Let me be very clear: press conferences for a film with the entire cast on hand are usually a waste of time. All too often, the biggest star gets most of the questions and because it’s a press conference with numerous reporters asking questions, it’s hard to get into a rhythm with the talent. But every once in awhile you get lucky, and that was the case the other day with The Expendables 3 cast and director Patrick Hughes in Los Angeles. While the talent on stage almost equaled the amount of reporters in the room (I’m only slightly exaggerating), the entire event was filled with laughs, smart questions, and everyone on stage had a chance to shine, which is not terribly different from the movie they were there to promote. Like I said on Twitter, The Expendables 3 is a lot of fun and my favorite of the series due in large part to Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas. All three are awesome and Banderas steals every scene he’s in. In addition to the new cast additions, The Expendables 3 has a crazy third act that’s easily the best action scene of the franchise. If you liked the first two, you’ll love the third one.
During the press conference – which featured Sylvester Stallone, Gibson, Snipes, Kelsey Grammer, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Victor Ortiz, Glen Powell and Patrick Hughes – they talked about doing the stunts, future installments in the series, the Stallone vs. Gibson fight scene, Stallone’s thoughts on facing Sin City 2 at the box office, why Jackie Chan wasn’t in the movie, what went on between the takes, and so much more. Hit the jump to either read or listen to the press conference.
Click here to listen to the audio otherwise the full transcript is below.
Question: Can you talk about the learning curve of blending action, learning armament and weaponry, and the benefits of having Brad Martin and J.J. Perry in your corner as stunt coordinator and fight choreographer. You can start, Kellan.
KELLAN LUTZ: I think that’s why we all love action movies. We all love shooting guns, and we all love learning new techniques. For myself, I’m a motocross, where every time, every new action movie, I get to learn some new trick. Working with them, and to add Dan Bradley who’s the master of second unit and stunt choreography and just compiling both of them together, I think what you have with the first one was the gem of all the action. You had a lot of blood and guts. Second one, you had the humor. So what Sly has done with this third one, it’s all trial and error. You don’t mind, I just got done with the press tour so I learned what to say. With this third one, you have a great layering of the action with the comedy, and then with all the stunts, I mean, we’re all athletic individuals. We all live an active lifestyle, so we get to push and push and push, and I think all the stunt guys with A.J. and Matt and Dan, they all know what we can do, and they push us to do even more. So it gets bigger and louder. We definitely had a lot of fun doing this one.
GLEN POWELL: It’s also a little bit of a boy’s club. There’s like a lot of pressure to do the stunts yourself. You have to like, ‘Oh, you want to double?’ You’re like, ‘You can’t go a double.’ They’re like, ‘Oh, really? You want to double?’ So there’s this one stunt that J.J. does where he gets blown off a bridge, and I go, ‘J.J., that was crazy!’ He goes, ‘No, man. That was loco.’ He lifts up his shirt, and it’s loco tattooed on his stomach.
RONDA ROUSEY: I mean, J.J. was awesome in that he really tried to customize everything to us. So I mean, I come from an athletic background, and he specifically found like a bunch of Judo and Sambo specialists just for me and my fights. And not just Judo techniques for me to do. But in Judo, the person taking the fall is called the Uke, and so he brought in a lot of people that were very proper Ukes and knew how to take a good fall and made things really easy for me, personally. And then it was great just learning stuff. Like my favorite things was when we got to learn how to clear premises together. We all took turns being point. And they were like, ‘Okay, this is how we do a guerrilla style. This is how you do Army style. This is Marine style.’
VICTOR ORTIZ: That’s probably where I had the most problem, remember that?
POWELL: He just goes around the corner.
ORTIZ: Tactical, tactical, come on.
ROUSEY: That was part with Victor. When we had to go through a new door, we had to give command silently, and his silence is something that I haven’t really seen.
ORTIZ: They say I’m a little loud, but I don’t believe it.
POWELL: They called you wannabe Rambo. He’d just bust in a room and start shooting.
ROUSEY: Yeah, Dan, he was awesome, in that he would just kind of let me go. I had like the whole choreography like memorized every time. So if I can start, it’s hard for me to stop because I don’t hear him say stop. So he’d just let it keep rolling and let me just go through the whole thing every time. He was awesome. He was really fun to work with. I had a great time.
