By REED TUCKER (New York Post)
We don’t want to say action movies are getting wimpier, but when 12-year-old Jaden Smith is the biggest action star of the summer, you know something’s gone wrong. Now, along comes 64-year-old Sylvester Stallone to kick it old-school. He’s going full-on 1980s with “The Expendables,” out Aug. 13, a simple throwback tale of revenge about a team of mercenaries hired to take down a vicious South American dictator. The biceps are big, the guns bigger, the explosions frequent and the leading men’s faces mostly like hamburger. Expect theaters to be hosed down nightly from the stink of testosterone.
Joining Stallone on his mission are Brit baldie Jason Statham, martial artist Jet Li, “Rocky IV” baddie Dolph Lungren, Ultimate Fighting Championship king Randy Couture, and ex-NFLer and star of TBS’s “Are We There Yet?” Terry Crews. Not to mention former boxer Mickey Rourke, slimy bad guy Eric Roberts and cameos from Mr. Die Hard and the Governator (see sidebar).
“I don’t feel comfortable in something that’s highly futuristic or technical,” Stallone tells The Post. “I understand it, but I’m not as comfortable as in doing ‘First Blood’ or ‘Cliffhanger.’ I thought, ‘That hasn’t been around for a while. ‘I’d like to bring it back.’”
Stallone, who wrote and directed “The Expendables,” says that, besides ’80s movies, his new film is meant to recall guy team-up flicks like “The Dirty Dozen.”
Grab a protein shake and meet the members of the team.
* Plays: team leader Barney Ross
* Height and weight: 5-foot-10, 180 pounds
* Favorite 1980s action movie: “I think ‘Die Hard’ was the best. It had story and really good action. It was also a breakthrough, in that it was a vertical action film. That had never been done. No car chases, none of that crap.”
* Toughest Expendable: “Aside from Eric Roberts? [laughs] OK, second to him, without a doubt, Randy Couture could feast on all our bones. Steve Austin is a monster, no doubt about it, but Randy, when you look at his face, it is a portrait of punishment. You know you’re in for a horrible night if you challenge him. I saw him airmail stuntmen like paper planes.”
* Favorite weapon: “Everything you see in the movie is real, even my speed with the pistol. I went on YouTube and researched the fastest shot in the world. It defied description. It was eight shots, reload, eight more shots, in like three seconds. [My character] got off five shots in 84/100 of a second. I can’t do it [personally], but I love the old-school of being able to shoot that fast and knowing it can be done.”
* Last time you were in a real fight: “Does that include my wife? My God, I guess it’s been at least 30 years. Sorry, I’m a little overdue.”
* Pounds you can bench: “You have to give that up. The exercise has to become a little more scientific. I talked to Arnold [Schwarzenegger] about that. There’s a point where your body goes, ‘No thanks. Been there, did that.’ And the joints say, ‘Find a different way to exercise, buddy.’”
* Key to being an action star: “It’s very hard to find action guys. I don’t know why. The credibility with the audience is a bit of a mystery to me. It has nothing to do with looks, and you don’t even have to have the best body. But there’s a part of the young male who says, ‘I like that role model.’ I felt it early on. In the last 35 years, there have probably been maybe five at A-level. Chuck Norris, great. Jackie Chan, great. Arnold. It’s just something that says, ‘I want to be that man’s friend.’”
* Plays: sniper Gunnar Jensen
* Height and weight: 6-foot-5, 230 pounds
* Favorite 1980s action movie: “ ‘Rocky IV.’ I was in it and have fond memories. I also like it because it was physical, and as Sly says, it was the most physical of all the ‘Rocky’ films that he did.”
* Toughest Expendable: “If ‘tough’ meaning there’s a bare-knuckle fight, I suppose Randy Couture would do very well, because he’s a real fighter and he’s doing it professionally. He’d probably be the least favorite person to face off against.”
* Favorite weapon: “I suppose it was this big knife that Stallone gave me. It’s more like a sword. He goes [perfectly imitating Stallone], ‘Hey, Dolph. What do you think of this, huh?’ It’s like, ‘Oh, s – – -!’ This thing comes down to my knee.”
* Number of career onscreen kills: “In Empire magazine, they had the tally of onscreen kills, and according to them, I was No. 1. At least I was No. 1 in something — certainly not in box office. I think Arnold was second. But I had a couple hundred, 200 to 300, at least.”
* Favorite onscreen kill: “It was called ‘I Come in Peace.’ It was kind of a goofy movie, but there’s an alien in it who kills people. At the end, I fight him, of course, and he gets kicked into a big pipe, and all this white goo comes out of his chest. I pick up this big gun, and he moans, ‘I come in peace.’ And I say, ‘And you go in pieces, a – – hole!’ Then I pull the trigger.
A classic ’80s one-liner.”
* Plays: henchman Paine
* Height and weight: 6-foot-1, 250 pounds
* Favorite action movie: “I’d have to go with the first ‘Rocky.’ I saw that, got up the next morning, drank my eggs and was running down the street like an idiot.”
* Toughest Expendable: “The guys are all tough, but if you’re going to sit there and talk about a physical fight, I don’t think anyone will give you any argument that Randy Couture is that guy.”
