We’re now seated inside the press room of Nu Boyana, press folk on one side of a 30-foot table and surrounded by empty chairs that are soon filled with the cast of The Expendables 3. Jason Statham sits across from me, and I have to pinch myself after he throws a wink my way.
“I was really happy to see all these faces I haven’t seen for a while,” Statham said about returning to the franchise. “‘Cause I got to get the hundred dollars that Dolph owed me.”
“Ninety five,” Dolph Lundgren interjects.
“That was really important,” Statham added with a smile.
Lundgren is a towering hulk of a man, as you’ve no doubt surmised from his countless film appearances. Even though he sits at the end of the table about 12 feet away from me, I can’t help but notice his arms are as big as my head, and when he’s seated next to former UFC fighter Randy Couture, there’s little doubt about who the biggest guys in the room are.
“It’s good for most (of the cast) to be back,” Lundgren said. “It’s a cool group of guys and now we have some new additions that makes it even more exciting and fun, and you have all these kids back there who are doing a great job and I think it’s going to be great to be a part of it. It’s fun.”
“You come back and put on the same clothes, it’s like you never left,” Couture added.
When Stallone enters the conference room we’ve assembled in, you can tell he’s exhausted, a trait that he shares with his character Barney Ross in the storyline for The Expendables 3. As the film opens, Barney’s actually considering wrapping it all up, which is why there are so many younger faces in the cast this time around.
“Barney wants to retire them,” Kellan Lutz says about the film’s original crew. “They’re getting old, so he wants to come after some new blood, wants them to think smarter. The younger generation is more tech savy.”
In a coincidentally meta way, Lutz’s comments on how the “new crew” gets connected into the plot of the film similarly reflect the real life reasons that the cast was added to the movie.
“Our stories, by and large, have been pretty much told,” Stallone said. “So now we have to branch out and investigate other people’s lives. You can only have so many times you go to that well and after a while you say, ‘I’m sick of the taste of this water, give me something else.’ Well you bring in a new spring and that’s exactly what’s happening, you have to do it all the time.”
Lutz plays the role of Smilee in the film, the defacto leader of these “Young Expendables,” and a character he says feels a lot like the young version of Stallone’s Barney Ross.
“There’s a scene that Sly and I have that he really gets through to me, when I have such a front on, and he actually speaks the lingo that I need to hear. As much as I throw him back and say F*ck off, he really gets to me and makes sense about what I’m doing with my life.”
Of all the newcomers added to Expendables, none of them have had quite the journey of getting into the film as Lutz who went in for an audition for a role in the very first film back in 2010.
“They were looking for a younger guy, a young expendable,” Lutz recalled. “Just one, to compliment the rest of the cast….I auditioned for it, Sly loved what I did, loved my look. He actually called my agent and said that he loved me. Then we were waiting on it and I was really excited, I loved the script, it would be a dream to work with all those guys, Jason Statham, Dolph, Sly, and then I guess the character got written out, they just had so many characters for that first one that they ended up not using my character.”
That character would go on to become Liam Hemsworth’s Billy in The Expendables 2, which Lutz was unable to participate in due to filming the second “Twilight” movie.
Boxer Victor Ortiz had another interesting path to booking The Expendables 3, which came from him being unable to fight due to a broken jaw.
“I was asked by my agent if I was interested in any movies,” Ortiz said. “I said absolutely man and I couldn’t fight for a year and a half, maybe two since my jaw has been shattered. So they asked me ‘What about ‘Expendables 3′? Would you be interested in it?’ and I said ‘Are you kidding me? Of course!”
Ortiz will play the role of Mars in the film, the member of the “Young Expendables” who specializes in sharpshooting and weaponry.
“I get to blow stuff up and kill people,” Ortiz added with a laugh. “I had to be trained to use two different kinds of guns that I’ve never even seen. One was a corner shot assault rifle and that thing bended in the middle and had a screen on it. It’s pretty insane. So if I’m at a corner and I don’t want to get shot I just stick my gun out, I twist the gun and the little screen pops out and wherever the little target is on the screen is where you’re shooting.”
A few of the other new cast members, Antonio Banderas and Mel Gibson, were asked personally by Stallone to appear in the third film.
