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‘The Expendables 3’ Lays Cash on Aging Acting Stars, Starts Production in Bulgaria

'The Expendables 3' Lays Cash on Aging Acting Stars, Starts Production in Bulgaria

How are the mighty fallen.

Final casting on Lionsgate and Millennium Films’ “The Expendables 3,” which started filming August 19 on location in Bulgaria and at Nu Boyana Studios in Sofia, reveals the depth of the Aging Action Star Demographic. There was a time when some of these guys commanded $20 million a picture, and co-starring in a sprawling ensemble like this marks one of their last available big upfront cash paydays. You know that Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford aren’t fantasizing about doing this kind of grinding work any more than is Bruce Willis. He famously exited the series, demanding even more than the $3 million he was offered for four days work. The film is slated for release in North America and the UK on August 15, 2014.

Why is this movie getting made? Because the series so far has grossed $600 million worldwide, tipped more to the international side of the equation. The first cost $82 against a $268 million total gross, while the second cost $100 million against $312 million–and that doesn’t include marketing costs. But DVD revenues on both were robust. Lionsgate is amping up the spending on hopes of an even bigger return. And there’s an “Expendabelles” in the works. 

But it is not a sign of career vitality for a once-major movie star to show up in one of these things. Co-writer Sly Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews and one-time California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger are returning to their roles in the first two films. And among the other newbies are Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, “Twilight” hunk Kellan Lutz, MMA star Ronda Rousey, welterweight boxing champion Victor Ortiz and Glen Powell.

This time Australian Patrick Hughes (I admired his “Red Hill”) takes over the helm from Simon West, who in turn grabbed the reins from Stallone, who wrote and directed the first film. Hughes is joined by second unit vet Dan Bradley (The “Bourne” franchise, “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol,” “Quantum of Solace”). The third “Expendables” installment is written by Stallone and Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt (“Olympus Has Fallen”). Avi Lerner, Kevin King-Templeton, Danny Lerner and Les Weldon are producing with Trevor Short, Boaz Davidson and John Thompson as executive producing. The production will be overseen by Lionsgate’s Jason Constantine and Eda Kowan.

Here’s the official synopsis for this iteration:

Barney (Stallone), Christmas (Statham) and the rest of the team comes face-to-face with Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson), who years ago co-founded The Expendables with Barney. Stonebanks subsequently became a ruthless arms trader and someone who Barney was forced to kill… or so he thought. Stonebanks, who eluded death once before, now is making it his mission to end The Expendables — but Barney has other plans. Barney decides that he has to fight old blood with new blood, and brings in a new era of Expendables team members, recruiting individuals who are younger, faster and more tech-savvy. The latest mission becomes a clash of classic old-school style versus high-tech expertise in the Expendables’ most personal battle yet.

Count me out. 

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