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One thing about the sequel for the explosive 2010 hit ‘The Expendables’ was always for sure – it would be done true to the trademark style of the original, serving as an equally fresh take on vintage American badass action as it was in the days before rampant CGI pushed fight choreography into something more fantastical.
“The Expendables are about classic, straight-up action,” sums up producer Kevin King-Templeton. “It goes back to a day when everything was done right in front of the camera. There are real car crashes, real fight scenes and real mayhem. No phony muscle suits or body enhancements needed. This is the real deal. I think the audience appreciates that it’s all done without CGI tricks. To have Stallone, Bruce, Arnold, Van Damme, Norris and more all fighting, shooting and bringing their own spin to this highly choreographed action – it’s really an action lover’s dream come true.”
For Sylvester Stallone, the inspiration for writing these real-deal characters came from the unforgettably rebellious yet heroically loyal compadres he cut his own teeth on in such action classics as ‘The Dirty Dozen’, ‘The Wild Bunch’ and ‘Dogs of War’. “Our characters harken back to a time when our heroes were flesh and blood,” Stallone summarizes. “What I like about the ‘Expendables’, especially in this story, is that these guys put their lives on the line for a cause.”
Having shepherded the first film to success as director, this time Stallone happily handed off his director’s chair to director Simon West (‘Con Air’, ‘The General’s Daughter’, ‘The Mechanic’, ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’) so that he could focus more on the writing and on Barney Ross as the film’s lead character. “Simon is a wonderful shooter and he brought a lot to the heart and the action of the story,” comments Stallone. “With the scope of this production, I couldn’t have done all these jobs.”
West liked that ‘The Expendables 2′ was inspired by the simple but undeniable power of the original action formula –real people with lethal expertise pushed into situations where they have to use it. He was especially compelled by the characters in the script for ‘The Expendables 2′ — intriguingly flawed, relatable men and women who might take on the most impossible odds in the course of the story, but know they are in no way invincible. Rather than magic, they have to rely on sheer guts, skill and a refusal to quit.
“I wanted to direct this film because I know how much people love these characters and now they are going to get to see more of them in even higher adrenaline situations,” says West. “I think audiences love this group because they’re funny, they’re tough, they’re very good at what they do – and yet they aren’t super-human. They aren’t bulletproof. They have their flaws and each character is screwed up in their own little way. People root for them because they’re underdogs and we can all relate to that. I find a lot more color in how Stallone wrote these very human action characters than in a man who is indestructible.”
Stallone and West soon developed a close creative camaraderie. Recalls West: “On the first day of shooting, I said to Sly, ‘It’s very unusual for me to direct another director, especially one of this caliber who’s had so many big hits and has created so many iconic characters.’ I said, ‘I really want to take care of your franchise because it’s your baby.’ I thought of that every day, and it became my inspiration. I really wanted to protect and expand on what Sly had brought to life.”
Anticipation was at a high as production got under way – and everyone knew that fists, kicks, weaponry and witty humor would soon be flying from every direction on the set. Given the incredible combined skills of the cast, the bar was easy to raise on a daily basis.
Sums up producer Avi Lerner: “With the returning cast headed by Sly plus the greatly expanded roles for Arnold and Bruce, plus the new additions of Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Scott Adkins and Yu Nan, we knew we were in for more adventure, more action and more excitement.”
Image Courtesy of Expendables