Terry Crews has revealed The Expendables could have gone straight to DVD – until Sylvester Stallone brought on some big-name cameos. The Expendables started life as a grittier project about a burned out team of mercenaries, but it morphed during development into a celebration of retro 80s action cinema. This was helped by the cast, including Stallone - who also directed - Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, and cameos by Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Action fans flocked to the movie upon its release in 2010, and The Expendables 2 – which added Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris to the line-up – was an even bigger hit. The Expendables 3 proved to be a commercial disappointment, however, and there was a backlash to the movie’s watered down PG-13 rating, and its attempt to lure in a younger audience. It seemed a fourth movie would never happen once Stallone announced his departure from the series, but he’s since come back onboard and the movie is likely to start shooting next year.
Stallone’s career suffered something of a downturn towards the end of the 1990s, to the point some of his movies wound up either straight to DVD or with limited theatrical releases. He made a comeback thanks to Rocky Balboa and Rambo, and while The Expendables blossomed into a new franchise for him, co-star Terry Crews revealed in a new career retrospective with GQ that the project was destined to go straight to DVD at one point.
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 like ‘Dude, you’re in your sixties, 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.
Hollywood blockbusters at that point had been overtaken by superhero movies and CGI action, so Stallone was able to harness fan nostalgia for good, old-fashioned action movies to raise the profile of The Expendables. Aside from his tweets teasing the involvement of Arnie and Bruce Willis, he kept fans updated constantly with casting announcements and set videos. The first Expendables also proved to be something of a breakout role for Crews, who revealed in the GQ profile his most famous scene - where he massacres a bunch of soldiers with a huge shotgun - was added by Stallone when he realized the actor hadn’t been given enough to do.
Aside from appearing in the next The Expendables, Stallone is keeping himself busy with sequels. He recently completed filming on Creed II, he’s set to start filming Rambo V later this year, and Escape Plan 3: Devil’s Station is also waiting for release. Sadly, it appears Crews’ Hail Caesar won’t be part of the next Expendables; the franchise’s producer told the actor to drop his sexual assault claims against agent Adam Venit - who also represents Stallone - and it seems his refusal ruled him out of the movie.