capable of being sacrificed in order to accomplish a military objective.
Return to your action roots this summer
as legend of cinema Sylvester Stallone (Rocky, Rambo)
takes you on an explosive adventure of a lifetime. On August 19th this
is your chance to experience the much celebrated action movie
institution in its most glorious form.
Modern day action heroes Jason Statham (Crank
2, Death Race, The Transporter Trilogy) and Jet Li (The
Forbidden Kingdom, Unleashed) join forces with Rocky Nemesis
Dolph Lundgren (Rocky IV, Universal Soldier, Masters of
the Universe) and Bafta Winner Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler,
Iron Man 2) alongside timeless heroes Bruce Willis (Die Hard)
and Arnold Schwarzenegger to make the cinema a dangerous place to be
this August. Rounding out the cast is wrestling superstar ‘Stone Cold’
Steve Austin, Eric Roberts (The Specialist, The Dark Knight),
Terry Crews, Randy Couture, David Zyas and Giselle Itie.
Barney Ross (Stallone) is a man with
nothing to lose. Fearless and void of emotion, he is the leader, the
sage and the strategist of this tight-knit band of men who live on the
fringe. The team behind him is made up of Lee Christmas (Statham),
former SAS and a savant with anything that has a blade; Yin Yang (Li), a
master at close-quarter combat; Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), who has known
Barney for ten years and is a long-barrel weapons specialist; Toll Road
(Randy Couture), a skilled demolitions expert and considered the
intellect of the group; and Gunnar Jensen (Lundgren), a combat veteran
and an expert in precision sniping who struggles with his own demons.
When the mysterious Church offers Barney
a job no one else would take, Barney and his team embark on what appears
to be a routine mission: overthrow General Gaza (David Zayas), the
murderous dictator of the small island country of Vilena and end the
years of death and destruction inflicted on its people. On a
reconnaissance mission to Vilena, Barney and Christmas meet their
contact Sandra (Giselle Itie), a local freedom-fighter with a dark
secret. They also come to learn who their true enemy is: rogue ex-CIA
operative James Monroe (Roberts) and his henchman Paine (Austin). When
things go terribly wrong, Barney and Christmas are forced to leave
Sandra behind, essentially giving her a death sentence. Haunted by this
failure, Barney convinces the team to return to Vilena to rescue the
hostage and finish the job he started. Perhaps, also, to save a soul:
The Expendables -
the action film to end all action films!
PRESS CONFERENCE Q&A
Q: At the screening last week there was a
massive round of applause before the film even started, and as each star
name appeared there were whoops of joy. To what extent does that level
of excitement and expectation bring extra challenges or responsibilities
to do something really special with The Expendables?
Sly Stallone: It’s a lot of pressure
because sometimes you come to a film and you know you’ve got a major
turkey and it’s not even Thanksgiving. It’s bad. This time this is the
other end of it, where there’s a great expectancy and you think, geez, I
didn’t expect this when we started making this. You begin to say is this
going to live up to its idea? It’s kind of complex. You are damned if
you do and damned if you don’t.
Jason Statham: [Level of expectation and
responsibility] It’s all on Sly, I’m afraid. That’s why you chose to
work with people that know what they are doing. A lot of the time we
don’t get such a luxury in that choice…
Sly Stallone: Then you better go with
Christopher Nolan, pal… I’m just guessing my way through this…
Dolph Lundgren: I’m afraid of saying
anything here [chuckles]. It’s like fighting in the world championships,
instead of the regional championships in sports, I guess. This movie is
like the world class, the best of all times, and you just feel you want
to live up to it.
Q: [To Stallone and Lundgren] How would
you compare your screen relationship now, compared to 25 years ago in
Rocky IV. Is there the same dynamic there?
Sly Stallone: That’s a good question.
I’ve never trained harder for Rocky IV than the other Rockys.
