Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Kellan Lutz, Terry Crews, Kelsey Grammer
Director: Patrick Hughes
Running Time: 103 minutes
Synopsis: The latest mission becomes a clash of classic old-school style versus high-tech expertise in the Expendables' most personal battle yet.
The Expendables 3
Release Date: August 14th, 2014
In 2010 Academy Award® nominated screenwriter and pioneer of the contemporary action film Sylvester Stallone brought together some of the most popular and successful modern-day movie tough guys for one incredible adventure. The Expendables and its sequel The Expendables 2 combined unparalleled physicality with dazzling star power, grossing more than half a billion dollars at the global box office.
For the third hard-hitting installment in the franchise, Sylvester Stallone reteams with his partners at Lionsgate and Millennium Films. 'Sly is a legend," says Millennium chairman Avi Lerner. 'He may be the only guy in the world who has created and starred in three successful film franchises"Rambo, Rocky and The Expendables. He's a great moviemaker"a writer, director, producer, and star. The only job we haven't given him yet is craft services."
The filmmakers have guaranteed fans of the adrenaline-fueled series that each new episode of The Expendables will take the franchise's trademark over-the-top style to ever-ascending heights. For The Expendables 3, that meant first putting together a powerhouse cast that would outstrip even the mind-blowing rosters of screen legends assembled for the first two installments.
'To top the first Expendables, we added a few more names to the second film," explains producer Kevin King-Templeton. 'On this one, we wanted to find a way to keep the concept fresh and excite audiences all over the world, so we invited every action star we could think of to join the cast." Avi Lerner, who has produced some of the most successful action films in history, leveraged a lifetime's worth of relationships to assemble this cast. 'I believe this is the best cast that has ever been together in a movie," he says. 'Seven of our stars have at least one blockbuster franchise to their names. Some, like Harrison Ford and Sylvester Stallone, have two or three."
The result is a star-spangled line-up the likes of which audiences have never seen before"and will likely never see again. 'The Expendables franchise is extraordinary," says Jason Constantine, head of acquisitions and co-productions for Lionsgate. 'It takes the whole idea of a star-driven action movie to the next level. Sylvester Stallone's script about a group of mercenaries played by the greatest action heroes of all time is a wish fulfillment for the audience. The Expendables is basically the fantasy league of action movies, only it's not a fantasy. We bring the legends and icons of the genre together in one scene after another."
Initially, Sylvester Stallone considered returning to the director's chair. 'But you know, the first movie was an experiment that worked," he says. 'And I still haven't recovered from it. I was acting and trying to run four units at once, so it was a grueling experience."
Instead, the filmmakers put their faith in director Patrick Hughes, based on his work on the low-budget Red Hill. 'Patrick Hughes' previous movie resonated very deeply with Sylvester Stallone," says Kevin King-Templeton. 'It reminded him of First Blood. We thought let's see what happens if we give this guy bigger resources and a massive cast. We were not disappointed."
'Patrick Hughes brought incredible vitality and energy to the project," agrees Sylvester Stallone. 'We threw him into the deep end of the pool when he took this gig and he swam. Patrick Hughes went into this film to make a stand-alone version of The Expendables. The movie completely reboots the whole concept. It's an entirely new vision, a real departure from the previous two."
Patrick Hughes won the producers over by pitching his vision for the film, not himself, says producer John Thompson, head of production at Millennium Films. 'In fact, he didn't talk much about himself at all. He did speak very knowledgeably and passionately about the production, which made him a shoe-in. Sylvester Stallone and Avi Lerner were quick to see that this young man had more than just talent. Even with talent, when you're faced with 17 movie stars, you can freeze. Patrick Hughes was in command. Everyone respected and responded to that."
More than 1,000 people worked on the film, according to executive producer Boaz Davidson. 'It's history in the making," he continues. 'This could be a shock for any director, but Patrick Hughes just took control."