“I ran into Sly a couple of years ago in a parking lot here in Los Angeles,” Banderas said. “And he said to me, ‘Man you have to come to the movie, ’cause you’ve done all these characters, Zorro, Desperado, and you have your audience and the Spanish market, and we worked together and we worked so good.’ And that’s true, when we did ‘Assassins’ together years ago we got a great relationship and it was fun working with him and we got along. Ever since we kept our friendship, so when he saw me and said that I said to him, ‘I don’t want to be a villain, you have to call me to be a good guy, I don’t want to be killed in reel #4.'”
Banderas says that he spent a lot of time shaping who his character was, and that with his role he saw an opportunity to really bring some comedy to the film, which resulted in quite a bit of improv on his part.
“I see these movies not so much as a very realistic action stuff, I see them more as a wink of an eye towards the audience and I saw the possibility with my character to do comedy,” Banderas said. “If you just throw (my character) talking in the middle of the army, the army just might surrender. All the comedy of the character is like a shield, to hide something a little bit deeper into that.”
“We’re not going for the cheap laughs,” Stallone mentioned. “You gotta work for the laughs a little bit. They come out of the human comedy, human error. So it’s that side of it, and that sort of element. So I think what we’re going to have here is a very pleasant surprise.”
Gibson, on the other hand, was brought in even quicker and in an even more personal fashion, which director Patrick Hughes told us about in his quite accurate impersonation of Stallone.
“I remember I was working in the office and Sly came in one day and said, ‘Hey what do you think about Mel Gibson for the villain?’ and I was like, ‘Dude that’s the best idea you’ve had all day,’ and he goes ‘Yeah, yeah I think so too.’ Then I literally watched him dial a number on his phone and he went, ‘Hey Mel!’ and he pitched it to him and Sly hung up and he goes, ‘Yeah I think he’s gonna do it.'”
In the film, Gibson plays Conrad Stonebanks, which is likely the greatest fictional name ever written but is also a character that has a history with Stallone’s, which will eventually culminate in a rather dynamic fight sequence between the pair.
“That’s going to be pretty violent and interesting,” Stallone said. “When I went into this business and when I did Rocky I said ‘I wonder if I’m ever going to be fighting that guy from ‘Braveheart’? It’s funny how all these roads end up here, it’s wild.”
Gibson had yet to arrive on the set at the time our visit, but Stallone said he was taking his role in the film very seriously.
“Mel has been very gracious to be in our film. He’s a fantastic filmmaker, a great actor, and he’s getting in some very physical shape for this, he’s not taking this lightly at all. I’m getting worried. So I was looking at him and looking at myself and thought, ‘Oh my god man. I’m going to be in some deep doo doo.'”
The film will see much of the new cast members, “The Young Expendables” that is, joining the team through unconventional means, using the aid of a mercenary agent named Bonaparte. For this peculiar role, Stallone brought in another new cast member to the Franchise, Kelsey Grammer of “Cheers” and “Fraiser” fame. Some might point out that Grammer is not known for being an action star, but that’s not the qualifications Stallone uses when filling out the cast for these films.
“People always talk about, ‘Oh I have baggage,'” Stallone said. “Baggage is the best damn thing you can have, ’cause that means you have something to sell. Something to bring along with you. So I like to bring people along that have big time baggage… A lot of times people look at ‘Oh my god you’re a stereotype,’ good, good, you’re known for something.”
Even though the cast is full of professionals, there are still moments where they can’t help but devolve from actors to fans at the sight of some of the cast members, especially the young ones.
“I was speechless and stuttering and acted like an idiot when I met Harrison Ford,” Rhonda Rousey said. “I used to watch ‘Star Wars’ on repeat, it would end and I would rewind it, press the rewind button and go back to the beginning and do it again and again and again. So that was when I really made a fool of myself.”
“It was breathtaking for me,” Victor Ortiz added. “I would sit back daily and I’d be like ‘Geez I’m a small town kid from Kansas who grew up with a lot of nothing and now I’m sitting here next to Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes, Mel Gibson. This is nuts.’ I just took a deep breath, because geez man, this is against all statistics that I’m here.”
The colossal ensemble that Stallone has put together for the franchise, now three times in a row, is unlike anything else that is being done in modern cinema. We asked Stallone why he thinks this kind of “Best of Action” is so appealing to movie goers, to which he replied:
“Because theyre one of a kind – to get them all together is very very rare. Life takes us all down very different paths, so to get them together is an event. Thats the key word. An Event. Were trying to make an Event Movie like ‘The Avengers.’ Why is that so great? You bring all these characters together. Were trying to do that too, and I think weve accomplished it.”