Dolph’s thing was brutal. He was a world-class athlete, so we got to
know each other pretty well. Then times change. We go through ups and
downs, marriages and things. Meeting this time, it’s really a pleasure
because of all the actors I’ve worked with, he’s remained the most
grounded and humble. Believe me that can change a lot. It’s rough. It’s
very competitive. But it has changed, plus I’m dying to kick his brains
in because he really beat me up badly in that movie [Rocky IV]. I
mean I look at him now and go, what was I thinking? This guy’s a
monster. In the first film it was really great. I’d just seen this fight
with Marvin Hagler who was defending for the title and [he] went crazy
in the first round. He and Tommy Hearns were going at it. I said, Dolph,
I saw this fight and I want you to try and knock me out, just for the
first 30 seconds and I’ll do my best to protect [myself] – I know I can
slip it. He put me in the hospital - four days. That’s 30 seconds, so
you don’t think I have a grudge? And it’s still not over - that’s why I
Q: Dolph, do you like to comment any
Dolph Lundgren: No, I’ll just get another
beating if I say anything…
With all the testosterone with the male cast, did you have an all-female
crew to balance it out?
Sly Stallone: You don’t – you just like,
fake it. You guys are very aggressive, every one of them. The worst
thing you want to do… Let’s say Jason does an action beat and he’s very
physical – you’ll see in the documentary, he does his hands [in] and
[they] were in ice and he’s leaping onto baked ground, over and over. He
keeps wanting to do it, and I say, stop, stop, stop. Then the next fella
who has to do his stunt goes, Jason was rather good. I’m going to kill
this guy… So, it keeps building in competitiveness – that’s why you have
such a physical, testosterone movie because men are just naturally
competitive and they want to keep upping the ante. I don’t know if there
were any women around – if they were they were tougher than the guys.
You had to be tougher in this show.
Q: Were there any stunts you won’t do,
anything you’re scared off?
Jason Statham: I won’t wear a flowery
shirt… It’s all part of the cause. I mean the way movies get made when
Sly’s in control. He shoots a lot of the stunts in the camera. A lot of
the action directors of today tend to rely on the movie as a visual and
it becomes very boring because it’s a lot of CG and people don’t really
care too much about it. When you are doing an action movie that requires
real men doing real action, it’s an opportunity to do that [Sly’s way] –
that’s all we’re looking for. We can’t wait to get stuck in and do that
kind of stuff.
Q: [Stallone asks Lundgren] What are you
Dolph Lundgren: Saying too much at the
Sly Stallone: He’s afraid of being short…
Q: You’ve got the best action line in
history – is there anyone you wanted to be involved that couldn’t do it,
or didn’t want to do it? How did you get so many names involved?
Sly Stallone: At first it was just
myself, Jason and Jet Li and then it began to build on that. As I
started getting rid of other characters – one time I had Ben Kingsley as
a bad guy and Forest Whittaker, I said this is not going to fly. Let me
just try and go real old school. So, I called Dolph and of course he
accepted immediately. He was very, very gracious and told him Jason was
on… No disrespect, there aren’t a lot of ‘bad asses’ out there, guys who
just want to get it on. Now, I believe the younger generation of these
guys come up would love to do this, like to show their metal, I really
do. I’m not saying they’re reluctant to do it, just there’s not an
opportunity. All young men want to prove themselves. It’s just part of
it. When you get older you still want to keep proving yourself. It’s
just in the blood. There is none around. That’s why I went to MMA [Mixed
Martial Arts] that’s growing and got us the five-times world champion
who is literally ferocious [and] at the top of his game, Steve Austin
who is an incredibly powerful human being. Whatever you feel about
wrestling, there are still tough guys, big, 250-pound solid muscle, and
we just kept building from there. Then I called Jean-Claude Van Damme
and Steven Segal who had different ideas on their career – I did the
best I could.
Q: Talking about how the business has
changed, do stars still matter as much because few films have been
flogged on star potential like this one…
Sly Stallone: What do you think, Jason?
[Laughs] Yes, stars don’t matter that much. They really don’t. Concept
matters, the overall originality, or reinterpretation of really classic
situations, like Star Wars would go back to… What is the really famous
philosopher who did The Hero with a Thousand Faces? Dr Joseph
Kemp [means Dr Joseph Campbell]. There are all variations on that. When
we started out – before your time, Jason… you were a thought. You were a
concept [laughs], Dolph and I, they’d put you in a film and they would
surround you with kind of like just guys, then they would develop a
character, but you can’t do that today. That’s where I realised that
like Rambo was a one-man show and even the last Rambo I started doing
that more, but those days are numbered.
How have the films changed the business?
