The ever-expanding Expendables ensemble now brings in younger, fresher faces in The Expendables 3. It tells the story of the elder generation coming into conflict with the new Expendables as well as fresh new foe Mel Gibson’s Conrad Stonebanks. London marks the world premiere of the latest installment in the on-going franchise and The Upcoming caught up with co-writer and actor Sylvester Stallone, producer Avi Lerner, and other main stars Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas and Kellan Lutz at today’s press conference.
The violence in this film seems to be less graphic than the previous two. Was that a deliberate thing?
SS: The idea of a PG-13 rating was to hit a broader audience. In looking at the Bourne’s and the James Bonds’, we thought they’re pretty violent films and extremely graphic. Of course, when we release the DVD then you’ll see the extra 80 frames (chuckles). I thought with the amount of warfare that goes on in this film, after a while the graphic content would become nauseating to watch. Also it would diminish the humour. For example, Kelsey [Grammer] was originally going to die! He said, “Don’t kill me, don’t kill me,” I said, “You’re doing a TV show you have to die!” (laughter) It was going to be an hour into the film that he was going to die, and that was the whole premise; Mel Gibson kills him and now it’s on! We decided to keep him on and have him around.
There seems to be a lot of old and new faces in this film, and a spirit of “passing on the torch”. Could you talk a bit about the new additions?
SS: I felt it was at a point where we needed to upgrade and retool, and bring in actors that are known for their physicality but also who are incredibly dramatic, actors who have done films in almost every genre. Also, the age factor is almost a parental thing: all children think they know the answers and parents have to come in and save them, and then they save their parents. So I had a family situation going on here. What did you bring, my friend?
AB: I brought comedy. I saw the possibilities in the character to make people [the audience] have a comic relief. The character was designed in a way that allowed me to do that. I started to play with that in mind and began to improvise a lot; he is like a compulsive talker. When I saw my fellow actors roll their eyes, I said “Yes, I am there!” and that provokes some laughter. Basically the character is just hiding something painful inside, and that’s his way of dealing with it. It also added more to everything that was on-screen before.
SS: Wesley, what did you feel like you brought to it? We’ve worked together before on Demolition Man.
WS: And I’ve been waiting to work with you ever since. You were busy, I was busy (laughter).
KL: To me there’s a duality between Barney Ross and John Smillee. You never see the young Barney and there is an essence of who John is and how he becomes. Throughout the journey of the script you see him develop.
SS: With Ronda Rousey there was a debate: “Oh, she’s not really an actress, she’s a fighter” and I’d say, “No, she’s a new kind of entertainer.” We’re now becoming like hybrids; some of us write, direct, act and have these other sides. I thought let’s take someone from the world of the MMA. I couldn’t have been luckier or more right. This girl is one of a kind, she’s very sexy and can tie you into a knot, but she’s also charming and raw. She was always learning on the job. We now have a real hybrid of actors and athletes, and not just actors. I don’t think it could have been accomplished with just actors.
How far in advance do you plan these films? Also, considering there’s talk of an ExpendaBelles, are there any women you would like to see in that?
SS: Yes, there are. We are now starting to see that you can’t entirely depend on actresses per se: you need a certain kind of physicality. Back to how many Expendables, Avi, how many do you want?
AL: The idea is to make another two or three and then we’ll see.
SS: We would like to just continue with this as an on-going experiment. You have great franchises like The Avengers where it can branch off and do other things. Ideally I’d like to see some of these characters, like Antonio and the young Expendables to have their own movies, and then you come together to have the great challenge, whoever the villain would be. That would be the ideal. When I first started doing films that would be franchises I was ridiculed; we all were. With television you have the same characters for ten years in the same location, and yet you watch one film and that would be the end. Some films are designed like that but others have characters that continue to grow and manifest into different personalities. Now, with the ExpendaBelles you’ve got a situation where we’re in uncharted water. To put all women together into one film, would that really work? Or do you have to perhaps put in some women that are known for being tough, like other MMA fighters. And are they a divorce from the Expendables? Say Barney and then Sigourney Weaver, who’s my wife, got a divorce. I’ve lost my house and my mercenaries!
AL: We are right now finalising the script. We’ve got lots of ideas about who’s going to be the action movie star. We plan to begin [shooting] it next year.
Sylvester, how do you balance working on the script and then getting all these actors to join you? How do you tailor to suit their skills?
SS: There are only a finite number of actors and you try not to get two of the same. It’s very time-consuming and it can take a lot to convince certain actors. Originally I wanted Mel to direct [the movie], but he said “Y’know, I wouldn’t mind being the villain.” I said (slams desk) “Sold!”
KL: Back in 2009 when the first Expendables came around and there was originally a young Expendable in there, I auditioned during my Twilight years. For some reason we were talking about how I had a black eye and some scratch marks from some stunt I was doing, so Sly said, “Alright, so this kid can take a hit?” That character was removed and I was kind of bummed. Then the third one came around, and there’s a whole legion of young Expendables. So, from day one I’ve wanted to be a part of it.
What was your favourite stunt scene?
KL: The one that stands out is when all of us are in the helicopter. To have Sly running and all of us on the helicopter cracking jokes (laughter).
AL: Expendables 3 is the biggest action movie that I’ve done, and I’ve done a lot of action movies.
The Expendables 3 is released nationwide on 14th August 2014.
Read our review of the movie here.