This is for Sly. It’s been announced, first of all, it’s remarkable that anybody’s had three franchises in Hollywood history, and there’s an Expendables 4 in the works. How long do you think this can go on, and could it ever go on and be with being Expendable?
SYLVESTER STALLONE: Whoa, whoa. After the fifth Expendables, you start wearing Dependables.
Also, you’ve been announced to play Scarpa, the notorious, Italian American gangster. And when you started out in the 70s, there was the Italian Anti-Defamation League. I wonder if somebody like Rocky Balboa changed the image of Italian Americans so that you can do a movie of an Italian American gangster today without any kind of protest?
STALLONE: Yeah, I think so. Basically, whatever Rocky did for positive Italian images, pizza has been keeping it going. Anyone who invented pizza can’t be all bad. Unless your pepperoni is rigged with C-4, but then again, you had the Sopranos which is bigger than any mafia franchise ever. But I think it’s important that it’s controversial because it is a real fashion of American culture. And that’s the mystique. So you just play into that. You honor it. It’s like, yeah, he’s bad, he’s bad. As long as you have good music in the background, it’s okay, like the Godfather, makes it okay.
WESLEY SNIPES: Well, it was a great opportunity to work with some of the best actors that I’ve always admired. I mean, some of them are still sitting there right now, to get up close to them and see what they’re like off screen, versus what you see them on the screen and the characters that they portray. And also, a little chance to act a little crazy again. My character, Doc, is a medic, but he’s been away for about eight years, and he was quite lonely. So he had to spend a lot of time talking to himself and developing his own storylines to himself and friends with himself. So he comes out cuckoo.
STALLONE: That would anybody actually.
SNIPES: Friends with myself or cuckoo?
Stallone and Gibson, what was it like going mano‑a‑mano in that scene and did you ever make any contact?
STALLONE: It was good. There was situations in actual sports where you two rivals get together, two people that have actually done very well in their own world, and then they say, I wonder how they would go against each other? And so when that finally happens, it becomes an event.
MEL GIBSON: King Kong versus Godzilla.
STALLONE: So contact was made, and you do get hurt. And you work on – it’s freezing there. The water, you go, ‘Oh my God, I’m not going to do it again.’ And you have to do it again. So I’ve been looked forward to it, and Mel is a great actor. He’s very fast, very strong. And it was great being punched by him. Thanks very much, Mel.
GIBSON: There was no actual contact. Well, it was kind of like movie sex. You don’t actually do it.
STALLONE: He’s a bald faced liar.
GIBSON: And you’re battling arthritis, of course, but it was fun. It was fun being shot full of holes by Sly.
STALLONE: That’s right. If anyone ever wants to get turned into Swiss cheese, it was Riggs.
You guys have played some of the greatest action characters in the history of action movies. If you could take one of your earlier characters and make him an Expendable, which one would be the most fun to join the group?
GIBSON: The obvious one is the crazy cop from the Lethal Weapon series. I don’t know. Maybe that whack job from like Conspiracy Theory. That guy.
STALLONE: I think Rambo would fit in, and then he would turn around and kill them all. That’s the downside of working with him. He’s a loner.
DOLPH LUNDGREN: Well, I was thinking Drago because he has these big monologues. He talks a lot. He’s good with words.
STALLONE: Yeah, Drago.
What really happened with Bruce Willis, and what do you think is going to happen when you get to compete with him in Sin City at the box office?
STALLONE: Oh, what had happened with Bruce Willis? Oh, things didn’t work out and Harrison Ford came along, and that happens in film and casting. And it’s just the way it is. It’s nothing personal. It’s not like it got personal, and I’m sorry it did sound that way. But it was just actors talking, and things move on. And I think Bruce Willis is a great guy, and he does fantastically entertaining films. And when he nails it, he nails it big time. What was the next part? Oh, Sin City. [Laughs] I must crush you.
You were really funny in this movie, and I like when you say age is really a state of mind. I would like to know if you agree with him and where do you see yourself in ten years?
STALLONE: Well, age is a state of old mind. It gets to a point where if you get old enough, you forget how old you are, and that’s the best thing. And then you walk around kind of like in a fog. You really don’t know how old you are. I think you find yourself watching Teletubbies drunk one night.
