Action lions Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger first met as fierce rivals back at the 1976 Golden Globes, when “Rocky” won best director and film, on its way to a best picture Oscar, while Schwarzenegger won Best Newcomer. Stallone threw flowers on a muscleman he expected to exit the scene, while his mother told the Austrian newcomer: “You look like a piano mover.”
But Thursday in Comic-Con’s Hall H panel for Lionsgate’s “The Expendables 2” (August 17), the veteran actioners sang each other’s praises and played the room of 6000 like the pros they are. NFL linebacker Terry Crews, champion fighter Randy Couture (complete with cauliflower ear) and martial artist Dolph Lundgren may not need to ice their joints after a hard day’s work. But no one knows better how to woo their fans than Sly and Arnold, cracking wise and quoting their best lines. Geoff Boucher of the LAT’s HeroComplex (whose traffic goes DOWN during Comic-Con, there’s so much noise) didn’t have to do a thing. ‘The Expendables 2’ press conference was nothing if not entertaining. (The sequel’s director, action maestro Simon West, was not on hand.)
After a career clip reel, Stallone said, “Yo,” to the fans, recalling all the bumps along the way. “I go ‘ouch ouch ouch ouch,'” he said. “It seems like yesterday, hanging off a mountain or jumping off a waterfall. I’m proud of being part of filmmaking where you actually feel the rocks and water and experience.”
“The Expendables” series is an homage to the era, the writer-director said. “I’m a product of it, I was fortunate to be part of a genre that cropped up in the early 80s.” He wanted to “try and keep it going as long as we can and bring back some true bad-asses and male pattern baldness.”
“Each one has talents in his own field,” said Schwarzegger. “Sly did such a good job, he utilized their personalities, acting abilities and physical talent. It was natural for us to work together: we love physical fitness and no one understands us.” And, added Stallone: “big rings and watches.” The two stars have made another film together as well, Brit actioner “The Tomb.”
Do later action generations use velcro muscles? “Not to be deprecating,” said Stallone, “but it’s become more futuristic scientific and technical, you don’t have to spend your life pumping iron, which is not exactly a lot of fun. They can be creative through CG and do extraordinary things. I’m jealous of a whole different kind of action characters. Each generation redefines what they like through the heroes they choose to adore.”
Stallone was smart enough with the first “Expendables” (which grossed $268 million worldwide) to figure out that an ensemble of action stars with varying fan bases could pack a whallop. And on the sequel return of the gang of mercenaries, also including Bruce Willis, Jason Statham and Jet Li–which shot in Bulgaria and cost about $10 million more than the first’s $82 million, according to Millennium chief Avi Lerner–they added holdouts Jean-Claude Van Damme, who provides a challenging villain for the Expendables to fight against, as well as Chuck Norris.
The trick “when doing an film action ensemble with ten tough guys in it,” Stallone said, “is how do we showcase all their personalities and keep the most important thing, momentum, you have to keep it going. With the first one, which was more searching, more dramatic, a hard R with some comedy, the audience was not sure what it is. On the second one, you find out what works from the first one and amplify it, you’re all on the same page with the tone, you all have the same playbook. The second one if you have it all together, you can surpass the first one. We’ve achieved that.”
It didn’t take long for Schwarzenegger to get his action chops back after his eight year hiatus in government: “I didn’t lose it all, I realized, I could get back into the action, take a knife out, kill a guy, cut his head off, all the fun things; you wish you could do some of those things in politics but you can’t.”
Schwarzenegger remembered working with Crews on his first movie, “The 6th Day.” “You’ve gained muscle size and definition,” he said admiringly. “I walked into the gym and saw you have been gaining 25 pounds of muscles in the last few years.”
“I can die now, Arnold likes my muscles,” Crews replied.
“I hope you don’t take it the wrong way,” said Schwarzenegger. “I’ve got a man crush going on.”
“Expendables 2” is the movie Stallone always wanted to make, said Crews. “He literally broke his neck to make the first one. Now we have Chuck and Van Damme and female Yu Nan and Liam Hemsworth, the youth injection. It doesn’t get any bigger, doesn’t get any better.”
Schwarznenegger said he’s ready to do a sequel to “Twins,” maybe about triplets. Universal and Ivan Reitman have shown interest in being involved, he said. They’re looking for a writer: “I think it will be hilarious.” Stan Lee animated feature “The Governator” is still being developed, he said.
Schwarzenegger on staying in shape: “it’s a lot of running, climbing, jumping, at night, I put ice on my knees and ankles and hips. The body and muscles don’t recuperate the same way as when you’re 30.”
Stallone agreed: “We move a little slower, lighter. it’s become more scientific. Randy and Terry are more into the iron game. Parts wear out, you have to change your way of thinking, more stretching, use your own body weight, keep limber, otherwise you keep snapping tendons. You pace yourself. You don’t do every day all out action. You can do all the action, you just have to be more thoughtful, to do it well on the first and last day of filming. I take cortizone shots. It comes with the territory, the more injured I get on film, the better it does.”
Here’s the official synopsis:
The Expendables are back and this time it’s personal…
Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren),Toll Road (Randy Couture) and Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) — with newest members Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) and Maggie (Yu Nan) aboard — are reunited when Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) enlists the Expendables to take on a seemingly simple job. The task looks like an easy paycheck for Barney and his band of old-school mercenaries. But when things go wrong and one of their own is viciously killed, the Expendables are compelled to seek revenge in hostile territory where the odds are stacked against them. Hell-bent on payback, the crew cuts a swath of destruction through opposing forces, wreaking havoc and shutting down an unexpected threat in the nick of time — six pounds of weapons-grade plutonium; enough to change the balance of power in the world. But that’s nothing compared to the justice they serve against the villainous adversary who savagely murdered their brother.