Helming a big-budget action movie was a dream come true for Patrick Hughes. 'Here's an opportunity to work on a proven franchise with some incredible talent"working alongside Sylvester Stallone," he says. 'I got a chance to take an idea from the ground level, because we didn't have a script at that stage, just a concept. It's a huge film that fulfilled all sorts of childhood fantasies for me."
The biggest challenge for Patrick Hughes was ensuring the proper tone for the film. The first two pictures were more focused on hard-core action. This time, Patrick Hughes says, he tried to inject as much fun and humor into the proceedings as possible.
'It was a bit of a balancing act. Alfred Hitchcock said that some films are a slice of life and some are a slice of cake. This movie's a big fat slice of cake with a sugar coating on top. Balancing the comedy with the emotional weight and drive of the story became critical.
The Expendables are dealing with the possible loss of one of their team. We added characters like Galgo, played by Antonio Banderas, to bring out the humor."
Patrick Hughes also introduces a new, younger group of Expendables, whose ascendancy sparks a competition between old school and new. 'When I first sat down with Sylvester Stallone, what dawned on me was the twin themes of redemption and education," he says. 'The older Expendables know their days are numbered. Barney is letting them go because he doesn't want to lose them. The younger team takes over, but they are going to have to go through hell to learn what it is to be an Expendable. Through conflict, they all learn to work together and become the ultimate Expendables. So it's a little bit of an origin story as well."
'This movie takes The Expendables to a place they've never been before," says producer Les Weldon. 'Barney and his longtime crew come to the understanding that they might be at the end of the line. But he still has one more mission to accomplish, and he tries to protect his guys by bringing in a younger team, so he can keep it impersonal. What he comes to realise is that there's nothing impersonal about it."
Sylvester Stallone worked with husband-and-wife screenwriting team Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt to craft an entirely new narrative for a film that can proudly stand on its own, while also celebrating the legacy of the first two movies. Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt's first produced screenplay, 2013's Olympus Has Fallen, had been a huge success for Millennium Films.
'We knew from the job they did on Olympus Has Fallen that they have talent," says Avi Lerner. 'We always want to emphasise storytelling and they have crafted a very simple story, but also a very real story. They worked with Sylvester Stallone to perfect that and continued working throughout casting as each of the actors was added."
As the project evolved rapidly during pre-production and production, the writers had to work quickly to tailor roles to stars or scenes to changing locations. 'Sylvester Stallone is a perfectionist," says Kevin Thompson. 'And every time Sylvester Stallone thinks something is perfect, he wants to make it more perfect. Once we were on set, he was very open to the actors' ideas. They brought in lines and new perspectives. Sly will always go with a good idea."
The Expendables 2 incorporated a wisecracking, tongue-in-cheek approach along with the mad combat skills and take-no-prisoners attitude that made the first film an action lover's dream. Sylvester Stallone wanted to play that up even more in this outing, giving his tough-as-nails protagonists a non-stop stream of irreverent and unexpected one-liners.
'Sylvester Stallone is a genius when it comes to dialogue and he can nail characters like nobody I've ever seen," says Weldon. 'He's an Oscar®-nominated writer, as we all know, but the most amazing thing about him is his willingness to always do what's best for the film. He is so collaborative, and that's why he is so successful."
Coordinating the schedules of a cast that included Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li and Jason Statham as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford and Wesley Snipes was a massive undertaking. 'It's hard enough when you have one movie star," says Davidson. 'These guys are very busy and there are a lot requirements to fulfill before you can get them on set. Sometimes, it seemed like mission impossible."
As massive as the production is, for Sylvester Stallone, the biggest spectacle of all was seeing this many iconic film legends join forces for one movie. 'To have a cast like this is unprecedented. The effort to bring everyone together was herculean and it has paid off in a huge way. A cast like this has never been seen before. To get them all together for one movie is nothing less than miraculous." 'You might as well try reach up into the skies and corral the real stars in the heavens," says Weldon. 'There had to be a perfect alignment of the planets to get them all into one place. It just doesn't happen every day, and it may not happen ever again."