Ronda, talk about playing with the big boys, and Mel Gibson, when you first got the script, what was it like when you first read the script?
GIBSON: Wow. It was very involved. There was a lot of characters, and I didn’t know how they were going to jam it all in. But somehow they managed to do it. And everybody got a fair shake, and there’s a lot of people here. And so hats off to Sly for sort of enabling that to happen. When I read it, I thought, I didn’t read it as I was the bad guy. In fact, I didn’t even know I was the bad guy until I saw it last night.
STALLONE: You were.
GIBSON: I thought Dolph Lundgren was the bad guy. So it’s a surprise to me, and I’m kind of shocked and a little offended. I wanted to be the love interest. There was no one to love really.
ROUSEY: I mean, it’s definitely a very different environment that I thought I was going to be like the new kid at the school when I walk into the cafeteria and everyone’s like you can’t sit here! That’s what I thought I was walking into. And they’ll probably go, like this chick? She’s not even an actress. She’s not even a guy or something. I don’t know what I was expecting. I was expecting the worst. And yeah, I felt like a little like the Downy Teddy bear when I actually showed up. Everybody was just so welcoming and warm. So yeah, everyone, really, I felt went out of their way to make me feel comfortable, and so I couldn’t have asked for a better first project to be on. And I’ve always been the one shaking it down with all the guys anyway. I would have felt more uncomfortable if I were in Sex in the City 4. So I’m really happy.
Stallone, you wrote the story, and you have your character out of retirement. Have you thought about retirement at any moment and why?
STALLONE: Exactly. Why? I’m not ready to sit at home and play with my Pomeranians 12 hours a day. I’m just not ready. So I think you keep going. And remember in old vaudeville, there was a cane that snatched you off the stage? Well, I’m waiting for that. Until they just hook me, and go that’s it. Actors don’t want to retire. They’re usually forced to retire, and that’s a sad thing because you really get better as you get older. You may not remember as much dialogue. What dialogue you do remember, you’re better at it. So anyway, we’re just all children. We’re there to perform, and when that’s taken away – I’ve always said that the artist dies twice. And the first death is the hardest which is the career death, the creative death. The physical death is an inevitability. So I think if everyone should just keep going, and I think that’s happening. I think the genre’s opening up. And television is providing more alternate career or second acts in an adult actor’s career.
This is for Kelsey and, my man, here, Terry. First of all, when I heard you were cast, I’m like, what is he going to do in this shoot-up movie? But your role was perfect. How much fun did you have doing that, and then, Terry, you get shot, and you’re in the hospital the whole movie!?
TERRY CREWS: There’s a very good reason.
SNIPES: It’s the Expendables, man! Somebody got to get shot.
CREWS: Well, I got kind of pissy which is kind of nuts. There should be a movie about the guy who did the scheduling for the movie. He got shot first because everybody’s schedules was so crazy. I have to say, I was so happy that I was able to even be here, to be honest with you. And the privilege and honor to get to work with Wesley – and I’ve got to say this right now – I was in this movie because Wesley did not do the first two. And when I first saw Wesley on set, I said, ‘Man, I’ve been holding this spot for you.’ And let me tell you, all is right with the world now, that he is in the Expendables franchise. I know Kelsey as a director, from Everybody Hates Chris, and he’s one of the biggest stars of our generation. And Sly has followed us all, obviously.
STALLONE: You should tell the story about literally, how close you came to being expendable. Literally, he was going to die. He’s dead, and I can see him sitting there moping. Walking around the lobby knowing that in an hour, I’m going to shoot him. No. It’s a done deal. And I walk by, and he’s acting like Death Row. It’s some lethal injection. Please, I don’t want to go! So I said, well, what do you think? I don’t know. Thumbs up. Thumbs down. Went through the window, and he’s sitting there like all depressed. And he goes, ‘I can come back,’ and I say, ‘What do you think?’ ‘Let’s shoot him.’ ‘Where do you want to shoot him?’ ‘Kidney.’ Okay. He can survive that, and one in the leg. He’s not big legs. He can survive this.’ I’m serious. I came out, and you put down your croissant, finished your coffee. And I go, ‘All right. Today, you survive.’
