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‘The Expendables 2’ is coming to theaters in August and this time around, another inimitable pioneer of the action genre– the American martial arts legend Chuck Norris — joins the team as Booker, whose name is a nod to the influential 1978 actioner ‘Good Guys Wear Black’ in which Norris portrayed a character named John T. Booker. In that film and in ‘The Expendables 2’, Norris plays a retired military operative trying to rescue his old comrades.
It was a rare opportunity to pay tribute to Norris’ unending appeal. Sylvester Stallone explains, “Chuck basically retired from films but he agreed to join our movie. He plays a character who mysteriously comes out of nowhere to save our butts. We call him Lone Wolf. He’s there when you need him, and gone when you don’t.”
Norris is the pop culture subject of countless Paul Bunyan-type larger than life “Chuck Norris’ facts” created by fans – such as “Chuck Norris counted to infinity – twice” — with more than half-million of these “facts” circulating on the Internet. The film’s multinational cast and crew affectionately jumped on the bandwagon almost as soon as Norris disembarked from the airplane to the film’s primary location in Bulgaria, coining a new one: “Chuck Norris doesn’t visit Bulgaria… Bulgaria visits Chuck Norris.”
Former NFL football player turned actor, Terry Crews echoes the feeling of many on set when it came to working alongside Norris, “You’re talking about one of the icons of action… I mean, in one of first martial arts films, this guy fought Bruce Lee!”
Every great action-adventure demands a ruthless and memorable villain – and in ‘The Expendables 2’, the blockbuster kickboxing star Jean-Claude Van Damme adds his instantly recognizable persona and skills to the film’s superstar roster in the nefarious role of Jean Vilain.
Stallone says of Van Damme taking on the bad guy role: “People have never seen him like this before. Usually he plays heroes and I think people will be quite surprised by Vilain – who is fearlessly hell-bent on destroying us despite the risk of self-destruction. He’s willing to die and eventually when Vilain and Barney meet one-on-one, it ends up being a hellacious battle until the very end. It’s kind of like a heavyweight championship fight that you never thought would happen.”
Producer King-Templeton muses, “Jean-Claude Van Damme and Sly Stallone in the same fight scene? I think audiences have been waiting for that for 30 years. This movie has almost every gun ever made in it and every explosion you could imagine. But at the end we wanted to have Sly and Jean-Claude get together for a classic hand-to-hand battle. All the technology is gone. All the hardware is gone. It’s just the two guys going at it.”
Producer Les Weldon sums up: “Jean-Claude plays Vilain so menacing and so crazy that it sends chills up your spine. He is evil incarnate but in a very good way for the film.”