IAR INTERVIEW: Sylvester Stallone Talks 'The Expendables 3'

Monday, 11 August 2014 22:45 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR INTERVIEW: Sylvester Stallone Talks 'The Expendables 3'

Actor Sylvester Stallone has created three of the most popular film franchises of all-time with the Rocky, Rambo, and The Expendables series. He is also the only actor in history to star in a movie that has opened number one at the box office in each of the past five decades.

Stallone first gained attention in 1976 when he was nominated for Best Screenplay and Best Actor at the Academy Awards for his work in Rocky, making him the third man in history to be nominated in both categories for the same film behind Charles Chaplin and Orson Welles. Stallone would go on to write all six films in the Rocky franchise, as well as directing Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, and Rocky Balboa. In addition to playing the underdog boxer, he created the role of Vietnam veteran John Rambo in First Blood and wrote every film in the franchise as well as directing the final installment Rambo

Stallone starred in several successful non-Rocky/Rambo movies as well including Cobra, Tango & Cash, Cliffhanger, Demolition Man, The Specialist, Judge Dredd, Assassins, and Cop Land. But it was his vision of bringing the greatest action stars of all-time together for one movie that gave him his third major franchise. Stallone wrote and directed The Expendables, which saw the actor sharing the screen with the likes of Jason Statham (Homefront), Jet Li (Unleashed), Dolph Lundgren (Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning), Mickey Rourke (Iron Man 2), Arnold Schwarzenegger (Sabotage), and Bruce Willis (A Good Day to Die Hard). He returned for The Expendables 2 but only wrote and starred in the sequel, which included new cast members like Jean-Claude Van Damme (Timecop), and Chuck Norris (The Delta Force). Now Stallone can be seen in The Expendables 3, which opens in theaters on August 15th and features several new additions to the cast. 

In The Expendables 3, Barney Ross (Stallone) augments his team with new blood to take down Conrad Stonebanks, the Expendables co-founder and notorious arms trader who is hell bent on wiping out Barney and every single one of his associates. Academy Award-winner Mel Gibson (Braveheart, Lethal Weapon series) joins the cast as Stonebanks, along with fellow veteran actors like Wesley Snipes (Blade trilogy), Antonio Banderas (Haywire), Kelsey Grammer (X-Men: The Last Stand), and Harrison Ford (Paranoia). Younger actors Kellan Lutz (The Legend of Hercules) and Glen Powell (The Dark Knight Rises), as well as professional boxer Victor Ortiz and MMA fighter Ronda Rousey also join the cast as Barney’s new recruits. While Statham, Lundgren, Schwarzenegger, Randy Couture (Red Belt), and Terry Crews (The Single Moms Club) reprise their roles from the previous films. The movie was directed by Patrick Hughes (Red Hill), and once again written by Stallone.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Los Angeles press conference for The Expendables 3 and hearing what Sylvester Stallone had to say about his new film. The Italian Stallion discussed his new movie, working with Mel Gibson, why Bruce Willis and Jackie Chan don’t appear in this film, his longtime friendship with Harrison Ford, bringing younger actors into the franchise, why he didn’t end up killing off Terry Crews’ character, Stallone’s first encounters with his Hollywood heroes, which one of his famous characters from the past would make good additions to the Expendables team, and how many more Expendables movies he’d like to make. 

Stallone was first asked about working with Gibson and what it was like shooting their climatic fight sequence. “It was good,” he replied. “There are situations in actual sports where two rivals get together, two people who have actually done very well in their own world, and you wonder how they would do against each other. So when that finally happens it becomes an event. I had been looking forward to it. Mel’s a great athlete, very fast, very strong, and it was great being punched by him.”

Before Stallone and Gibson’s fight scene, there is a great moment in the film where Stonebanks tells Ross why he wants to kill him. Stallone discussed writing the monologue and how Gibson was able to add to it. “I just wrote a guideline and then Mel came up with the idea,” he explained. “It had a reality to it. I think what gave it some heart was that he was actually saying something that had some truth. It was valid and he was committed to it. I don't believe he saw himself as the bad guy.”