It’s pretty much reflective of that… There is a lot at stake today,
where you went from 400 films a year, now down to 250, maybe 150? Then
when you get down to studios, maybe even less? The stakes are very, very
high… a science on what they make. So, there is no more, oh I’ve got a
gut feeling. I’m going to take a chance – I know everyone says no, but
I’m going to try new. That’s gone. So, it’s all scientific. Every actor
is weighed against what he’s going to bring in for the territory. It’s
like a math project, it really is.
Q: Sly, how does your faith inform the
career choices you make, and do you feel the need to justify the
violence in your films?
Sly Stallone: Well, I’ve made a lot of
career mistakes. A lot. Actually, a lot of personal ones, too. I never
started out to be an action actor. I was an ensemble actor. Rocky
was an ensemble. F.I.S.T was ensemble. Paradise Alley was
ensemble. Then along came First Blood and there was a beginning
of something unusual, once all the dialogue was cut out of it, it was a
completely visual film. I believe that the violence is very justifiable.
The one thing in my films [is] I only kill people who need to be killed.
Killers killing killers – matter of fact that was one of the scenes we
cut out of the movie [The Expendables] was what happened to the
code? We only went after bad people. I said the code died of apathy,
showing that I couldn’t care anymore. Let me just put it this way: the
ones that deserve to get it, they get it good, and the ones that go
after women, really get it. They say, oh, isn’t that overkill? I’m not
going to have a man sitting there and really having his way with a woman
and tearing her apart and just wrecking her life and just shoot him with
a bullet. That’s too civilized. He’s going to feel real pain. And I
think the audience has that cathartic feeling. Now, if you did that in
every scene then it’s a horror film. I don’t feel guilty about it at all
– but if you want me to, I will!
Q: Jason, what was it like acting with
the heroes you grew up watching?
Jason Statham: Well, he’s [Stallone] is a
bit of a bully, actually. He carries a big stick around and starts, you
know, ordering tea and coffee… It’s not as comfortable as you [think]…
It’s a situation that you get to know the real man behind the camera.
It’s not the film-maker anymore, it’s a regular guy. I think, to me that
was the best part about working with Sly was getting to know him as a
person. There is no substitute for that… We’ve seen all of his movies
for the years. We are very familiar with everything he’s done that’s why
we get excited when we get to do films like this, you know?
Sly Stallone: It’s nice knowing I could
be his father [Statham’s]. That’s really comforting. Thank you very
Q: It’s an old-fashioned film in many
ways, where men are real men and you could argue that women are victims…
Sly Stallone: Well, they are kind of
victims, sort of…
Q: Well, you could argue there’s
something slightly prehistoric about it…
Sly Stallone: No! Well us? Yeah,
definitely! Are you kidding? We were like headwaiters at the Last
Supper. Yes, we had a dinosaur as a house pet. We’re old… Well, I am. As
for the women as being victims, it’s like a throwback to the 80s. I
wanted to use that kind of set-up, whereas a woman had this passion, she
was a patriot, she was like earlier Sophia Loren. As a matter of fact, I
would have the girl [Giselle Itié who played Sandra] look at Sophia
Loren movies and say you’re that kind of fiery person because I don’t
want to go into something that is a little too complex, a little too
controversial, a little too politically correct. I said, let me just go
back to old school. But in the end, that girl was water board, for real.
Talk about tough. She did her own stunts. She was very favourite - am I
right [to Lundgren and Statham], with all the guys? Believe me, that
woman is real tough.
Q: Sly, how did you juggle acting and
directing the film? Dolph, Jason, what was it like acting with Sly,
whilst he was also directing?
