In THE EXPENDABLES 2, a crew of cutthroat government mercenaries – which include Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, and Randy Couture – battle an organization of ruthless villains (led by Jean-Claude Van Damme and henchman Scott Adkins) to help save the world from an imminent nuclear disaster. Directed by Simon West (THE MECHANIC) and written by Richard Wenk (16 BLOCKS) and star Sylvester Stallone (THE EXPENDABLES), the rollicking sequel features more brutality, bullets and blood than you’ve seen in quite some time. And it’s a whole lot of fun!
We (along with a few other reporters) sat down with the stars on the film’s press day to talk training, character development, and what it was like working with such cinematic juggernauts.
Dolph, I thought Gunnar had gotten clean at the end of THE EXPENDABLES. Why is he back on the sauce?
Dolph Lundgren: “He got clean from the other stuff. The stuff in the bag hat they cut out of the first one. No plastic baggies just sauce, yeah. He’s Swedish. He’s got no choice. All Swedes have to be drunks. They’re Vikings – they kill people.”
Was there much behind the scenes competition or attempts to keep up between the older guard and the younger guard? Was everybody try to put up appearances to show every one they hadn’t lost a step?
Scott Adkins: “The gym was pretty full every night with famous faces. Everybody secretly trying to keep up with each other.”
DL: “It’s too late once you start shooting. If you’re not in shape by the time you get there, you’re never going to do it. It’s too hard and the schedules too tough. You had better get in shape if you’re going to last through the picture. So I don’t think there’s any kind of positioning. You just try to do your job and you try to deliver what’s expected of you rather.”
SA: “You’re expected to look a certain way. It’s the action film of the Summer. You got to look like an action star.”
DL: “You have to be able to kick run and do whatever you have to do. The rest is just hard work and waiting around.”
SA: “I think everybody is respectful of everyone else doing it. Everybody’s proved themselves in the action arena and we know why we are there.”
Dolph, there seems like there’s more character study with your character in this one. Was that something you talked with Sly and Simon about adding a lot of those personality traits to Gunnar that we didn’t see in the first film?
“Thanks. Yeah. You know, any time I’m gonna be on camera. Any changes, because Sly improvises, locations change, the script got re-written about 27 times during production so you try to think about the guy. What can you do that particular instant to make it interesting and entertaining. You talk to the director and Stallone perhaps, and you kind of come up with some ideas and see if it works. But my thing with Gunnar is that because he’s such a loser – he’s got problems – that makes him easy to play. He drinks too much, he can’t deal with women, he’s snores, he sleeps through stuff, he’s not focused, he has a lot of problems. I think that makes him enjoyable to mess around with.”
And you also added that intelligence to him in this one too.
“Yeah. Stallone did that. It took me 25 years to graduate from the Russian Siberian Express from the, (mimics Russian accent) ‘I must break you,’ with like zero charm with little bit of interest.”
But they used your real education.
“I did. He got that from me. And it was fun. It was fun to do. I suppose it finally paid off after 25 years.”
Did you feel that gelled with the Gunnar from the first movie or was this Gunnar 2.0?
“It gelled, yeah. There was other aspects of the character that we couldn’t quite do for the first because it was just so hard logistically to get everybody in a scene together. Some other scenes with Gunnar, for instance, the first time I meet the girl, we all met her in the original script. She shows up and we’d all been drinking – especially Gunnar now. He’s really drunk. Not a happy drunk and he ends up having an argument with this girl he just met. He’s coming on to her a little too hard and they wind up having a fight. So he gets kind of kicked in the head by this Chinese chick and that was funny. But that got cut out. There is some other aspects of him but I thought these are two separate movies. The first film was what it was – I was supposed to die in the first movie. In the original script I wasn’t supposed to make it but Stallone – or somebody – decided that Gunnar, ‘Yeah, let’s keep him alive. He seems like an interesting guy.’ I don’t know who but it was probably Sly.”
Can you talk about Sly and his overall understanding of this genre and how he knows what the audience wants? How well he knows how to tweak it like he did with your character – subvert it, give it a little extra spin?
SA: “Well, obviously he knows a lot about it because he’s the first guy to manufacture three franchises that have been successful. He’s been at the top of his game for over thirty years and you can’t say that of many people. Obviously, everybody respects and knows what he’s done – how he talks and every body listens. That’s why he’s able to be the ringmaster of all these big personalities – these big action guys. Everybody respects him and if you’re smart, you’ve gotta listen to what he’s said and pay attention.
DL: “He’s got that sort of innate instinct where most people wouldn’t go for that. He’ll pull out this [mimics Stallone], ‘Dolph. I’ve got this knife and I like it.’ And he’ll whip something out this big. Who’s gonna think of that?! Like this is the Navy SEAL knife, this is the Russian commando knife, which one do you want? But he’ll take it and manufacture something like this! Like he’s thinking in a different league! That’s kind of why he is who he is. That’s why he has a special talent for that.”
