The Expendables 3 - Sylvester Stallone interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
SYLVESTER Stallone talks about the ongoing evolution of his Expendables franchise and why this third film in the series marks a watershed moment in terms of the quality of actors and athletes it is now able to attract.
He also reflects on some of his own career, including the stunts he’s most proud of… as well as the injuries. He was speaking at a UK press conference.
Q. Which was the worst injury that you suffered while making this film?
Sylvester Stallone: Usually, I grade the quality of a film by the intensity of the injury. Like if I do Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot, I never get hurt. But if I do Rambo or The Expendables I break my neck, I break my spine, I dislocate both shoulders. But I think ‘this is going to be a great movie’. So, on this one I ended up really taking a fall on my back and have had to have some metal put in there. So, if I end up squeaking, deal with it. It’s not my shoes, it’s my back.
But Jason Statham actually saw death at the bottom of the Black Sea. He’s very modest about it. But he was in a 5-tonne truck that got dropped 60ft down into black mud because I cut the brake line. No one knows that, it’s a reveal by the way. But you know, it’s funny because when Jason was drowning I was filming with an iPhone. It may have been a bit insensitive but I just thought, “you know what, this was a magic moment”. And I couldn’t help him anyway because I didn’t want to drown. But afterwards, they pull him up, he’s pale and he’s changing and we were like, ‘oh my God!’ But we were all sitting around as the Expendables saying: “Do you know what, I wouldn’t jump in after him, would you?” And it was: “Well, I like the guy but not that much!” So, we had all these [action] heroes who were sitting around actually too frightened to jump into the water, and saying “are you crazy, I don’t want to get wet!”
Q. Is there anything you do, training-wise and before the shoot starts, to prepare your body to try and avoid injuries?
Sylvester Stallone: There’s just something about… we’re going across cinder blocks and gravel and you trip and you bust up and you get a back blast from an RPG. It gets serious. It’s kind of like a weird sporting event… like any sport, you’re going to get injured and there’s no getting away from that.
Q. But is there anything you’ve done that aids recovery?
Sylvester Stallone: There’s no question that everyone shows up really fit and goes downhill from there [laughs]. It’s the way it is. We know what we’re going to look like at 90!
Q. The violence in this one seems to be less graphic than the previous two. Was that deliberate?
Sylvester Stallone: Yeah. The idea of PG-13 (or 12A) is that we wanted to reach a broader audience. And because of our predecessors, looking at the Bourne films and James Bond, we thought they’re pretty violent films. They’re extremely graphic without pushing it. Of course, when we bring it to DVD then you’ll see the next 80 frames and will say: “Oh, there it is!” But I thought also the amount of violence, or the amount of warfare in this movie, if it was graphic then after a while it would become nauseating. I mean, after a while it just gets too much. Even though I personally enjoy it, it would be pushing the envelope. And also it would diminish the humour.
For example, Hail Ceasar was going to die. Literally! But he [Terry Crews] kept saying: “Don’t kill me! Don’t kill me!” I replied: “Well, you’re doing a TV show [Brooklyn 911] so you have to die! You wanted to do that show… traitor!” But he almost had tears in his eyes, saying: “I don’t want to die!” It was almost like an execution. It literally got to an hour away from shooting the scene and he was still going to die… it was the whole premise – that Mel Gibson kills him and we’d be like: “Oh my God, it’s now on. You killed Caesar.” So, anyway, we decided to keep him around and to have him mortally injured because of the idea that it just sets a tone that is almost irredeemable. Even at the end it’s still there because you’ve lost a person. So, that’s the difference between, say, R and PG-13. It’s great advice for people doing a PG-13 movie – you can only get mortally wounded, not fatally wounded [laughs].
Q. Obviously, there’s a lot of new faces in this film, did you see it as a passing of the torch?
Sylvester Stallone: I’ll speak quickly. I felt we had reached a point where we needed to upgrade and retool and bring actors that are known for their physicality but they’re also incredibly dramatic actors, nominated actors, actors that have done film roles in every genre. And I thought this would be interesting. Also, the age factor is that youth must be served. So, we brought in the new generation. It’s almost like a parental thing. All children think they know the answers, they get into trouble, their parents save them and then they save their parents. So, it has a kind of family situation going.
Q. How do you react when all of these young Expendables come on board?
Sylvester Stallone: Oh, I welcome it. I think let them get beaten up for a while. No, it’s wonderful. For example, Ronda Rousey is not here [today] but there was debate about her of the nature: “Ronda’s not really an actor, she’s a fighter…” But I said that she’s a new kind of entertainer and we’re now becoming… a lot of us are hybrids. Antonio, for instance, directs and he writes, and so does Wesley and Jason… they all have these other sides to them. And so I thought let’s take someone from the world of MMA [mixed martial arts] and I couldn’t have been luckier or more right – this girl is one of a kind. She’s very sexy and she also can tie you into a knot and re-tie you and be charming. She’s still raw and learning on the job. But I think we’ve got something special. And then you have Victor Ortiz, who is a real world champion. We have real world champions in this and professional athletes and a championship team. So, you have a real hybrid instead of it being just all actors. I don’t think it could have been accomplished if it was just all actors… there’s some skills there that take an entire lifetime to learn. And that’s what we were blessed with by getting to employ those skills.
