Cast members aren’t the only fresh faces on the set, there’s also director Patrick Hughes. Hughes has directed countless commercials around the world, but only one feature film prior to landing the gig that is helping The Expendables 3. Hughes’ first movie Red Hill, a western staring Ryan Kwanten of “True Blood,” is the very reason that he got hired to direct the third movie.
“I watch a lot of movies, a lot of screeners,” Stallone said. “Probably three hundred, four hundred a year, and I can recall four that really stick in my mind. That’s a good sign because it somehow has gotten in your cortex there and it resonates. Then when I found out how he did it, in what 18 days, with less than 500 grand in freezing weather I said, ‘Imagine what this guy can do with some big paint brushes.'”
“I had the (‘Red Hill’) premiere at Berlin,” Hughes said. “And sold it to Sony and then I had a call like four weeks later from my agent saying, ‘You should know, Stallone is a huge fan of ‘Red Hill’ and loves your work,’ and I was like, ‘Cool, that’s awesome, good to know.’ A couple of years later I got a call from the agent again saying, ‘Stallone wants to meet with you about a project,’ and the project turned out to be ‘Expendables 3.'”
Growing up an action movie junkie is what got Hughes where he is today, and even though he admits they’re exhausting work, his love for the genre is apparent. Even Stallone couldn’t help but pick up on Hughes’ passion for the genre going as far as to call him “a real film scholar” before saying he’s totally immersed in his work.
“This is the hardest (kind of) film,” Stallone said, “And all these people will tell you, it’s brutal, the logistics of it are gigantic, and he’s just jumping around having a good time just like he was on the first day.”
A life of devouring the genre not only prepared Hughes for directing an epic-sized actioner, but it also gave him an obvious short hand with many of the actors, their past films. Even just a fraction of the cast for The Expendables 3 have appeared in countless action films, and this basis gave Hughes a great insight into making sure they were prepped for the scenes.
“We were doing a night shoot and Sly rolled up and I was like, ‘Sly, okay, you’re going to stand here and you’re going to be attacked by a helicopter,’ and I said ‘Much like you were in Rambo 3’… That’s one of the things with the cast, they all just come from phenomenal backgrounds and I think that’s why ‘The Expendables’ films work so much, and I think that’s one of the things that shows on film, we had a lot of fun shooting it and it really does shine through.”
A film of this size is not without its complications though. I asked Hughes about how he can make sure he’s getting all the footage he needs, especially when you have a cast that includes so many characters. Hughes admitted that even when you’re making a film with this many guns and explosions, getting all your coverage is the biggest challenge of the production.
“I was saying to a friend, a fellow director, it’s one thing to shoot a three way conversation in a cafe to get the coverage on the actors, but to shoot a 13-way conversation in a battlefield. That’s a challenge.”
Despite facing a new breed of challenges on The Expendables 3, Hughes handled the job with ease as the cast was quick to compliment his style on the picture and his abilitiy to handle the mammoth production.
“So many times in the past I’ve tried to find start up directors,” Stallone recalled. “And have been grossly disappointed. Things happen, under the pressure you buckle… He’s very specific, he knows what he wants, he’s not going to let everyone go, ‘oh, you say what you want to say,’ he’s very specific about it. He’s gonna be a great one.”
“I would never have guessed that, honestly,” Kellan Lutz said regarding the film being Hughes’ second feature. “On previous movies I’ve seen it time and time again where you have such an all-star cast like that and you get a first time director, you know he’s not directing, they just need a face to do the hard work and then have some A-list actor say, ‘This is what I’m going to do, you shoot it like this.’ There was none of that at all… Sly picked him for a reason.”
Even though the stage has seemingly been set for The Expendables to hang up their holsters following the events of the third film, the franchise has proven that it’s immensely popular with the previous movies combined grossing well over $550 million at the global box office.
“That’s the hardest thing about doing sequels,” Stallone said. “People think it’s easy, it’s not, because you’ve lost the element of surprise. How do you keep stacking the deck? How do you put on layers there without being too pretentious or trying to hard?”
Antonio Banderas echoed this, saying, “One thing that Sly was saying all the time on the set is that we can not lose quality, we have to actually improve whatever we did in the second one and give the audience something that will surprise them in a better way.”
Expendables fans shouldn’t worry too much about the franchise not continuing, as Stallone clearly still has plans for the future. On the set we asked him about some other actors that had previously been linked by rumor to the franchise, and he even mentioned a name, equally as amazing, that hadn’t been quite as public as some of the previous rumors.
“Clint (Eastwood) is so involved in what he’s doing, that’s kind of a pipe dream,” Stallone said. “I was going to go with Jack Nicholson, and we just got there a little too late, because he had said he might be interested. There’s still some interesting avenues out there. I want to get, if possible, the most unique actors from the past and just put them on there once and for all, if we can. It just seems like an interesting quest to just do that, because I don’t know if it’s ever going to happen again, you know what I mean? And we’re sort of not getting any younger. So we’re very lucky and we’re gonna keep going.”
Earlier in our chat, Stallone made reference to how much fun the group was having on set of the third outing just before mentioning, “And then we get ready to do 4, 5, 6 and 7.” It was hard to tell if he was being serious in that moment, but he clearly still has a passion for the stories that are being told about this band of misfits, and as long as people are willing to listen, he seems eager to tell them.