CREWS: I swear to God. It was one of the best days of my life. I was in the lobby, sweating. He’s right. I was sitting there like, ‘I’m going to die! I’m going to die! The black guy dies!’ It’s one of the best – I called my agent. I called my mother, wife, and I was like, I get to live. I get to move on for 17 more.
GIBSON: Terry said, I live!! And it was Thursday, he was sitting in the lobby, and he was like, 3, 2, 1. Thumbs up! He was done. For the past year, he was out. He was in the script. He was pretty itchy there for a while, and I didn’t even know he was in trouble. Because I was just like shooting at a mark. I didn’t know what I was doing. I found out I was shooting holes in him.
KELSEY GRAMMER: I know at first there was a surprise that Kelsey Grammer was going to be on this ride, but I’m tougher than a lot of people think. If you know anything about my personal life, you’d realize that. Hands down. However. I think we’ve explored an interesting part of the story to tell. And we had a nice relationship. I love working with Sly. It was a presumptive joy to do that. I had a great time. We fleshed out Bonaparte to a point where I think, you know, I hope he comes back, and maybe he can kick some ass next time because I’m ready to. I’m working out. I’m punching people on the street just to see if I can do it. All those punch videos you’ve been seeing, that’s me.
I heard that Jackie Chan was invited, but he couldn’t work in the movie. Is that a new role for him? Also maybe in the future we could see more Asian stars?
STALLONE: Yeah, absolutely. Jackie was on, but literally it became a scheduling problem. When Terry said there should be a movie about the person who schedules the movie, people were coming in for seriously, three days, four days. It was critical timing. Everything stopped for them. Then we would shift the movie and just do their part, and then go back and film again. And then Harrison would come in, and then everything was about Harrison. And Jackie is so busy in his regular life. He has so many businesses, and he’s so loved over and China and in such demand, that he literally couldn’t cut those three days, four days. And we’ll get him next time. Don’t worry. He’s a good friend.
We’ve come to expect a lot of action in these films, but there was a lot more words in this one. And especially for Sly and Mel, the scene where Mel’s backstory is revealed, I thought that was one of the finest in there. Sly, did you write all that on your own? Mel, did you stay on script?
STALLONE: I just wrote a guideline, and then Mel came up with the idea – well, you explain.
GIBSON: Yeah. I kind of worked on the script a little at night and came in kind of hammered out. And I handed the pages to Sly and Patrick. They looked at it, and said, yeah, it’s cool. And it was just a theme of somebody who was subcontracted by his government and then thrown under the bus. A real person.
STALLONE: So it had a reality to it which is what Mel was trying to say. And I think what gave it some heart is he was actually saying something that had some truth, and it was valid. And he was committed to it. And I don’t believe he saw himself as the bad guy which is the key to the whole thing. And then you bring in the aspect of Cain and Abel, and two of the best friends that could become the worst of enemies because usually when you love something that much, you can also hate it even more because of that schism, that break-up. And he just killed it. In the van, I had some dialogue back and forth with him, and the more he did the scene, the more I realized I shouldn’t speak. You know what I mean? So I just let him roll. And he was convincing himself, he was convincing me, convincing the audience that, what did you do today, Barney? Who did you kill? Who did you blow up? What makes you holier than thou? So it was great.
In the era of sensitivity to gun violence, does that change how you make a good old action film?
STALLONE: First of all, there’s no blood. And ours is so over the top, that it isn’t something that you would expect people to repeat. But I know exactly what you mean. It’s a very sensitive thing, and we were unfortunately, we experienced that on the second one. I really don’t know the answer because it’s part of a mythology, but it’s also becoming part of a reality that is – I don’t know. I really don’t know what the answer is. We just try to make it so it looks as though it’s a fantasy. It isn’t real. Sometimes I think movies can get so real, then you can say, oh, I can do that. There’s not a lot of people who can do what the Expendables can do.
This is for Mr. Stallone. You and Mr. Harrison Ford kind of had your big career moments start right around the same time and sustained over the years. What had your relationship been like throughout your careers and what it was like to recruit him into this franchise and your experience sharing Hollywood war stories with him?