Q. You joked about 10 films, but how far do you plan in advance? And where is The Expendabelles at this point? Do you have people in mind for that?
Sylvester Stallone: Yes. And I’ve come to realise that you can’t totally depend on actresses for that. You’re going to need a certain kind of physicality to pull that off. I want to be in Expendabelles. Getting back to how many Expendables, we’d like to continue this because it’s an ongoing experiment as well. You have a great franchise in The Avengers where you can branch off and do other things [with the characters] and ideally I would love to see some of these other characters, like Antonio or some of the young Expendables, go off and do their own movies. I know that’s maybe a pipe dream to then come back and do the great festival of violence or the great challenge of whoever the villain is. But that’s an idea. It all depends on this one here but I think you’ll see maybe two more [smiles].
But then you never know… But the third one is tricky, I’ve always found that. And when I started doing franchises I was ridiculed for it. We all were. But I was always intrigued by that [argument] because if you look at television, how can you have 10 years of the same characters and the same location and you keep watching; but if you do one film people think that should be the end. Some films are designed that way but other films you have characters that continue to grow and manifest different personality changes.
With Expendabelles, for instance, we’re in a situation where we’re in unchartered waters. To put all women together, would it really work? Or do you have to put in, perhaps, some women that are actually known to be tough and have real fighters? Are The Expendabelles part of a divorce from Barney and, say, Sigourney Weaver was my wife and she inherited half The Expendables, so I’d have to deal with that too – losing half the house and my mercenaries [laughs]! So, when we do it we don’t want to create something that’s just making use of the name. We want it to be something that would hold its own.
Q. Would you like to see The Expendables versus The Avengers? Is that where you’re going?
Sylvester Stallone: Yeah. We could. We’d be the Earth-bound Avengers.
Q. How do you balance working on the script of these films and getting all of the actors to join you?
Sylvester Stallone: Well, you just hit it. It’s really a finite number of actors that bring a certain kind of cache or personality that blends. So, you try to not get two of the same. And I have long-term relationships with some of these people. I didn’t even realise how far they go back. So, I thought ‘we’ve done Expendables 1 and 2, now we have to up the game a little’. So, in answer to your question, it’s very, very time consuming and it takes a long time to convince some people. You can be calling them on your birthday and four hours later you’ll be like ‘it’s my birthday, do me a favour’ and they’ll be, like, ‘yes’. So, you do a lot of begging and cajoling. It’s wild. Originally, for instance, I wanted Mel Gibson to direct. He’s such a great director but everything is so personal that it has to come from him. But he said: “I wouldn’t mind playing the villain…” And I was like [bangs table]: “Sold!”
Q. You’ve had a lot of great action in your careers, so do you have a favourite moment, or stunt scene, that you’re particularly proud of from any film you’ve done?
Sylvester Stallone: I’ve had so many interesting ones. I’ve fallen through trees in First Blood and been wiped out on the bottom branches. I’m really proud of Rambo 3… as a matter of fact, I filmed it in slow motion because I was so proud of it. But there was no CGI, so we almost got hit by the helicopters when we were on horse-back and the second thing was playing the Buzkashi… it’s a real game where you play with the body of a dead sheep. It’s an Afghan game and that was done for real.
But overall I would say dealing with Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV – that was brutal, I mean really brutal. He was so unbelievably proud, it’s hard to describe. But he almost killed me. Or hanging from those rocks in Cliffhanger was amazing because I hate heights. It’s 4,000 feet and you’re going: “How did they talk me into this? I don’t even like being in cowboy boots! What am I doing here?” But the idea of sustaining a 15-round fight scene, which took six months… it was one long stunt. I’m really proud of that one, in particular, because I know I could never do it again. So, thanks Dolph!
Q. Is there a friendly rivalry on-set at all?
Sylvester Stallone: Everyone has very, very healthy egos and athletic ability and some are very, very good actors. So, you’re going to be competitive. Nobody wants to be the one sitting there looking like a piece of chewed string at the end of the scene, thinking: “Boy, did I get wiped out?” So, you just give it your best. When I was working with Harrison Ford, he’s minimalist. So, I thought initially that I’d just eaten him up on-screen. But then I saw the dailies and I thought: “You were just swallowed, Sly.” He’s good. He’s just very, very good. So, I appreciate them coming on board and I think we have eons to go. There are so many other actors who could come into this… even Kelsey Grammer. He’s amazing and he’s got an incredible range. So, you could use him at the beginning o the plot of Expendables 4. We have so many opportunities now because it’s not just athletic actors, there’s an opportunity now for real actors to add different things. We can advance this more and more.