Sly Stallone: [To Lundgren and Statham]
You remember all that stuff when we were acting and directing at the
same time in the beginning, like with the Somalian pirates? No, no,
you’re talking to Jason. You say that line? It’s complex because for my
method is to learn everybody’s line – write the script and learn the
entire script that way not to think about it anymore, and I can
concentrate on them. Then when I’m in a scene, Jason will tell you, he’s
always being given different lines in the spur of the moment [laughs]…
Jason Statham: Well, that’s the great
thing about having a guy that is a writer and the director and happens
to star in the movie, as well, because you have full liberty to change
and improvise. You don’t normally get that. You normally get
restrictions with some guy wrote the script and he doesn’t want anyone
to mess with that and the director’s not allowed to. So, it’s the best
situation you can get, but a lot of humour arises from that kind
Stallone: There’s a line in there. Did you all see the film? Anyone want
their money back? [Laughs] Then I’ll go on. The scene, for example,
where we have all the Somalian pirates and it’s building up, guns and
feds… bullets and blades… Are you ready? You want the money, come and
get it… and you go ‘eeeeee’ [mimics sound of incoming text]. What’s
that? I’m getting a text. Excuse me? Now, when I said I was just going
to shoot the pirates, ready, come and get it, shoot, Jason’s saying, I’m
getting a text. He goes, what? I say, say I’m getting a text. He says
I’m not saying that. I said, say it. Now the camera’s rolling [still]…
I’ll go like this ‘eeeeee’ and you say ‘I’m getting a text’. He said
you’re going to go ‘eeeeee’? I said yeah, I’m going to go ‘eeeeee’. Now
the camera’s still going… ‘Eeeeee’ – am I doing it right [to Statham]? I
say, what’s that? I’m getting a texting. Then I say to Terry [Crews], it
better not be from my wife! He goes, what? I say, just say it! When we
did a documentary you’ll see how… you have the formula. You have the
blueprint. Then once you have it, let’s just go, and everyone starts to
just ad-lib and sometimes that’s where it came from, that was not
scripted. We had a nice thing. We had a well-scripted piece but it
didn’t have that eccentricity – same with Dolph and hanging a pirate. I
said, what are you doing… he goes, hanging a pirate. I said why? Vikings
hang pirates. I said excuse me? Old tradition. It’s crazy what is
Dolph Lundgren: Well, they’re right, both
of them. I agree with them. He [Stallone] rewrites stuff when you are
lying there in your death scene, and he’s like, say this, and you are
like what? Just say it! But it’s fun. It’s different, but it’s cool. It
Sly Stallone: His death was like shot
three different ways. One is he wanted a Viking funeral. I’m going
you’re not. So what? I go, fine, fine. You mean you’d let the guys push
you out on a boat and [be] burned. He says, yes I want [mimics
Lundgren’s accent]. Schmuck. Ok, fine, you want something miserable
like. So, it became this Viking funeral thing and this kept going and
going and going, which I used in the Director’s Rational Cut.
Q: Jason, this is the third time luck
with Jet Li. How has instrumental has that been in shaping your career
as an action star?
Jason Statham: Actually, all the movies
I’ve done with Jet, apart from this one, have been no good. [Laughs]
Sly Stallone: No, don’t be so hard on
Jason Statham: It’s difficult because my
first movie I did with Jet wasn’t what it was supposed to be but it gave
me the opportunity to work with Corey Yuen, which was instrumental in me
playing the Transporter films. So, there was a great relationship that
we had there. It was coincidental that we were doing this film together.
It’s that we tried to beat Sly up and hold him down and say, we want to
do another film together – make sure we’re in it! It’s one of those
Sly Stallone: I think it’s also a perfect
example of how difficult it is to really get an action film out [there]
and have it perform and get the proper people in it. It’s just hard. So,
finally, it’s great for Jason to get a chance to see like how it was
done the old way, which is kind of a simplification of a very
Jason Statham: In fact I’ll add to that
because the films that I have done with Jet Li have been very
science-fiction-based, and this is why this one works, especially for
me, because it harks back to old school action movies that basically are
the ones that I’m interested in doing.
Q: The paternal theme harks back to Rocky
Balboa. In The Expendables there is almost a paternal angle to
your relationship with Jason’s character, Lee Christmas. Is that
Sly Stallone: It’s very intentional. You
have to be age-appropriate and he would be like the protégé. He is like
that fella who I confide in and will eventually take over. I tease him
about his love life and taking things too seriously – something like a
father and son would do. But it’s not by accident… I try to always deal
with redemption. I think everyone in this room, everyone on the planet
has a regret that that one moment they made the wrong decision, which
sometimes just never gets your life back on course. That theme from
Rocky Balboa to Rambo, it just haunts me - maybe I’m just mono-minded or
limited, but it’s inextinguishable. So, this thing with Mickey Rourke,
we used to be something. Now with nothing we’re crap because we gave up
this. Ah, redemption, how do I get this back, by doing something quotes
‘charitable’, like she said at the beginning, giving something for
nothing is really a gift… So, that’s the theme. With Jason, that whole
thing with the girl, full circle, just little bits here and there,
without overburdening the film and turning it into a kind of talkfest –
which you couldn’t understand what I say anyway, so, why bother?