But once they were on set, no one was quite sure how the chemistry between such a large group of outsize personalities would work. 'When you get this many icons together in one place, it's like putting together an amazing dish using all of the best ingredients," Weldon says. 'But you become a little anxious that all these amazing flavors won't gel. The most surprising thing about the whole experience was how unbelievably cooperative and happy the whole cast was. I think it was just as much a thrill for them to work together as it will be for the audience to see them."
The young guns were the most pleasant surprise of all, he adds. 'We took quite a bit of time choosing the actors, because we want the younger moviegoers to connect with them as strongly as we all have connected with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Harrison Ford."
Each actor was handpicked by Sylvester Stallone on the basis of acting ability, charisma, and aptitude for the physical demands of the job. 'Sylvester Stallone has an uncanny ability to spot action talent," says kevin King-Templeton. 'Remember, he picked Dolph Lundgren out of relative obscurity all those years ago and Dolph Lundgren became a household name."
What it takes to be a top action star can't be fabricated, according to Sylvester Stallone. One has to be born with it. 'There has to be something that the audience can relate to," he says. 'They have to be approachable and real, even somewhat flawed. The characters have to be part of the audience, and the audience has to want to mentally push the character forward."
The Gang's All Here
Sylvester Stallone returns to the third chapter of The Expendables in the role of Barne Ross, the team's iron-willed founder. Protective, loyal, and emotionally reserved, Barney can also be ruthlessly vengeful. The fastest sharpshooter and re-loader on the team, Barney's weapons of choice include assault rifles, handguns and revolvers, like his dual-modified Kimber Gold Combat II, first made in the late 1800s for Western gunfighters.
'Barney has access to all this modern equipment, but his good-luck charm is a classic six-shooter," says the Sylvester Stallone. 'He is a quick-draw artist, as we established in the first film. Watching the movie, people might think it's not possible to be that fast, but that is actually as fast as I move. In fact, my speed is half the speed of what the real fellows can do. It's incredibly cinematic and still realistic." Jason Statham is also back as blade expert Lee Christmas, Barney's second-in-command and closest friend. A former British Special Air Service soldier, Christmas is a knife-wielding killing machine. Relentlessly competitive, he and Barney share a barbed wit that shows up in their pointed exchanges of good-natured verbal jabs and one-liners.
'The relationship between Christmas and Barney is so good," says Sylvester Stallone. 'They're a great team with real affection for each other, but they're constantly bickering."
Jason Statham says his character is the kind of guy he'd want to share a beer with, which is a tribute to Sylvester Stallone's writing. 'He creates real characters with soul and heart," Jason Statham notes. 'Superheroes in capes are great, but Sylvester Stallone writes about real heroes. He's played a hero for his whole career. No one does it better."
Arnold Schwarzenegger also returns as Trench Mauser, Barney's former teammate and sometime rival. Always somehow managing to show up just when he's needed, Trench is a man of many talents. Seemingly capable of surviving just about anything, he is a loner and an expert with an Auto Assault-12.
'This is the ultimate action film," says Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has starred in nearly two dozen. 'But it also has a great emotional rollercoaster ride and interesting characters. Sylvester Stallone really knows how to tell a story and how to use each actor's talents in the best possible way."
Working with a cast packed with iconic actors was surprisingly relaxed, he says. 'There was no fighting about who had more lines or more close ups. It's really an ensemble piece that allows everyone to shine. We all have our own talents and to bring them all together was fantastic. There was a little bit of competition maybe, because everyone wanted to do their best and I think that was really good for the film."
Completing the original Expendables lineup are Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Jet Li and Terry Crews. Nearly 30 years ago, Lundgren was personally chosen by Stallone to play the Russian fighter Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. His Expendables character, Gunner Jensen, is a classic tough guy who has nearly been undone by too much adrenaline, drinking and combat stress. Enforced retirement may just be the last straw.
'Sylvester Stallone has a knack for knowing what audiences like," says Lundgren. 'He's created a group of different, accessible and colorful characters that you can feel for. Adding all these new names brings another layer to it. When I am playing a scene with Wesley Snipes or Harrison Ford, I am going to work a little harder."
