Comic-Con #4: 'The Expendables' Panel

Luke Y Thompson is covering the Con for Deadline:

There were rumors circulating that The Governator would show up. Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t. First out is Terry Crews, who rips his shirt off and jiggles his pecs. Then Stone Cold Steve Austin (moderator Harry Knowles incorrectly calls him “Steve Stone-Cold Austin”). Dolph Lundgren comes out in a suit without a tie. Randy Couture was casual. (Knowles says Couture has “seriously the scariest forearm ever”.) Then Sylvester Stallone, in sunglasses, white shirt and tie, joked: “I thought about becoming a lawyer in case this doesn’t work.” Then warned he might take off the tie later and strangle somebody with it. Crowd starts chanting “Rocky!” Crews says Stallone had him at hello. Does a great impersonation of Sly asking him to be in the movie.

Austin had been disappointed when he learned all the Expendables had been cast, but got a call to be the villain. He’s always enjoyed playing a bad guy, and when Sly offered him the role on the spot, he accepted on the spot. “I enjoyed kicking all these guys’ asses.”

Bruce Willis sneaks up behind the panel, saying he just wanted to come and say hi and thank Stallone publicly; he was grateful to have a scene with “all three of us” (#3 being Schwarzenegger). Stallone had originally written two separate short scenes for each one – his scene with Arnold was going to be in a parking lot, with his truck and Arnold’s Hummer blocking each other. Willis suggested all three be in one scene. “You oughta be a director!” said Sly.

Willis leaves. Stallone says, “If Arnold does show up, don’t let him in. I’ve had it with him.”

Lundgren seems really grateful to even be in a theatrical movie. Asked if this or ROCKY IV was tougher, he notes “ROCKY IV maybe hurt a little more.” Stallone agrees: “I wouldn’t wanna do that again – he put me in the hospital for 4 days.” Lundgren adds “Jet [Li] clipped me twice” on THE EXPENDABLES.

The production designer for the movie forgot to make rubber mats to simulate bricks, so when you see an actor falling onto bricks in the movie, it’s real bricks. Asked about hardship and scary things on set, Stallone says it’s really a cumulative thing. “The constant bombardment, the injury, the infection, the bronchitis…These are the things the audience doesn’t know about. They don’t know that fight scene took 4 weeks to shoot.” He talks about an old plane that had been unused, propped up on crates for years, that they repaired and flew in the movie. Jason Statham had no fear about standing in the nose while it was flying at 200 mph.

Austin broke Stallone’s neck during a fight scene, but when it was repaired, doctors discovered a bone spur. He now has three screws in his neck. “Now if people say ‘Get screwed!’, I go, ‘I already have!”

Austin: “In my defense, when the writer, director, and star says kick the shit out of me, you kick the shit out of him.” Sly also told Lundgren to punch him in the chest as hard as he could… and woke up in hospital. Says that, if he doesn’t get injured, the movie usually stinks, noting that nobody got hurt on RHINESTONE, or STOP! OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT.

Asked about 3D, Stallone says he loves 3D, but thought it would feel too desperate for a movie that should be old-school. Fans cheer this.

Terry Crews says of working with Sly, “Anything you wanted to know, just watch him… It was better than going through four years of film school.” He flexes his biceps. “The gun show is here in San Diego!” Says the wheelchair-bound Knowles: “I wish your arms were my legs!”

We see a clip from the movie:

It’s a fight in an underground tunnel, with Stallone fighting Austin using some MMA moves, and Couture and Li taking on a big guy whose face is painted black with a yellow lightning bolt on it. Couture keeps slashing the guy with a knife, and blood spurts everywhere. More face-painted guys come running in, and then Crews shows up with a grenade launcher to blow them all up. Stallone goes “Damn, that thing’s loud!” Crews: “What happened to you?” Stallone: “I got my ass kicked!”

Looks like fun, though the camera work’s a bit shaky.

Couture had 4-8 weeks to train for his next fight after the movie wrapped.

There will be a behind-the-scenes documentary, featuring Knowles, who was on-set. One of the recurring gags will be how often people ended up in hospital, such that they learned all the staff’s names. “Randy kinda cackled every time he broke somebody in half” says Austin.

Stallone says he shot in Brazil because “you can kill people and blow the whole country up and they’ll say thank you, and give you a monkey.” They were shooting in such a dangerous area that 70 bodyguards were on set.

Audience Q&A:

Was there any arm wrestling going on between takes? Sly: “I HATE that sport…because I’m so bad at it!” Austin starts to challenge him, but Stallone fakes it and then backs out.

A guy in a Punisher shirt says to the entire panel “You guys are responsible for my upbringing – more so than my parents.” Asks if there was anyone else Stallone tried to get in the cast. Stallone says he talked to Seagal, Van Damme, and Chuck Norris, among others, but “some extenuating circumstances – like insanity – kept those from happening.”

Some of the ammunition used in the movie isn’t legal to use on sets in the U.S. “Terry’s gun could kill you.” Stallone says that big gun fires up to 25 feet, and he had seen, on a previous movie, a similar gun punch “a fist sized hole” in Rutger Hauer.

A woman in a self-sewn “Dolph” T-shirt asks Dolph what it’s like to be in this ensemble. He calls it an experience that only comes along once in your career.

Stallone: “If I had known it would be this difficult, I probably would have been more intimidated.” Who were his influences as a writer-director? “Mythic action films.” Cites Harryhausen movies, Steve Reeves Hercules flicks.

Did Stallone ever want to hit back if an actor slipped and actually connected with a punch? Says in the past he has, especially DEMOLITION MAN and DEATH RACE 2000, but not on this one because they’re all friends. Austin says he was scared to fight Couture, but that ultimately “I never felt a thing he did.”

The editor-in-chief of the Guinness Book of Records comes out to present Stallone and Lundgren with plaques honoring ROCKY as the most successful cinematic sports franchise of all time. Stallone says he knew he blew it with ROCKY V, and when it looke dlike his career was going downhill, he thought that if he could do just one last thing, it would be to end the ROCKY series right, but pitching a sequel to a failure was an uphill battle. “When that worked, I was done, I had nothing more to prove…Then I thought I’d end RAMBO, and that worked…Then I got greedy!”

For Couture, hardest thing was learning a long monologue about his character’s appearance. He had to say it on the first day of shooting, and Stallone rewrote the whole thing an hour beforehand.

Lundgren says his hardest scene was his first scene, where he had to come out looking crazy and tell a joke. He says it got worse and worse with each take, and they did about 20 takes…when he went in to do ADR, Stallone went, “Ayyyy, guess which take I used!” It was of course take one.

Stallone’s hardest scene to direct was a one-shot of Mickey Rourke looking in a mirror. Rourke had to leave soon, so there was only time for two takes, and he wanted to listen to Bruce Springsteen first. Sly told him no. Says Mickey nailed it.

To close out the panel, we see a clip of the scene where Statham is on the nose of the plane, shooting at a dock below where Austin and the bad guys are, ultimately exploding the dock as Austin jumps into the water. Very quick, but effective.

Fun panel. If the camaraderie onscreen is as fun as the banter onstage, the movie should work.

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