Speaking to Access Hollywood during the Golden Globes, Bruce Willis let it slip in a roundabout, not totally confirmed way that “The Expendables 2” was looking to shoot this year and that he may star. “Apparently it’s going to happen this year… As far as I know, barring any unforeseen circumstances, but yeah, I would love to be a part of it.” Willis generated buzz with a cameo in the first film as the mysterious Church, a character who, in a draft of the script we read, has a surprising backstory that revealed him as the mastermind pulling the strings for the Expendables’ suicide mission. Which, of course, ended up not suicidal at all, since Sylvester Stallone and co. might as well have nuked the place at the end of that movie.
Willis’ recent career choices seem curious for a big star. He has taken supporting roles amongst dubious company, including DTV-sounding titles like “Catch .44” (second banana to Malin Ackerman, Nikki Reed and Forest Whitaker) and “Setup” (with Ryan Phillippe and 50 Cent), as well as a secondary role in “The Cold Light Of Day” for director Mabrouk El-Mechri (“JCVD“). More promisingly, he’s set to feature in Rian Johnson‘s “Looper” that should start shooting any day now, and he’s also been linked to Wes Anderson‘s next effort, “Moon Rise Kingdom.”
So far, the members of “The Expendables” all have clear schedules for the second half of 2011, and everyone must be eager to get the band back together after the mammoth success of the first film. You know who else has a free schedule this year? Jean Claude Van Damme. According to “Double Impact” director Sheldon Lettich, who seems to be JCVD’s unofficial PR rep (he’s the man who debunked the story of Van Damme’s heart attack late last year), Van Damme has a standing offer to join the group. Fortunately, Stallone has kept the lines open, despite that an early draft of the script, which featured a character flinging a knife at Van Damme’s picture, affixed to a dartboard.
“JC seems to be leaning towards appearing in the sequel, as far as I know,” Lettich claims on the forums for the website The Van Damme Files, where he regularly speaks with fans. Van Damme rejected an offer to feature in the first film in lieu of seeking more challenging fare, but it looks like he might be sounding a retreat from that plan. A series of character-heavy direct-to-DVD films for the martial artist was followed by the ambitious arthouse hit “JCVD”, but at the time of the film’s release he mysteriously shirked his press duties, earning himself a lot of enemies who apparently were in full force when he brought his three hour experimental directorial debut “The Eagle Path” to Cannes this year. That film remains undistributed.
Lettich also adds, “If Steven Seagal is not in the sequel, from what I’ve heard it won’t be because of Sly but because of producer Avi Lerner, who had a few bad experiences with Steven.” Lerner, one of the influential forces behind production company Nu Image, is mostly known for spearheading a number of cheap direct-to-DVD actioners set in places like Bulgaria that reuse sets and apply cheap costumes, bad dubbing and amateurish special effects. Needless to say, Seagal participates in several of these, though rumors have long circulated about Nu Image’s shifty reputation and their questionable accounting, and somewhere along the line, they’ve upset Seagal, who vows to never work with them again. Don’t count on The Sensei joining the Expendables anytime soon.
Finally, in case you forgot, Randy Couture has already quietly joined the cast for the seconding outing as well, a tidbit buried in the story about his casting in the aforementioned “Setup” with Bruce Willis. It certainly sounds as if the pieces are coming together and there will likely be more surprises along the way. Let’s just hope they don’t forget about Chuck Norris this time around.