Back in 2006-11 Phil’s Quick Review editor in chief Phil Hobden was the Film & TV editor and chief writer for the legendary martial arts focused Combat Magazine. The Combat Magazine Series takes look back at some of the best interviews, conversations and articles that Phil wrote or edited during that time.
Next up: Not So Expendable: Sylvester Stallone Talks The Expendables 2. Edited by Phil Hobden
The first Expendables movie was, for many, the dream or dreams. The biggest action stars from the 80’s & 90’s finally coming together in one film. Few people thought that it would be possible to top that cast which consisted of Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Steve Austin and Mickey Rourke. But then most people aren’t series creator & writer Sylvester Stallone.
So two years later, the original cast are back and this time they have added legends like Jean-Claude Van Damme & Chuck Norris as well as considerably larger parts for Arnie and Bruce. In short The Expendables 2 is bigger and better than ever and we sat down with the big man himself to talk raising the bar, on set competition and the inevitable The Expendables 3. Well this one did make a boat load of money…
How has the bar, in what ways has the bar, been significantly raised in The Expendables 2?
Sylvester Stallone: On the sequel you’ve lost the element of surprise…. Usually the first one you may not go very, very deep into character; second one you start to explore the character a bit more. But the odds that you can’t surprise them become, like I said, a lot heavier. So you have to work more and more to come up with some creative devices to keep the action flowing.
This is a physically demanding role. I understand that you suffered quite a bad injury when you were making the original Expendables movie. A couple of questions. Did that put you off doing a sequel? Did you suffer any injuries? Is there anybody in your life whose opinion you value who said “Don’t do this, Sly, because you’re taking too much of a risk”?
Sylvester Stallone: Yes, the doctors… I had my neck fused in the last one, with the stunt that went real bad. I had two back operations, a shoulder operation, Achilles operation. The last movie took its toll. The doctor said “Don’t take any rough falls. Let a stunt fellow do it.”
But sometimes you just have to do it. I don’t know why, I guess throw common sense out the window. So yes, there were some injuries; there were some tough ones in this one. But I can’t help myself. It’s a fool’s paradise for me.
In the old days there used to be quite a bit of competition between you guys as action legends. How was it working on a project together? Was there competition on the set?
Sylvester Stallone: Very competitive. Very. No-one wants to be second, so that’s why everyone pushes very hard, and why these people have established the reputation they have. Because they want to be the best, and they usually are.
You did mention the stunt guys and the film does carry quite a poignant dedication to the stunt performer who sadly lost his life during the course of the film. How hard was that for the cast and crew to deal with and to bounce back from?
Sylvester Stallone: It was incredibly hard. Especially the members of the stunt team, they took it very, very hard and shut down for quite a while. It’s still something they’re going through. It’s happened twice before in films I’ve been on and it’s never easy. It’s ongoing, I’m sorry.
Obviously I think for action fans, the finest moment of many action films is the one-liners. There’s so many great ones in this film. But I wondered, looking back over your illustrious career, if you could perhaps share with us what you think in your opinion have been some of the best and perhaps worst that you’ve ever had the privilege to utter on screen.
Sylvester Stallone: I guess my best is “Yo Adrian…” It’s one thing you just can’t criticise. Some of the worst would have to be perhaps all my dialogue in ‘Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot’.
Probably every line would be immortally bad.
Almost all of you are used to being top of the bill when a movie comes out, so were there any clashes of egos at all on the movie? How did you handle it if there were? It seemed like you used humour a lot.
Sylvester Stallone: Well, I’d like to say there was, because it makes for a more interesting story. But no, there was ultimate respect. I think everyone just knew what to do with their job.
The key with men like us is very, very simple. If you give out respect, you get respect. If you disrespect then you’re going to get that too. It’s very, very simple. But what it is – and I have to give credit to – not many people would do a film like this. This is a very risky film taking people – he said “I don’t know if this would work anymore.”
He went around, and it’s very, very important where the producer and the financer has a personal relationship with everybody. So everyone – they don’t feel like they’re just hired hands, they’re like their friends. So there was no ego clash whatsoever.
Firstly can I ask are there plans going ahead for an Expendables 3? If so, judging at the timing of year, are you inspired by the Olympics? Would you consider any guest stars from any Olympian gold medallists this year? One suggestion I would say would be maybe Ireland’s Katie Taylor, the lightweight women’s champion.
Sylvester Stallone: Yes, see that would be an interesting choice. Really I think as we spread out, we are thinking about different concepts. Because the third one’s the hardest, by far. The second is the natural progression. Third one, that’s when the air gets rare.
We’re thinking pretty ambitiously about it. So she would fit right in there, because we’re going for odd choices – you have to. Now you have to give the audience something they don’t expect at all. Maybe even go into a different sort of genre, if you read between the lines, get out there a little bit. Maybe rip off one of your other films. Something like that.
Yes, why not?
Obviously training now, you probably have to approach it slightly differently to how you would earlier in your career. How have you adapted how you train to meet those demands?
Sylvester Stallone: Mine is obviously going lighter and more scientific, and using the equipment that they are actually using with Olympians today, and plyometrics. It just seems to be… Actually, it’s more fun than just a regular iron game.
You guys practically invented this kind of action movie genre. But I just wondered, when you were younger, did you have a kind of role model for this kind of genre? I’m thinking about Kirk Douglas maybe or…
Sylvester Stallone: Yes, growing up I of course admired physically, the first time I saw Hercules Unchained, just something snapped in my brain. Because I was very, very thin and I had no direction, the usual adolescent insecurities.
From that point on I had a real male role model. Of course modelling yourself after Hercules is kind of a difficult thing when you’re skinny, but that was it.
Then of course the actors at the time, I was just drawn to heroes like Kirk Douglas in The Vikings. That primarily was it.
But when Arnold and I got into the action genre, there really wasn’t an action genre. There’d be car chases and there’d be maybe a fist fight, but the actual genre is something that just grew up around us. We were pretty instrumental in it, but unwearyingly so, it just happened.
The Expendables 2 is out on Blu-ray, DVD and Download, courtesy of Lions Gate Home Entertainment