” as Booker, whose name is a nod to the influential 1978 actioner “Good Guys Wear Black” in which Norris portrayed a character named John T. Booker. In that film and in “The Expendables 2,” Norris plays a retired military operative trying to rescue his old comrades.
It was a rare opportunity to pay tribute to an unending appeal. Stallone explains, “Chuck basically retired from films but he agreed to join our movie. He plays a character who mysteriously comes out of nowhere to save our butts. We call him ‘Lone Wolf.’ He’s there when you need him, and gone when you don’t.”
Every great action-adventure demands a ruthless and memorable villain – and in “The Expendables 2,” the blockbuster kickboxing star Jean-Claude Van Damme adds his instantly recognizable persona and skills to the film’s superstar roster in the nefarious role of Jean Vilain.
Stallone says of Van Damme taking on the bad guy role: “People have never seen him like this before. Usually he plays heroes and I think people will be quite surprised by Vilain – who is fearlessly hell-bent on destroying us despite the risk of self-destruction. He’s willing to die and eventually when Vilain and Barney meet one-on-one, it ends up being a hellacious battle until the very end. It’s kind of like a heavyweight championship fight that you never thought would happen.”
Fresh blood is also added to the action mix of “The Expendables 2” in the person of Liam Hemsworth, fresh off the mega hit of Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games,” as the world-class sniper Billy The Kid.
Stallone explains: “Billy the Kid is a hero out of Afghanistan but he’s disenchanted after being on the verge of winning the Medal of Honor. He joins our team but soon realizes that it’s really not for him. He agrees to go along for one last mission – but what he really wants is to go home, be with his girlfriend and start a normal life. The rest of us are a little jealous of The Kid because we never really got to have normal lives. I think my character, Barney understands him. At one point Barney tells him, ‘If you have a choice, I wouldn’t grow up to be us, either.’”
Billy the Kid represents the next generation of the Expendables. According to Stallone, “He’s the new young guy, full of hope and aspiration. He has a future ahead of him and he’s not as cynical as the other team members. He regards Barney Ross as a father figure, and Barney regards him as the new generation that he’s got to look after and train and they have a great affection for each other.”
On this mission, the film gets another addition with a whole different style—their first female heroine, Maggie, played by rising Chinese actress Yu Nan. Stallone explains, “Maggie is a Chinese agent who’s very mysterious. Nobody quite knows what her role is to start with. But as the story unfolds, you realize how important she is to the story. Yu Nan is a wonderful actress and she adds a lot of mystery and intrigue to the story. Maggie challenges Barney all the time because Barney’s not very good with women; he’s got this wall up he tries to keep her at a distance. And she’s constantly trying to penetrate his outer shell.”
Of an action hero’s essence, Sylvester Stallone says: “It’s not muscles. It’s not incredible athletic ability. I think it has to be something that the audience can relate to – someone touchable, approachable and real. Maybe even somewhat flawed. The hero has to be part of the audience. I really think what makes an action star is the audience’s desire to mentally shove the character forward.”
As creative as the production was, for Stallone, the most special visual of all was seeing this group of high-flying film legends all joining forces for one movie. “Maybe this is the beginning of a revival. Or, maybe it’s the end of an era. But one thing is for sure; it’s never happened before and we’ll never see it happen quite like this again,” Stallone summarizes. “Everyone in this movie has had a stellar career and to get all of us together at one time is a minor miracle. This is going to be quite an experience for the audience and one that took years in the making. We finally got it on film and it’s something that hopefully people are going to appreciate for years to come.”
Leave a Reply
- Nicole Kidman: Jury Member in 2013 Cannes Fest
- Anchorman 2 Teaser
- Fast & Furious 6: London, Glasgow, Liverpool
- Fast & Furious 6: Vehicular Warfare:
- Fast && Furious 6: Stunts
- Fast & Furious 6: The Newcomers
- Fast & Furious 6: Family Reunion
- Cannes 2013: Gunshots Heard; Christoph Waltz Rushed Off Stage
- Cannes 2013: Weinstein Presents Oscar Hopefuls
- Angelina Jolie Double Mastectomy–Talk of Cannes Film Fest
- Cannes Fest 2013: Jerry Lewis Double Bill
- Behind the Candelabra: Michael Douglas on Liberace