The Expendables 2 is a love letter to action cinema from the ’80 and ‘90s. It was a genre that was brushed aside with the advent of CGI, swept away by a new age of comic book adaptations and boy wizards. The kings of the action film genre were undoubtedly Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, but Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris and Bruce Willis all discovered a solid fan base, fighting countless battles and waging war on a variety of villainous henchmen.
Now they're back in The Expendables 2, the follow-up to the 2010 action film, which first brought them together.
I had the chance to attend the London premiere of The Expendables 2, and it was something that the boy in me just could not turn down. I was born in the ‘80s and I grew up watching these guys kick all sorts of butt and spit out one-liners with glee. I simply had to go.
It was an early start, as I had to make the press conference first, which featured Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Scott Adkins and Van Damme (more on the conference tomorrow, though you can read about The Expendables 3 possibly changing genres here). I made my way across a post-Olympics London, just in time to make the event (after which I incidentally walked out of the building with The Expendables cast, to screams and photographic flashes - quite cool). Andy Warhol said that fame would come to everyone for fifteen minutes. I had merely fifteen seconds, but on the upside, I was in great company. Action’s very best.
Later, I picked up my press pass and made my way into the press pen where I took position and waited at Leicester Square. There’s always quite a lot of waiting at these sorts of things, but you make the most of it, try to enjoy yourself and pray that the rain holds off.
Things picked up once people started to arrive. The first are usually the everyday folks (like you and me) who have managed to snag a ticket to a premiere. Then come the low tier celebrities - you know the types, the people who attend anything and everything in the hope that they get their picture in a newspaper or magazine.
Then, the big guns started to arrive - the stars of the movie. The reason why everyone has attended: movie stars. Not just any movie stars, either; powerful examples of machismo from a pre-metrosexual world. Even the cynical journalists got excited as if electricity had filled the air. Cameras and dictaphones at the ready - it was time to go to work.
First up was the film’s producer, Avi Lerner, the man that helped bring The Expendables to the screen. I knew that I had to speak to him about a third installment of the franchise.
Who would be your dream cast for The Expendables 3?
“We talked to Clint Eastwood, to Harrison Ford and we’ll get some names.”
Does it look like they might do it?
“They all want to participate. You just have to find the right character, the right direction and the right place.”
How do you get these stars together in one place?
“Just work with them, give them the right character, the right motivation in the story - you pay them!”
The next person to make their way along the red carpet was Jean-Claude Van Damme’s evil henchman, Hector, played British born actor Scott Adkins (Undisputed 3).
Is it very intimidating working with these action legends?
“The first day was with Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Chuck Norris, Van Damme and Bruce Willis. It is intimidating, but I tried to do my best and stay professional. I remembered that they were paying me to be there, they wanted me there and I’m actually good at what I do. You have to remember these things sometimes.”
How does your fighting differ from the other roles you’ve played?
On this film?
“It doesn’t really differ. I’m always ready. If you sat ready then you don’t have to get ready. This sort of movie is my bread and butter, you know? I’m ready to go now - just in case anything kicks off. I’m ready to take them on.”
Did you take any advice from them?
“To be honest, to watch and see how they carry themselves as people on film sets. I learned a lot just be paying attention and being around these guys.”
Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham arrived and started signing autographs and posing for pictures. Then it was the new cast member's turn, The Muscles from Brussels himself, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and boy did he work the crowd. I had the opportunity to speak to him and he seemed to be loving the reaction he was receiving from his fans.
What’s it like working with such a big cast?
“Great. For me, it was like a kid in a candy store. I was never dreaming in my life that I would do one film with one guy like that.”
(Suddenly, there were clicks from the cameras all around – Van Damme was bemused and excited.)
“Hear that click, click, click, click, click? My God! So, all those guys, I was chasing them in the theater with a ticket. Now they’re chasing me!”
Then Stallone and Schwarzenegger arrived and the screaming went to the next level - odd because most of the people gathered there were middle-aged men, though they were probably eager to see their childhood heroes in the flesh. Again, the aging action heroes worked the crowd, signing autographs and posing for pictures, as they made their way along Leicester Square.
Eventually, the film was getting ready to start, so they walked into the Empire Cinema. But there was just enough time for Jean-Claude Van Damme to eagerly greet more fans.
It would seem that to those gathered that these action stars were anything but expendable.
The Expendables 2 opens in the US August 17th, 2012.