* Last time you were in a real fight: “I damn near got into a couple fights in the ring. When a guy snubs you a bit too hard, we call that a ‘potato.’ Depending on how good-natured you are, that dictates how many potatoes you want to take. When you’ve had enough, you send back what’s called a ‘receipt.’ Then it goes accordingly. Usually when you get a potato and send back a receipt, things settle down pretty fast.”
* Toughest stunt: “My fight with Stallone. Being in a physical place with that guy and nothing but a brick and concrete floor with sand on it, and getting cut up and grinded. It was like rolling around on sandpaper. And on top of that, not wanting to throw the wrong punch and hit that guy, because that’s your star. It’s a moment of stress fighting with a guy like Sly, because I don’t care if you’re Steve Austin or not, you throw the wrong punch, you’re probably going to be gone.”
* Favorite onscreen kill: “I don’t even know. That’s a shame that I have to think about that. That only inspires me in my next endeavor to kill someone in such an extravagant fashion that we’ll have something to talk about next time.”
* Plays: demolitions expert Toll Road
* Height and weight: 6-foot-1, 220 pounds
* Favorite 1980s action movie: “I was a huge fan of ‘Rambo.’”
* Toughest Expendable: “The only other guy that has any real combative sports experience is Dolph. He did full-contact karate. He’s a big strong guy. He’d probably be a pretty formidable opponent.”
* Diet: “I keep it pretty simple. I eat a lot of whole, raw foods. I don’t do dairy. I limit red meat to a couple of times a month. I take spirulina-chlorella tablets. You could sustain yourself on those alone, if you took enough of them.”
* Best advice from Stallone: “The big thing with him was timing, not trying to pause here or intonate here. In a lot of scenes, we were under pressure, we’re in the heat of things, so just spit it out like you would in real life.”
* Last time you were in a real fight: “It was 1995, I was in Atlanta. Me and a couple buddies were out celebrating. Evidently on the sidewalk, I put my hand on a bouncer’s car, and he and three of his bouncer buddies came out. It didn’t last long for either one of us.”
* Number of career onscreen kills: “I killed a few in ‘Scorpion King.’ I think I was responsible for 26 in this movie. I was keeping track. You never know what’s going to make the edit, so I was counting.”
* Plays: weapons specialist Hale Caesar
* Height and weight: 6-foot-3, 240 pounds
* Favorite 1980s action movie: “ ‘Rocky III,’ because Mr. T changed the game. When he came on, it took the super-villain level to a whole other deal. When he called out Rocky’s woman? ‘You need a real man!’ Every guy in that audience said, ‘Oh, snap.’”
* Favorite weapon: “The AA-12. It’s a fully automatic shotgun, and each bullet has a bomb in it. You could take down a building with one of these. The gun is so intense and powerful, you just pray a fool doesn’t get a hold of it.”
* Toughest Expendable: “Randy Couture by far. He’s the only guy out of all of us who has been really smacking people for real. He is a killing machine, and he knows 6 million ways to die. Choose one.”
* Last time you were in a real fight: “You can’t be in this movie unless you’ve been in at least one real fight. It was in a bar in Austin, and this one drunk guy didn’t like me for some reason, so I’m walking along, and he sticks his foot out to trip me. I turn around, and he and his boys are standing there. It’s all pomp and circumstances. He was like, ‘What?’ I was like, ‘Pow!’ I hit him dead in his face. I walked to my hotel and waited for someone to arrest me. It never happened. I guess in Texas, it’s OK. You get hit in the face and they go, ‘How was it?’”
* Number of career onscreen kills: “I didn’t kill anyone in ‘White Chicks,’ but I killed about 50 people in this movie. There are like 75 people still in the hospital.”
ARNOLD, BRUCE & SLY
It’s the worst-kept secret of the year, right up there with the revelation that Taylor Lautner would remove his shirt in “Eclipse.” “The Expendables” features a dream team-up of 1980s action icons Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.
The three appear together only in one brief scene, but even that assembly was kept secret from many on the set, including the cast.
“That was more secretive than the LeBron decision,” Terry Crews says. “There were rumors bouncing around the set. Then there was like a phalanx of Escalades. It’s like, ‘Here comes somebody.’”
“The irony is that I’ve been trying to do this for 30 years, and everyone has been either busy or puts me on hold for like four years,” says Stallone. “Finally, here we are at a certain age. OK, I’m gonna ask [Arnold]. He said, ‘Just tell me when.’ I thought I was hallucinating. I said, ‘You’re going to catch some stuff for this.’ He goes, ‘That’s all right.’”
Schwarzenegger put aside his governor’s duties, and Willis flew in from Turkey for the day to shoot the talkie scene at a Los Angeles church.
“The thing is, that once we got on the set, everyone got nerves,” Stallone says. “We probably have 150 movies between us, but we were sitting there like amateurs. ‘Oh, my God. I don’t want to be the one that drops the ball.’ All this stuff is going through people’s minds.
“Finally, I said, ‘Here’s the deal. You be Bruce, you be Arnold, you be Sly. Let’s just be who we are.’ What you see there is everyone’s real personalities coming to the surface, and I think that’s why it works.”