Lundgren says that part of the fun for the audience is experiencing the actors' real-life physical prowess. 'We really can do this stuff," he explains. 'I was a karate champion. Jason was an Olympic diver. Sylvester Stallone has done a lot of training. Arnold Schwarzenegger,, of course, was Mr. Universe. Terry Crews played pro football. We got the MMA champ, Randy Couture, not to mention the new people. We have a lot of people with real skills. When Terry Crews picks up a hundred-pound Gatling gun with one hand, that's him doing it and I think that adds a certain reality to the whole experience."
Retired three-time UFC world champion and mixed martial artist Randy Couture is back as Toll Road, The Expendables' resourceful demolitions expert. His signature weapon is an M4A1 assault rifle. Toll Road has been a close friend of the group's heavy arms specialist, Hale Caesar, played by Terry Crews.
'The movie is a who's who of action films," says Randy Couture. 'And with the new kids, we now have three cast members who come from a professional fighting background. I think that lends itself to an authenticity you don't find in a lot of other movies. It's pretty neat."
'We have Rocky, The Terminator, Indiana Jones, The Transporter, Mad Max, Desperado and Blade," former NFL football player-turned-actor, Terry Crews says. 'It's Sylvester Stallone's version of The Avengers. It's the biggest roster of action screen icons ever assembled, and these guys depend on brute strength, brains and determination to get the job done.
'And then we also have the young Expendables, who are potentially the next generation of action stars," Terry Crews adds. 'It's not just a movie"it's a once-in-a-lifetime event." Tough, loyal and great with an automatic shotgun, Caesar is also always armed with a quip. He unleashes a new toy for The Expendables 3: a Dillon M-134D Gatling gun with six spinning barrels that spits out 3,000 rounds per minute"an awesome weapon that makes his beloved AA-12 look like a pop gun.
Also on hand is world-renowned martial artist and beloved movie star Jet Li, playing Yin Yang, the Asian-American martial arts master. An expert in Fanziquan Kung Fu (Eagle Claw), Yin can bring an enemy down with throwing stars and shurikens.
With the core team in place, the filmmakers literally aimed for the stars to complete the historic cast. Uber-villain Conrad Stonebanks makes his first appearance in the Expendables franchise. As played by Mel Gibson, Stonebanks is an original co-founder of The Expendables. He and Barney survived the Vietnam War together, but their relationship soured as Stonebanks' darker side took hold. When he became an illegal arms trader, Barney was forced to kill him"or so he thought. Now wanted for crimes against humanity, Stonebanks has an actual army at his command. He plans to prevail or die trying.
'Mel Gibson is very strong," says Sylvester Stallone. 'He's such a handsome man and he's gotten powerful too. When I look back to when we started our careers, we were real physical lightweights. I was about 165 pounds and now we're about 200 pounds. We've grown in many ways."
Mel Gibson was excited at the idea of playing a villain who faces off with Sylvester Stallone in a Rambo versus Mad Max final confrontation. 'This film was great fun for me," he says. 'How often do you get a chance to just hang with the guys and blow a bunch of stuff up? I think the fact that no one is taking themselves too seriously is a big part of the appeal."
The actor says he got into the best shape of his life for the role. 'I wanted to make sure that Sylvester Stallone didn't look like he was beating up a fat old man," he adds. 'So I went to the gym and worked every little muscle group, stayed off the carbs and got my strength up. This stuff doesn't get any easier, but it was incumbent on me to keep up with the rest of the tribe."
Sylvester Stallone points to the mano a mano showdown as one of the highlights of the movie. 'Punches are cheap, but history and character development take time," he says. 'Mel Gibson made Stonebanks a solid character, which helped make the movie's final confrontation a very personal fight. I've shot a handful of fight scenes in my life, but this one's truly special. It's clean, it's economical and it's brutal, but what makes it really good is the history and character development between the two guys."