STALLONE: Oh God. I go back with Harrison back in, ’77 at Columbus Circle. Both us were wondering how long this was going to last. And Harrison is a very insulated, very intelligent, and funny, very funny, very witty, dry humored. And when you tap into that, it’s great. So when he got over there, and once we opened up – and he also worked on this character. He wanted to make it very personal. These are the kind of guys that you just don’t say, here are the lines. Do it or else. Really? No. He worked on it, so I would say, we were on a – I don’t know if we were ever going to work together, but this thing became very, very close. And I was just actually talking to him about his leg the other day, and I said, better you than me. He was great. Anyway, we were having a great old time. And Harrison is special, very unique, and he can bring a lot to a scene with minimal effort. Very good.
This is for Mr. Gibson. I’m a huge fan of your work behind the camera and as an actor. Do you have any plans to direct anything in the future or tease what you have coming up?
GIBSON: Primarily, I think the most fun you can have standing up is directing a film, I think. And it’s my primary want, that’s my gift, I think, as a director. So I’m going to pursue that. I’ve got a few irons in the fire. It doesn’t pay to talk too much about it because industrialist espionage rife, say anything, somebody swipes the idea. That’s a good idea. We should do that. It ends up on TV or something. But that’s okay too. I’ll direct TV. It’s great. TV’s getting amazing. So I definitely have my sights set on that and will do, yes.
The cast is full of martial artists, boxers, and fighters. Do you ever get a chance to spar between takes and who wins?
ORTIZ: Oh, absolutely. It’s a funny story, right? So I do my research before I arrive in Bulgaria and see if I can find a boxing gym, you know. Ronda had found one. I found one. The one that we trained at was huge. When I walked in, I go, Ronda, you’ve got to see this gym. And the MMA mats, three boxing rings. It was huge. So now she and I make this a daily thing. And when I’m not there, she’s there. When she’s not there, I’m there. And her work ethic was just insane and mine as well. So one day, we decided to go, and she’s like, ‘Would you like to do some stand up with me?’ I said, ‘You know what? I would love to, but you take it down. That’s a different game. I can’t really defend myself down there. But bring it.’ So she goes, ‘all right.’ So when I fight I’m a south paw, lefty, so now I’m tricking her. I’m kind of getting her frustrated. And she says – she’s looking at me like she was not frustrated. I do this little step once. And she goes for it. I do it again. But on the second one, I don’t know what she did, I end up on my back in like a second. I don’t know she shifted the weight, but I’m on my back in like an arm bar thing. And I’m like, ‘Whoa, whoa. Stop, stop. Stop the arm bar, I need it!
ROUSEY: That wasn’t exactly how it happened. No, no, no. I said I wanted to do clinching drills. And so the whole idea was I, as a grappler always wanted to close distance, and him as a striker is always trying to maintain distance. So him being a south paw, I’m like, oh, this will be great. We should train this. And so he’s like trying to get away from me, and I’m trying to close distance and grab him. So that’s pretty much all we were doing for a while. And he’s like, you know what? I want you to throw me. He was like, I don’t think you could throw me if you wanted to.
ORTIZ: Boy, was I wrong.
ROUSEY: He didn’t trick me into anything.
ORTIZ: I thought I tricked her.
ROUSEY: No, no, no. I needed you to take a certain step in a certain direction. I had to convince him that that step was a good idea. So I misdirected him into thinking he was doing something smart. And I ended up on the ground. So he learned something that day.
ORTIZ: I didn’t learn anything because after that, I was like, nope.
ROUSEY: So I was training, and I was bringing in training partners. I had to fight around New Year’s. So I was rolling around. I was doing stuff with my training partners. We were doing some grappling. I’m already like on the ground. And Victor’s like, ‘Hey, hey. I know a move. I should show you a move.’ So then I’m like, ‘You’re going to show me a grappling move?’ I’m like okay. So he said, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. Stay right there.’ So I’m like, okay. So I’m laying, my head’s this way. He lays down next to me. His head’s the other way, and he looks at me and goes, ’69.’ Which was Victor’s tagline the entire movie. Whenever there was an uncomfortable moment, if he was ever nervous, I remember the first day, we were in the talk room with everybody. And it was really nerve‑wracking. We’re the new guys. And any time there was a moment of silence, Victor would just go, ’69?’
