2010’s The Expendables is a film that’s remembered more for its all-star cast than its actual content, but even a movie boasting several of the most nostalgia-inducing action heroes of yesteryear could’ve been just another straight-to-video flick to place alongside the latest spectacles from Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme.
According to actor Terry Crews (roughly the sixth or seventh biggest name in the franchise’s first instalment alone), the film’s director and star, Sylvester Stallone, was having a hard time securing interest from studios until he took his plight to the people.
“The Expendables, the first movie, was supposed to be direct-to-video. You’ve got to understand where Stallone was at the time. He was trying to get this thing done, and they’re like ‘Dude, you’re in your 60s, how you gonna do an action movie?’ All the studios turned it down, so Sly starts calling people and he starts getting the buzz going. And this is also in the first days of getting viral energy on the internet. So what Sly started to do was tweet out ‘How would you like to see me, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis in a movie together?’ And the internet went crazy.”
With hindsight, this story becomes a little ironic seeing how Schwarzenegger and Willis’ involvement in the trilogy’s first entry only goes as far as a pair of brief, in-jokey cameos, albeit with lengthier screen times for each in The Expendables 2. Still, with the likes of Stallone, Crews, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and Mickey Rourke in the fray, viewers were hardly at a loss for a familiar face amidst the action.
Ever since 2006’s Rocky Balboa, Sly’s acting career has essentially been one long nostalgia tour, which will continue with Creed II on November 21st. In that sense, The Expendables just might be the definitive franchise of late-period Stallone, and with a fourth film set to begin production in April next year, you can bet that the actor isn’t done reminding us of the good old days.