Also new to the franchise is Harrison Ford, playing Max Drummer, an elite CIA field operations officer responsible for commissioning Barney and his renegade team to track down Stonebanks. In addition to supplying The Expendables with intelligence, Drummer, like the actor playing him, is a pilot of considerable skill, which Harrison Ford demonstrates in a Bell 412 helicopter.
'I had the best time working with Sylvester Stallone," says Harrisson Ford. 'He's a very talented actor who long ago won the battle of whether or not he should be taken seriously. He's a real filmmaker."
About the director Harrison Ford says: 'Patrick Hughes is young but he's also tremendously focused and very aware. He sees detail and he recognises opportunity. His understanding of the importance of tone was extremely impressive. The movie has tons of humor, there's a lot of energy and action, but it's well phrased and controlled."
Veteran action icon Wesley Snipes joins the franchise as Doctor Death, one of the original five Expendables. The role was tailor-made for Snipes. A former medic, Doc has been off the grid for eight years. The scene where we first meet Doc involves an over-the-top, unbelievable action sequence that will go down in Expendables history. And his expertise with blades ('the knife before Christmas," as he describes himself) becomes a flashpoint for competition between him and Jason Statham's Lee Christmas.
'At first there is tension between Christmas and Doctor Death, but once the circumstances escalate and the mission gets serious, they come together like knives from the same block. Unlike our characters, Jason Statham and I got along wonderfully right off the bat. I like his accent and he likes mine!" As impressed as he was by the veteran cast, the actor also enjoyed working with the rookie Expendables. Snipes himself comes from storied marital arts background so combining his expertise with that of the next generation of champions like Victor Ortiz and Ronda Rousey created a dynamic result. Snipes says, 'It was a pretty spectacular experience and I'm honored to be a part of it." Also joining the team is Galgo, played by Antonio Banderas. A former Spanish Armed Forces soldier, Bosnian war veteran and expert sharpshooter, Galgo, like his namesake, the greyhound, is wickedly fast, both with words and his weapon, and provides hilarious comic relief to each scene he takes part in.
'Galgo is very excited to be part of The Expendables," says Antonio Banderas. 'He talks a lot and that adds humor to the whole situation. That is actually one of the most interesting things about the films to me. Everybody involved has the capacity to laugh at themselves, which elevates this beyond all the action movies that we already have seen. It's a wink at audiences."
Antonio Banderas is as excited to be an Expendable as his character is. 'This is more than a movie," he says. 'It's an event. You don't see people like Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes and Sylvester Stallone together very often. If I had not been invited to do this, I would have thought, hey, I did some action films. Why I am not there?"
While technically not an Expendable, Bonaparte, played by Kelsey Grammer, is an important support element for the team. A retired mercenary who makes a lucrative living as a 'procurer of mercenary talents," as Kelsey Grammer puts it, he is world weary and brutally honest, with a keen eye for battle skills. For Barney, Bonaparte recruits individuals who are younger, faster and more tech-savvy"the new Expendables.
'I actually campaigned for this role," says Kelsey Grammer. 'I'm not known as a fighter, but you never know, people might see me in a different light. I'd always wanted to work with Sylvester Stallone and I really like the first two films. It's a great idea to gather up a bunch of guys famous for franchises and put them all in one. These are people the world loves, some of them for 30 years or more. To see them all together is a kick."
The new Expendables include Victor Ortiz, a boxing champion in real life; Ronda Rousey, a top MMA fighter; Kellan Lutz, who starred in the Twilight franchise; and up-and- coming young actor Glen Powell. 'These four people and their chemistry inject a kind of energy that we haven't seen in the previous Expendables movies and the Ronda Rousey fight sequences are amazing," says Jason Constantine.
Kellan Lutz plays John Smilee, a stone-faced former Navy SEAL and key member of the new Expendables. A fearless fighter and a skilled motocross motorcycle enthusiast, Smilee sports a scruffy beard, biker tattoos, a worn T-shirt and jeans, which do nothing to obscure Kellan Lutz's matinee idol looks. Ronda Rousey makes her acting debut as newcomer Luna, discovered by Bonaparte while working as a nightclub bouncer. The only female member of the team, Luna is an expert at close-quarters physical combat and proves to be an effective decoy during covert operations.
