Sylvester Stallone, Randy Couture, Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham are walking through an abandoned building. The hallways are torn apart. Debris is everywhere. The building looks like it’s in the middle of a war zone. As the Expendables, clad in black clothing and carrying massive automatic weapons, take in their surroundings, they slowly make their way down a long hallway and carefully try to see what’s ahead. As they reach a closed door they stop. Stallone motions with his head to open the door and in an instant Couture kicks it open and they all rush in.
Last September, when director Patrick Hughes was filming The Expendables 3 in Sofia, Bulgaria, I was invited to visit the set with a few other reporters. As a fan of The Expendables movies and especially the cast, I was excited to see them in action, and what I saw and learned on set made me think the third installment is going to be the best of the bunch. Hit the jump for more.
As most of you know, The Expendables 3 has Sylvester Stallone’s Barney Ross and his Expendables crew squaring off against Ross’ old partner Conrad Stonebanks, played by Mel Gibson. Returning for the sequel are Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Couture, Terry Crews and Arnold Schwarzenegger, with Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Kelsey Grammer and Harrison Ford joining the cast along with Kellan Lutz, Glen Powell, Robert Davi, MMA star Ronda Rousey, and welterweight boxing champion Victor Ortiz
While some set visits are very revealing in terms of plot and story, that wasn’t the case on Expendables 3. We all know the film will be loaded with action and explosions, but the cast and filmmakers were careful not to reveal its secrets. However, I still walked away with a lot of information which I’m going to provide via a bullet point list.
35 Things to Know About The Expendables 3:
- The production shot from August 19, 2013 through the end of October. It was a 56 day shoot.
- The production has 1st and 2nd units filming all the time.
- Stallone revealed he was going to try and get Jack Nicholson to make an appearance, but “we just got there a little too late cause actually he had said he might be interested in it.” Can you imagine Nicholson in The Expendables 4?
- Stallone says the opening scene, “is the extraction of Wesley (Snipes) from the most heavily-fortified, armor-plated train via helicopter, and it’s real. So you’re going to see something that’s not CGI and is pretty extraordinary. So that’s just your opening, and we go from there to Somalia and it’s epic, it’s huge. That’s where Mel Gibson makes his entrance.”
- Dan Bradley is the second unit director. He directed second unit on the Bourne movies, Green Zone, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Spider-Man 2 and 3, and many other films.
- Gibson and Stallone have an epic fight scene towards the end of the movie.
- Harrison Ford plays a high level officer that supervises Bruce Willis’ character. They referred to his character as a “super spook,” and he flies a helicopter.
- Kelsey Grammer plays an agent that represents mercenaries.
- The film takes place in Mogadishu, Somalia and then in fictional third world countries.
- 200 people are working on the CGI in Bulgaria at a studio facility.
- The CGI team did 1400-1700 or so shots in The Expendables 2 but they’re expecting over 2000 VFX shots in the third film.
- Stallone is very particular about what the explosions and injuries should look like when done via VFX. He’s very exact about the blood and wounds.
- The film has a very long shot that involves a big battle scene with a long camera pan. From the pre-viz that we got to see, the sequence should be around 2 minutes without a cut.
- As you might imagine with a huge cast, not everyone worked the entire production. Jet Li worked only a few days. Terry Crews worked a week and he almost couldn’t do the film due to his TV series, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Schwarzenegger worked a little more than a week. On the first film Schwarzenegger worked half a day, and in the second he was on set for four days.
- Wesley Snipes character, Doc, is a knife guy and is at odds with Statham’s character, even though they’re on the same team.
- There is definitely a scene featuring Schwarzenegger and Ford. I’m not sure what happens in the scene, but this will be the first time the two of them will be on screen together.
- The soundstage the production was filming at was built in the 1950s. Avi Lerner and Nu Image bought the studio in 2006 and since that time has been used for films such as 300: Rise of an Empire, Hercules 3D, The Expendables 2, The Black Dahlia, and many more.
- All the fight scenes have been done with pre-viz so the actors can see how it will play out, and the team made sure to use each actors’ strengths to help craft each scene.
- Fight coordinator/stunt coordinator J.J. Perry says the action scenes in Expendables 3 are taking the first two films and “adding hot sauce and mixing them in a blender.”
- Perry said that when Wesley Snipes came in to see how his fight scene would play out, he added some moves and had a lot of ideas on how to tweak it.
- One of the stunt guys we spoke to says Expendables 3 has the most action he’s done for one movie, and he’s been involved in over 100 films.
- The film uses weapons like an A12 semi-automatic shotgun, an HK 416 (which was last seen in Zero Dark Thirty), and so many other weapons I couldn’t keep track of them.
- Antonio Banderas said he wanted to be in the film but wouldn’t play a villain. At first Stallone said he had to think about it, but he came back to him and said, “please read this and feel free to just tell me what you think about the character and if you wanna change things.” So Banderas read it, made some changes (including the character name), and Stallone accepted all of it. That’s when he signed on.