“Then you bring in the aspect of Cain and Abel, where two brothers also can become the worst enemies,” Stallone continued. “Usually when you love something that much, you can also hate it even more because of that break-up. Mel just killed it. I had some dialogue with him and the more he did the scene, the more I realized I shouldn't speak. I just let him roll. He was convincing himself, he was convincing me, and he was convincing the audience. So it was great.”

Bruce Willis, who played Church in the first two Expendables movies, was unable to return for this installment. His character’s role in the series was basically replaced with Harrison Ford’s Drummer. Stallone explained Willis’ departure from the franchise as a causality of scheduling. “Well, things didn't work out and then Harrison Ford came along. That happens in films and casting. It's just the way it is. It's nothing personal. It sounded like it got personal and I'm sorry it did sound that way, but it was just actors talking and things move on. I think Bruce Willis is a great guy and he does fantastic entertaining films. When he nails it, he nails it big time.”

Ford and Stallone practically became famous at the same exact time as Rocky and Star Wars opened only a year apart from each other. Stallone was asked about his relationship with Ford over the years and recruiting him to join The Expendables 3. “I go back with Harrison to 1977 (when we met at New York’s) Columbus Circle. Both of us were wondering how long this was going to last,” he joked. “Harrison is very insulated, intelligent, and very funny. When you tap into that it’s great. He also worked on his character in this. He wanted to make it very personal. He worked on it. We got very close. We were having a great old time. Harrison is special, very unique and can bring a lot to a scene with minimal effort.”

Another action star that had been rumored to join the franchise for many years is Jackie Chan. It was announced that he would appear in The Expendables 3 but ultimately could not because of scheduling. “Jackie was on, but literally it became a scheduling problem,” Stallone explained. “People were coming in for four or five days. It was critical timing. Everything stopped for them. Jackie is just so busy in his regular life that he literally couldn't cut those three or four days loose. He's so loved over there in China, and so in-demand. We'll get him next time,” Stallone promised. “Don't worry. He's a good friend.”

The writer/actor also admitted that he debated over killing off Terry Crews’ Caesar in this latest film. “Literally, Caesar was going to die,” Stallone explained. “But I could see Terry (on location) moping, walking around the lobby, knowing in an hour that Mel was going to shoot him. It was a done deal. Then the producer came to me and asked what I thought. Looking through the windows, I could see Terry sitting there all depressed. So I told Terry, put down your croissant and finish your coffee because today you survive. You live."

With several younger actors joining the franchise, Stallone talked about his new cast members. “I felt it was great working with these guys because I know what they’re going through,” he explained. “Kellan (Lutz) has a little more experience but the rest of them are fairly new. So I was sensitive to that. I could feel their enthusiasm and nervousness. I wanted Ronda (Rousey) because I knew she was going to be a star. She just has it. Her nervousness worked for her because she is so good you never knew she was nervous. But it gave her a kind of energy. The rest of these guys, they are all one of a kind. They’re not coming this way again. You have, seriously, a real bouillabaisse of talent here. It’s great to be in the kitchen mixing it up.”

Stallone went on to recount his own first encounter with his acting heroes when he began his career. “I remember the first time I came to L.A. I got on an elevator and there’s Paul Newman. I was not prepared for it even though I thought I was,” he said candidly. “One time I walked in a room and there was John Wayne. I’ll never forget this. I was in a rented tuxedo, and it was baby blue. I still have a picture of it, me in a big stupid bow tie. It was for the People’s Choice Awards. I see this man, a big guy, coming towards me. He walked over and said, ‘Hello, my name is John Wayne, and I want to welcome you to the business.’ That gives you an idea of the class of that guy. Actors, as a rule, tend to be shy. They’re not demonstrative people.”

The actor/writer also discussed which of his previous movie characters he thinks would be a fun addition to the Expendables team. “I think Rambo would fit in, and then he would turn around and kill them all. That's the downside of working with him. He's loner.” Finally, Stallone was asked how long he thinks The Expendables franchise can go on. “After the fifth Expendables, you start wearing the ‘Dependsables,’” Sly joked. “You just keep going.”

The Expendables 3 opens in theater son August 15th. 

To read our exclusive interview with Terry Crews about The Expendables 3, please click here

To watch our exclusive video interview with Kellan Lutz about The Expendables 3, please click here

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