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THE EXPENDABLES

About The Production
While some stars might rest comfortably on their laurels after having created not one, but two, global cultural icons – Rocky and Rambo – writer, director and star Sylvester Stallone continues to push the envelope. With the ensemble action epic, THE EXPENDABLES, Stallone has amassed a cast that would make even the most jaded action fan blush, pairing global martial arts superstar Jet Li with internationally known action stalwart Jason Statham, mining the worlds of Mixed Martial Arts and professional wrestling with Randy Couture and Steve Austin, and then doubling the muscle quotient with the addition of Terry Crews and iconic tough guys Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts. Under Stallone's detailed direction, THE EXPENDABLES explodes into a gritty, adrenaline-fueled odyssey, harkening back to a time when every punch was real and brute strength and sweat were supplied by the actors themselves, not prosthetics or stuntmen. When it comes to action, these guys will show you how it's done. 

"This movie was shot with brains and brawn, not modern technology,” says Stallone. "This is all about real fighting. Mano a mano. Keeping things as real as possible, instead of falling back on CGI. It's the kind of filmmaking I grew up on, and that's the way I direct.”

Says producer Kevin King Templeton, "This is a cast of real action guys, guys that look like they're capable of doing what real mercenaries do. No CGI, no green screen, no muscle suits. These are real action guys with weight.”

Adds producer Avi Lerner, "There's no other way to say it. This is a big movie. It's got a testosterone-fueled lineup, big, big sequences, tough action, all starring a lot of actors doing what they do best. When you see explosions, they are real explosions. When you see a Stallone set that gets decimated, it's really decimated. The actors are really there in it.” 

From the beginning, Stallone was inspired by classic action films like THE DIRTY DOZEN, THE WILD BUNCH and DOGS OF WAR – movies defined by hard-hitting action, tough yet sympathetic characters and resonant, populist themes. "I wanted to tell a story about men who are out of sync with the world but who live their lives by a certain code,” he says. "They don't have families, their personal lives are a train wreck – all they have is each other.” 

Stallone was keenly aware that as a writer and director he was entering uncharted territory with THE EXPENDABLES. Unlike his projects in the RAMBO and ROCKY series, he had to build the mythology of the Expendables team from the ground up. He was also writing for an all-star ensemble cast, taking on the physically and emotionally challenging lead role of Barney Ross, and directing the entire film himself. 

Producer Avi Lerner views the making of THE EXPENDABLES as yet another formidable challenge for Stallone in a career defined by them. "Sly is a risk-taker and he always has been,” says Lerner. "The first ROCKY was a risk for him. So was the first RAMBO. And now, to create a new character, to get into the physical condition he's in, to direct and handle this amazing cast and difficult locations – that amounts to a huge risk. His career is full of taking risks and that's what makes him such an icon. He's not afraid.”

As he developed the story, Stallone found that the heart of the film centered on the theme of redemption. "These guys are definitely anti-heroes,” he explains. "At one time they had a code that they'd only go after people who deserved it. They killed killers. But then it became all about the money and they lost their way. With Rocky or even Rambo, there was a line they wouldn't cross. Barney and his crew have crossed that line somehow, and they need to get back on the right side of it.”

By the time Stallone had a shooting script he was happy with, he had written over 100 drafts, completely reworked the direction of the film and either cut or drastically reworked major characters. Says producer Kevin King Templeton, "For Sly, it's not just blowing something up. The script has to have heart and story. If it doesn't have heart, he doesn't want to be involved in it.” 

Stallone's depth as a writer and director is the primary reason Jet Li, the globally known martial arts superstar, immediately agreed to play the part of Expendable Yin Yang, a role that Stallone wrote with Li in mind. "I respect him a lot,” says Li. "He's not just a great action man, he's also a great writer. And I think his movies always show you great characters.”

A close-quarter, stealthy combatant who can attack his opponents virtually undetected, Yin Yang is a Vietnamese-American hoping to live his own version of the American dream; and Li imbues him with a quiet intensity. "My character is very straight forward, very simple,” explains the actor. "He's single. He doesn't have a family. But in his mind he's always dreaming about the future. He constantly thinks about making money so that he can get married and have kids and save for their education, even though none of it's happened yet.” 

For the role of Lee Christmas, Stallone also had a particular actor in mind: Jason Statham, an international action star in his own right known for films like the TRANSPORTER series, CRANK and THE BANK JOB. "It's very difficult to execute action in a believable, tough way, and Sly does it better than anyone,” says Statham. "I really loved the concept of a bunch of regular guys with all these insecurities and problems of their own who are put in a situation where they need to focus and kick ass, as they say.” 

As played by Statham, Lee Christmas is a knife-wielding killing machine who wears his heart on his sleeve and struggles as his relationship with his girlfriend Lacey, played by Charisma Carpenter, disintegrates. Explains Statham, "Lee Christmas is a chap who's very skilled with a knife but not so good with his relationship. He gets dumped and looks to Barney for advice, which becomes a situation that allows for a fair amount of humor between the two chaps.”

Stallone admits that casting someone considerably younger and of a different nationality in the "buddy” role was a bit of a gamble. "You never know if the chemistry is going to work,” he says. "But privately, I learned about a side to Jason that had not yet been tapped on film. Like anyone, he's had some ups and downs and some hurts, and I wanted to bring some of that experience to the character. We see that underneath this impenetrable armor, Lee gets hurt.”

For Dolph Lundgren, winning the role of Gunner Jensen was a homecoming of sorts. Twenty-five years ago, he ignited the screen as Russian fighter Ivan Drago in ROCKY IV, only to find himself once again going toe-to-toe with Stallone. "Stallone created my career with the Ivan Drago character,” muses Lundgren. "Now here I am, a little bit older and once again Sly has created a multi-faceted character for me who is larger than life and kind of iconic.”

A formidable fighter who cannot control his impulses, Jensen exemplifies the toll that the Expendables' violent, wayward lifestyle can take on a man. He's become an emotionally unstable liability, undone by too much combat stress, adrenaline addiction and drug use. "When we first meet him, he's really out on a limb. He's gone too far, and Barney has to cut him out of the group,” explains Lundgren, who found the darker aspects of the character the least challenging to play. "I don't mind killing people or crying,” he laughs, "but at four in the morning when I'm burned out emotionally, don't ask me to be funny.” 

When casting the role of Toll Road, the brawny intellect of the group, Stallone had trouble finding an actor who could convincingly exhibit sheer brute force. "I was looking for a mercenary, for a real man, for a g

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