Q: Sly, it’s the elephant in the room,
age and the action star. In the last two films, Rocky and
Rambo there was a sense of closure that you’re saying ‘goodbye’ to
your characters. There wasn’t that feeling with The Expendables.
Are we going to see more action films from you and Dolph, or is enough,
enough and time to move onto movies that are a bit more mind than
Sly Stallone: I don’t know. [You] see
I’ve done my ‘mind movies’ and probably I don’t think people are really
that interested in seeing me do that anymore – I think I’m past my prime
doing dramatic films. I think it becomes maybe kind of like almost a
pathetic cry-out to be recognised as a serious drama turge gone. I’m
very proud of the drama in Rocky Balboa. It’s about as deep as I
can go… Copland. I would much rather just direct dramas, but
Expendables, I’d like to go on. I like everyone, expect him [points
to Lundgren]. He’s out. Jason’s in. The rest of them I’m done with…
Dolph Lundgren: I talk too much [laughs]…
Sly Stallone: You’re too tall to work
with – that’s why I brought in, ‘he doesn’t work with tall people’.
Everyone in the movie’s tall. Excuse me. So, yeah, I would like it to go
Q: Dolph, you’re similarly in that
position now. You’re still doing action films, but you’ve directed five
of them. Are you in a position now of thinking, perhaps, to give up
front of camera and stick to behind the camera?
Dolph Lundgren: Er no, I thing both are
cool. They’re different. One is easier than the other. In front of the
camera is easier and behind is more challenging, but it’s more work, so,
it’s fun to do both…
Sly Stallone: Contrary to the way he
looks, he’s really smart. Seriously! He’s like this beautiful guy, 6’5’’
Viking guy and 29in waist. I’m going he’s got to be a moron. Then I find
he’s like MIT graduate in chemical engineering, full-grade scholar, [I’m
like] are you serious? Him? Can you imagine him in a lab with test tubes
going, oh yes, I will cure this rat of some thing…
Dolph Lundgren: [Laughs] That’s why I
Sly Stallone: It’s amazing. Look at the
transformation – went from Scientist to Savage…
Dolph Lundgren: … to Gunner Jensen
[character in The Expendables]
Q: Why to do think people fell out of
love with the action hero, and do you think this film will bring the
idea of the action hero back?
Dolph Lundgren: Well, I don’t think they
fell out of love. It just changed a little bit, but it will change
again. Was that short enough?
Sly Stallone: He’s absolutely right.
Every generation, including mine – I didn’t identify with John Wayne.
Way too early. I was with James Dean. You have to find your own heroes,
and this generation has to find superheroes as their heroes. That’s why
we’re kind of a novelty. That’s the way it is. Films change. Look at
music – it’s unrecognisable from 20 years ago, but that’s just the way
it is. And then maybe it will go retro. Only Jason’s current, which is
really lucky for us.
Q: Such a stellar cast, if you could have
paid this lot in the 80s, it would have cost you everything you’ve ever
owned. How did you go about paying for it now? Did you call some favours
in? Was it mate’s rates?
Sly Stallone: A lot of it was crime. I
mean I could never afford Bruce and Arnold – it would be like the whole
budget of the movie. You know, Jason is a lot of money, but he’s well
worth it. I mean, seriously, £100 a week, unbelievable, plus free fax
paper - what do you want? You’re absolutely right. It would have been
totally impossible. I’d say one of the reasons they didn’t do was
because everybody back then wanted their price. Things have changed, I
mean, prices are dropping drastically. You’re lucky to get work. So,
looking at people who were getting 10 million [dollars], now they’re
down to like 2 [million dollars] – and they’re going like, thank you.
But his was all favours. This was done really low budget. Some of these
guys literally almost worked for nothing – meaning me. It’s just the way
it is. Maybe it’s come to fruition that this never could have be done
back then, that’s all. I certainly couldn’t have got Arnold and Bruce
back then – not a chance. Never. Just too expensive and too busy.
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