Ronda Rousey is the No. 1 female mixed martial artist in the world, the first and current UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion and the first American woman to earn an Olympic medal in Judo. In June 2014 Rousey was ranked No. 42 on the Maxim Magazine Hot 100.
'I was super-excited to even be considered for this," says Ronda Rousey. 'I hold Sylvester Stallone in such high regard and I want to be an action movie star. I believe that I am the most dangerous unarmed woman on the planet and that's who I'm playing."
Sylvester Stallone remembers the first time he saw Ronda Rousey. 'I said, -This one's a natural.' We wanted to add a woman who could not only hold her own in a real fight, but be able to beat up all The Expendables. I think she could"except maybe Randy."
Welterweight boxing champion Victor Ortiz also makes his big-screen debut as Mars, a sharpshooter, lightning-fast boxer and lethal soldier. Mars has been court-martialed five times in the past three years. The only reason the Army has held onto him is that he's the best at what he does"which is handling a laser-ranged XM25 assault rifle with 25mm high-explosive airburst rounds that can be programmed to detonate over or behind a target. Mars' Achilles heel is his deathly fear of heights.
Victor Ortiz was thrilled to be handpicked by Sylvester Stallone for the role. 'It was surreal to be called in to meet a legend," he says. 'I grew up on the Rocky movies and I idolise the guy. In fact, Sylvester Stallone as Rocky was the reason I became a boxer, he inspired me to become World Champion and now I can say I got to shoot an incredible movie with some of the greatest actors of all time."
Last but not least is Thorn, played by Glen Powell. One of the new tech-savvy breed of mercenaries, Thorn is a drone pilot and hacker extraordinaire. He once hacked into Seattle's Central Operating System and shut down the whole city for three days"which landed him an 18-month prison term. He is a death defying free-climber who is unafraid to throw down when the situation calls for it. 'I'm a huge fan of the franchise in general," says Glen Powell. 'But this third one is not only a great third installment, it's an amazing action movie on its own. A group of professional soldiers is forced to deal with their own mortality. They're expendable and they are about to be expended. I think it's really cool to see the ultimate badass guys now asking, -Are we still badass?' And the answer is yes, they are, but so are we."
Reflecting on the wealth of younger talent added to The Expendables, Sylvester Stallone says, 'They are all fresh, all new. Some of them are already quite accomplished in the sports world, so they bring that fire in the gut, which is exactly what I was looking for. This isn't Shakespeare in the Park. I was looking salt-of-the-earth individuals that the audience can identify with."
'Each of the young Expendables brings something unique to the role," says Templeton. 'It's a new and a very welcome twist. These actors are just starting their journey, so I think it's been a good adventure for them to watch and learn and grow."
A World Away
To capture the epic-scale action and intricate stunt choreography of The Expendables 3, the filmmakers returned to familiar ground: Bulgaria, where many of the most breathtaking scenes of The Expendables 2 were set. For more than 10 action-packed weeks, two units operated simultaneously in the former Eastern Bloc nation situated in southeastern Europe and bordering on Serbia, Greece, Romania, the Republic of Macedonia, and Turkey. With a wealth of diverse locations that range from derelict shipyards along the Black Sea coastline to pristine mountains and picturesque hamlets, posh cosmopolitan cities and forgotten Cold War-era military bases, Bulgaria offered everything they needed.
'Our team in Bulgaria, led by Danny Lerner and Les Weldon, created the illusion that we traveled all over the world," says Thompson. 'They even locked down a harbor in Varna on the Black Sea"something that could never be done in the United States or in most of Western Europe."
'Bulgaria gave us give us a lot of leeway to shoot in places and situations that we could absolutely not do anywhere else in the world," agrees Weldon. 'We had a helicopter land on top of a moving train. We were on the tarmac of the international airport. That could never have happened at LAX." Enormous sets were also constructed, including a replica bridge on a former military airstrip for a huge night shoot. 'The scope of some of these locations just takes my breath away," Sylvester Stallone says. 'They are massive and Patrick shot them in a way that has extraordinary appeal."