PATRICK HUGHES: I remember the first thing we shot with Rhonda, I actually got beaten up. And it’s scheduling, Stallone touched on earlier. That scene in the bar, we went back there ten times because we didn’t have all the actors together at once because that’s the scheduling nightmare. And unfortunately, Ronda’s first time ever on camera was the scene with Sly, at a bar, and she’s really super nervous. And obviously, I could tell as the director, I went up and spoke to her, and I said, ‘Well, what do you do before a big fight?’ And she says, ‘Well, I like to spar in my room. I get that nervous energy out.’ And I said, ‘Well, so you need to hit something? Let’s find something to hit.’ And she said, ‘But I want to hit you.’ I was like, ‘Put your arms up.’ And I’m thinking, Rhonda’s just going to do this. And I put my hands up, and she goes, wham! Next day, I was getting dressed, and my kids were there at the time. And my seven year old daughter said, ‘What’s that? And I had this huge black mark. I had a broken rib. And I said, ‘I got beaten up by an actress.’
ROUSEY: He didn’t have a broken rib. I didn’t hit anything hard.
HUGHES: I was like, action!
This would be for Wesley, Mel, Sly, Kelsey, and Harrison, but also Antonio, but who was completely new to the group that you didn’t really know before and didn’t have a relationship with? And anybody can answer that, and what was that like? Was it somebody that you had always admired and wanted to work with?
GRAMMER: Oh, I’ve always wanted to work with Sly. I didn’t know when it would happen, but I’d see him at some party or a mutual friend’s kid’s birthday party or something. And I’d think, well, gosh. I wish I could find a way I could find a way to work with this fella. And we have a good mutual friend named John Herzfeld. So we’re in the same movie together with John directed. But when I actually kind of went after this in a way. I called John and said, ‘You know, can you get in touch with Sly and say I’d like to be in that next Expendables?’ And something worked out. My agent became a bit of a pest, and when I flew into Bulgaria, I had to get out of Transformers for a week. But Michael Bay was great about that, and I flew in. And like he said, they just organized four days for that character of Bonaparte. And then I had the best time with them. And it was a revelation to me in terms of just how smart and how improvisatorial Sly can be as well. And generous with his time and generous with his acting. Except maybe might change the camera angle a little bit to make me look shorter. But I just had the best time with him. And what happened was, I discovered this real sense of fondness for the man, and I figured that had to be who they were. This Bonaparte character in relationship to what Sly was doing. That they had a history and a kindness and a love for one another and that was reflected in the scenes. And I just had the best time ever. And Wesley and I have known each other for years off and on, never worked together. Still haven’t. And I think he’s fantastic. So I was thrilled to be in this film with all these extraordinary actors, but mostly, I was just so happy to work with Sly. And to find out how fantastic he really is. And I’ve been impressed ever since. And I hope we do something again together.
STALLONE: Yeah, even if you were in the business, I remember the first time you came out. And I get in an elevator, and there’s Paul Newman, and you’re not prepared for it. You think you’re prepared for it, and it’s like, whoo. And I think I wonder if they feel the same way about us, and then I’m sure they do. Like in the first time I walked in the room and there was John Wayne. I’ll never forget this. And I’m going to rent the tuxedo, this baby blue – still have the picture of it – big stupid bow tie, and it was for the People’s Choice Awards. And I see this man, big guy, coming towards me. And he walks over and he goes, ‘Hello, my name is John Wayne. And I want to welcome you to the business.’ And I went, ‘God damn.’ But that gives you an idea of the class of the guy. Usually people stand in four corners, and everybody’s looking away. I hope he doesn’t talk to me. I don’t know what to say. Actors, as a rule, tend to be shy. They’re not demonstrative people. They really aren’t. The same with comics. And so I felt it was great working with these guys because I know what they’re going through. Kellan’s got a little more experience, but the rest of them are fairly new. And so you’re sensitive to that, and I could feel their enthusiasm and nervousness. And Ronda, I wanted Ronda from Jump Street. I knew she was going to be a star. I just knew it. She just has it, and her nervousness worked for her because she’s so good, you never knew she was nervous. But it gave her the kind of energy. Plus, these guys, these are all one of the kind. We’re not coming this way again. To find a guy like Terry and Randy Couture, world champions. If you seriously have a real bouillabaisse of talent here. And it’s great to be in the kitchen mixing it up.