How do you get bigger then Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and Mickey Rourke, with cameos of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, blowing things up and killing countless bad guys in the box office hit “The Expendables”? Just amp it up, adding Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Liam Hemsworth to the mix, with a lot more ass-whooping from the Terminator and John McClane, and you got “The Expendables 2.”
“The Expendables” made more than $100 domestically, so there was little doubt that Barney Ross (Stallone) and the rest of the mercenaries would come back, but he didn’t rest on his laurels. In “The Expendables 2,” five tons of weapons-grade plutonium is on the loose and the mercenaries are looking for an easy paycheck with newcomers Billy the Kid (Hemsworth) and Maggie (Yu Nan) on board, but when one of them gets killed savagely, it’s now about revenge against a new villain, Jean Vilain (Van Damme).
The “Muscles from Brussels” joined the cast after receiving a call from Stallone and he jumped at the chance to be part of an “old-fashioned” action film with little help from CGI and cables.
“The first one was good because it was the ensemble cast, people were very curious to go there and see those people together, but the story to me wasn’t as good as (the second) ... the story is more complex, more hard, more of each character,” Van Damme said. “The first one they go in, they blow up a factory, they come back.”
Lundgren, who got his first big acting break when Stallone cast him in “Rocky IV” after beating out 5,000 hopefuls, returns as Gunner Jensen. Lundgren said he and Stallone agreed that the sequel needed a little more levity.
“The first one, it was my first theatrical picture in awhile. It was kind of a good role, interesting emotionally ... good guy, bad guy, almost died, came back for some reason at the end,” Lundgren said. “For me, I looked at my character and I was trying to do something that would match that, that would be equally interesting, but different, so I spoke to Sly and we decided to try and make it more humorous. He’s a little more goofy, kind of funny, see a different side kind of thing.”
Also returning is five-time world champion and Hall of Fame mixed martial arts icon Randy Couture.
“These is a dysfunctional group of clowns that continually poke each other in the chest and mess with each other,” Couture said. “ Arnold, Sly, Chuck, all being in this unique stage in their career, whose going to make fun of that after everything that they’ve done? Well they can make fun of each other and get away with it ... I think the fans are really going to dig that part of the movie.”
Van Damme added that Stallone is “always changing and improving the script” and adding laughs was a big part of that as well as giving each character their time on screen.
“Sly was in his trailer, busy writing, making it better and to give every Expendable a magic moment,” he said. “We had such a large cast you have to make sure every one of them will have that special moment attached to their past history.”
Van Damme continued, “All those actions stars ... have fans, they were able to put all those people together and it’s like a diamond with many cuts, it has more value. Every cut is one of the Expendables.”
Lundgren said his first observations about “The Expendables 2,” was “this is pretty damn big.” He wondered how they were going to pull it off with such a large cast.
“In this film you have 10 guys who are used to staring in their own movies, put in the same film and give everybody their own character their own screen time. It’s not that easy. Nobody feels left out.”
Terry Crews, former NFL star turned actor, is another returning Expendable.
“I got on set and noticed we were light years away from what we were doing before,” Crews said. “The first one, it was really a lot of restrictions in regards to scheduling and we got the budget. It was a lot of fun, but no one really new what it was going to be ... but when it hit, it hit big. Then to see everything taken to a whole new level, I mean a 100 times bigger, I was a little like, ‘Wow, this is what it’s like. This is a big deal.’”
“You kind of know what in for for the second one, at least you think you do, and then you realize when you get there, ‘Oh, my God, this is way bigger,” Couture added. “This is unbelievable. Reading the script for the first time, going how the hell are we going to do that to rolling up on set and like I’m in Burma right now. This is insane.”
And then there’s the dream cast of action icons.
"You had Arnold there shooting. You had Bruce there shooting. They were interacting. It was so much cooler. It was the movie I always wanted to make,” Crews said.
“It’s exciting if you can be in a big movie,” Lundgren said. “It’s a successful franchise and if you’re with other action guys, younger and older, it’s a community, it’s camaraderie, it’s a good feeling. Films are difficult to make, but if you’re in this type of environment ... then it makes it more fun and more enjoyable.”
Couture all of the stars were comfortable with each other on set.
“Certainly, in a lot of ways, Terry, Dolph and I are kind of the backbone of the movie, we’re the nuts and bolts guys of the movie who throughout the movie are doing a lot of the work,” Couture said. “Then there’s the big marque guys that everybody wants to see and they’re very comfortable with each other so they’re elbowing each other and it comes out in the dialogue, making fun of each other and that whole thing too. It was very relaxed, but very professional. I think we felt there was something special. We were all honored to be a part of it, from top to bottom. Bruce Willis and Arnold were looking around also like, ‘This is really cool.’”
The Expendables 2 Details:
Release date: Aug. 17, 2012.
Production Company: Nu Image, Millennium Films
Cast and crew for The Expendables 2
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Scott Adkins, Yu Nan and Arnold Schwarzenegger
Directed by Simon West
Written by Sylvester Stallone and Richard Wenk
Produced by Avi Lerner, Danny Lerner, Kevin King Templeton and Les Weldon