In addition to Bulgaria's unique practical locations, the production utilised the stages at the Nu Boyana Studios, nestled in a mountainside near the capital city of Sofia. Launched in September 1962, when the country was still a Soviet satellite, the studio became one of the largest film producers in Europe, churning out about 50 feature films annually. By 1989, political and financial unrest destabilised Bulgaria and the studios fell into disrepair. In 2006 Nu Image/Millennium Films became Boyana Film's new owner and began a comprehensive plan of renovation.
After extensively refurbishing and modernising the sprawling soundstages and other facilities to Hollywood standards, Nu Image/Millennium renamed it Nu Boyana. With a total of 13 soundstages and state-of-the-art production support facilities, the studio offers an extensively detailed and still growing set that can replicate city streets in Manhattan and other major metropolises, a full-scale Roman Coliseum, an extensive armory, a leading-edge visual effects facility, and a modern Kodak film lab.
'I'd have no qualms about coming back here," says Kevin King-Templeton. 'The resources in Bulgaria were so vast and diverse. We had the desert, the waterfront, the Eastern European countryside. The crews are excellent and the Bulgarian people are great. The country is now a hub for film and TV production in Europe."
In addition to expanding the cast, the filmmakers have differentiated The Expendables 3 by pulling out all the stops when it comes to action scenes. 'The most important thing for me beside the story is the action," says Lerner. 'We have huge action, bigger than in the first two, because that is what our audience wants."
To ensure that, the filmmakers brought in Dan Bradley, one of Hollywood's most admired second unit directors. 'We had the equivalent of two full films shooting simultaneously," says Weldon. 'Dan has been the top action second-unit director in the business for many, many years. When you have a guy of that stature, you have to provide a full unit so that he can do what he does best. Otherwise, you're just wasting time."
Working with Allen Hall, an Academy Award®-winning special effects expert, and J. J. Perry, one of the industry's top stunt coordinators, Bradley has created breathtaking set pieces that give lie to the belief that CGI has become the only way to go.
'One of the things audiences have come to expect from us is mind-blowing action like they've never seen before, done without a green screen or a lot of CGI," says Jason Constantine. 'Dan Bradley, our second unit director, created some of the most jaw-dropping situations and put his movie stars in the middle of them. These are real movie stars and stuntmen accomplishing incredible things. It's our biggest film yet."
The cast members were confident they were completely safe with Bradley as they took part in some mind-blowing action sequences. 'The second unit and the stunt guys were fabulous in this one," says Lundgren. 'They put us right in the middle of the action. I think the audience is going to love knowing that when something blows up or a truck goes off the edge, we are really in the middle of it."
Perry, the stunt coordinator, says this was the most massive script he had ever undertaken. 'It's as big as three movies rolled into one," he says. 'I only do action films where big dudes are smashing other big dudes and things are getting blown up and people are getting shot in the face. That's what Expendables is all about, so I felt right at home."
The climactic final sequence, which the filmmakers refer to as 'the block," was shot in a vast expanse of twisted metal and concrete rubble that was once a Bulgarian steel foundry. 'That was an absolutely amazing location," says Sylvester Stallone. 'The scale of it is mind-boggling. You don't realise something this big exists. It's pretty decrepit now, which was fantastic for our film. It looks like Armageddon."
The sequence is non-stop, wildly inventive, meticulously staged mayhem, says Perry. 'All the young Expendables have been taken hostage and Sylvester Stallone has to go with his old team and rescue these kids. There's a huge shootout with helicopters and tanks and 1,000 troops."
With the film wrapped and ready to go, even Sylvester Stallone looks back at the experience with a little bit of wonder. 'This is the only job in the world that lasts for a short period of time and then it is over, so you turn in your wardrobe and you go back to your civilian life knowing you can't come back and do it again. You can never relive these moments on set. But we have it all on film. That's the beauty of it."
The Expendables 3
Release Date: August 14th, 2014