SA: “I think he understood as well what was missing from the market at the time when he thought about THE EXPENDABLES. And also make it like an 80’s action film where it’s pulling no punches and it’s real men doing real stunts in camera – not CGI. He was able to just foresee that.”
Scott, how did you come on his radar? Had he seen UNDISPUTED and NINJA?
“He tried to put me in the first one but I had a scheduling conflict. I was already on his radar from the first one. I desperately wanted to be in the film as it’s a great opportunity for me. It was frustrating for awhile as they were trying to let all the bigger pieces fall into place – like get Chuck Norris and get [Jean-Claude] Van Damme. Two characters that were supposed to be on Van Damme’s team. I worked with the producers many times before. I suggested to them to combine those two characters into one. I’ll play the part and take on [Jason] Statham and Van Damme can take on Stallone. And everybody agreed it was a good idea.”
VeryAware: What did you each like best about your characters?
SA: “Well, it’s good fun playing the villain, isn’t it? That’s the most fun to do. They have no conscious and can do all the fun stuff. It’s a lot of fun to take a blade out and put it up against Statham’s neck and threaten to kill him. Who wouldn’t want to do that?”
DL: “Well, I like the fact that Gunnar is unpredictable and full of new tricks. He can’t quite judge what he’s going to do at a given time. That’s what’s good about him. When you play him, you kind of just imagine being drunk and a little bit having been drunk for two days. You don’t know what you’re gonna do yourself. Then you go into the scene coming in from that point of view.”
This time around, you have Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis around on set. What was fun about seeing them – especially them playing with Sly?
DL: “I wasn’t in all of the scenes with them.
SA: “I found it funny, the one day at the airport, the three of them were together. It was such camaraderie from the Planet Hollywood days. Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger ganged up on Stallone taking the Mickey out of his shoes, which I thought was quite funny. They’re on the level playing field and are friends that go back a long way. It was just fun to see that.
DL: “Yeah it was. I think that Arnold and Bruce thought it was interesting to hang out with that gang of ten – the hard hitting, super macho guys full of guns. It doesn’t get any more macho than that. You can’t beat that! They also realized, ‘Yes, I may be a big star. I’ve done a lot of movies but this is special.’ In that genre, it doesn’t get any more brutal and macho than this.”
SA: “They were very aware of it as much as anyone else.”
How much did Jean-Claude bring to his character from your perspectives of knowing him? How much of himself?
DL: “108% maybe. Between 108-109. From what I saw, he made the bad guy very mercurial and kind of extremely unpredictable and strange, right?”
SA: “Yeah. Very Strange. He would do something different every take. Which was probably a nightmare for the editors but also a gift to the editors to try to pull these pieces together and create quite a unique, strange kind of character.”
DL: “I think so. He’s had a very – most people are aware his career has gone up and down just like everybody else. And maybe even more so than other people. I think the audience will have an interest and curiosity of, ‘Who is this guy? And what’s gonna happen?’ For all of us, our own personality is loaded on top of the character that makes it even more interesting for the audience.”
What do you guys do for in your daily life for your martial arts training? When I interviewed Jackie Chan, he has to practice every day or he can’t kick anymore.
SA: “I like to train a lot. I like to train too much. I like to eat what I want to eat. So I prefer to train every day and eat some good food every day.”
DL: “Me too. I like to break it up and I like to cross train a lot. I like to do weights, do cardio, and swim. I like to do martial arts. I try to break those up so it makes it more fun. I hate doing the same workout two days in a row. I was never one who wanted to do the same thing all the time. So I try to do that 5-6 times a week when I can. Sometimes I travel too much and you just try to squeeze in whatever you can. In my experience, anything is better than nothing. So even if you can only do ten pushups, it’s better than zero. Somehow, the human body will react. On day one, you can do five pushups. On the next day, you’re gonna want to do seven or ten and the next day twenty. It’s just how the human body is built. Even if I’m dead tired, I’ll do a little bit of training every day.”
Dolph, after the first movie, did you find a sort of shift when you were out and about in your daily life, that they were finally yelling something else?
“Not Gunnar, but maybe saying Dolph instead of saying, ‘that Russian guy from the ROCKY movie.’ That still happens, but it’s ok. Why not? I think that movie was a blessing and I’m proud of it. It’s changing a little bit and people are knowing me for me. A little less for the characters, a little more for Dolph which is cool.”
Anyone yell He-Man at you?
(laughs) Sometimes yeah. Not that often.
Dolph, what about the baby seal joke in the movie?
“Ah the baby seal. God, ask Sly he came up with it. I was like, ‘What?!”
THE EXPENDABLES 2 is in theaters on August 17.