- Banderas plays a mercenary. He said, “He’s a guy who has been with a uniform in the Spanish army for a long time, in places of combat like Kosovo and Afghanistan and places like that. But something happened to him, that you will see in the movie, that takes him out of that. And so, he becomes a solitary man. Knowing the existence of the expendables, he’s trying to approach them, by any means, but he never got the possibility. In fact, when Stallone’s character breaks up with the rest of the group, there’s the possibility to actually approach him, but he’s rejected. But, he doesn’t stop there. He keeps going and going and going and going and going, until he’s finally in the group. He shows his skills and suddenly they say, ‘We’re gonna give you an opportunity.’ That’s the way that he gets into the group. He wins his way inside the group by the actions that he does in the movie.”
- Victor Ortiz said he’s recruited in the film by Stallone and Grammer. When they find him he’s in a military camp where he’s one of the elite military soldiers.
- Ortiz says his character is named Mars and he’s a weaponry specialist. He also said his character is between a nice guy and a bully.
- Kellan Lutz plays John Smilee, the leader of the younger Expendables. The reason for the nickname is his character never smiles.
- Lutz says at the beginning of the film, the younger guys are a bit cocky and no one really likes the older Expendables. I’m guessing that changes by the end.
- Lutz says he was part of an action scene where Schwarzenegger said his classic line “Get to the chopper.”
- One of his action scenes features Lutz’s character riding a motorcycle going over tanks and being shot at by very large weapons.
- Lutz said when Gibson showed up on set “His arms were the size of my head. I was like, ‘Holy crap.’ He looked big and I remember Sly came to set. He was like, ‘Man, now I gotta double days or two-a-days hitting the gym because I can’t have Mel be bigger than me.’ It was really good, they weren’t competitive and I know Sly was just, you know, there’s some humor there. Sly got big and Mel was big. Everyone just wanted to look top of their game.”
- Patrick Hughes was filming a lingerie commercial on Bombay beach when he found out Stallone wanted to meet with him about directing The Expendables 3. His first meeting was supposed to be thirty minutes and it ended up being two and a half hours.
- Hughes wants all the action scenes to be different. He said, “I was saying to Sly let’s make every single action set piece distinct and dynamic and its not just guys blazing guns the whole movie. That we really sort of mix it up and have a variety of landscapes and textures and aesthetics and really making it dynamic. There’s a lot of big action, there’s a lot of big action set pieces, and every single action set piece is completely different from the other.”
- Hughes told me a great story about how Stallone got Gibson to be in the film. He said, “It came together very quickly. I remember I was working with Sly. We were discussing who we could get to play the villain and I remember I was in his office he walked in one day and said, ‘Hey what do you think of Mel Gibson?’ I’m like dude, ‘Mel Gibson. Come on Mad Max vs. Rambo, bring it on.’ And he goes, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’ And then he just turns around, picks up his phone and just calls Mel straight up. I think obviously Sly’s had a huge enormous, phenomenal career and he’s able to do that. It was pretty crazy.”
- One of the things that made Hughes happy to shoot in Bulgaria was the variety of location. He said, “I’ve shot every country in the world five times over in the last fifteen years, and shooting in Bulgaria reminds me a lot of shooting in a place like New Zealand. When you shoot in a place like New Zealand, it’s why a lot of movies film there and why a lot of movies come to Bulgaria, is you’ve got a variety of locations that are really close together. One thing I really pursued on this film, I pushed from the start when sitting with Sly, I was like, ‘Let’s not just end up with a whole movie that’s green screens and studios and that sort of stuff. Let’s go out on location. We’re going to have a chopper attacking a train, lets just get a freaking chopper and buy a train and let’s do it for real.’ It’s really economical shooting here, because when you move locations you tend to lose a lot of time, sometimes you lose up to a half a day just moving location. So a place like Bulgaria, within fifteen minutes of the studio you’re at snow capped mountains, you’re in a city, you’re in the forest, you’re in a rural area, you’re in farmland, you’re in industrial zones, and you’ve got all these different textures and aesthetics and landscapes that are all within fifteen minutes. That was the one thing, I came out here, I was location scouting six months before we shot and looking for all those variety of locations. We’re were down on the coast, we shot down there for ten days to begin with and we used the Port Varna which we dressed as Mogadishu. Just the scale of the place, it’s just phenomenal.”
- The cast will be going to Cannes and Comic-Con to promote the film.
For more on The Expendables 3:
- Sylvester Stallone Talks Topping THE AVENGERS, the Cast, Using Actors’ “Baggage” as an Advantage, and More on the Set of THE EXPENDABLES 3
- Director Patrick Hughes Talks THE EXPENDABLES 3, How He Landed the Job, the Action Sequences, Putting the Cast Together, THE RAID Remake, and More
And look for more exclusive interviews with the cast in the coming days.