Director Scott Waugh On The Return Of The Hard R ‘The Expend4bles’

The first Expendables movie was now, somehow, 13 years ago. Sylvester Stallone rounded up a bunch of his old action movie pals from the ’80s and ’90s (as well as contemporary action stars like Jason Statham) and put them all together and made a movie that grossed a quarter of a billion dollars.

By the third movie, though, a franchise that’s kind of a parody of action stars became a parody of itself as the movie seemed to care more about how big the cast was than entertainment. Not to mention the series decided to make the third installment PG-13 instead of R, kind of defeating the point of these in the first place. (Though, that third installment still make over $200 million.)

Now, Scott Waugh (Need for Speed, Hidden Strike) has a leaner and meaner Expendables team (featuring Stallone, Statham, Meagan Fox, 50 Cent, Dolph Lundgren) that is, again, very violent and back to being hard R. Ahead, Waugh explains why the Expendables needed to be an R rated movie and why it’s been his dream all these years to work with Sylvester Stallone.

But first, it should be noted that the Expendables do not play by the rules.

The Expendables do not play by the rules.

Nope. That’s true.

Where did you stand on this franchise before you directed a movie from it?

I enjoyed the candor and the tongue-in-cheek of the Expendables where they’re irreverent. They’re not afraid to make fun of themselves, and they’re great at still being badasses, doing really cool stuff.

Sylvester Stallone seemed to kind of want to hand off this franchise in this one. How did that work? Did you know from the beginning he wouldn’t be in the whole movie? Though he is in it for about 40 minutes, so it’s not a cameo.

Yeah, no, he’s in it for half of it. Look, I had already known that. They sent me the screenplay, so I already knew what his character did. I was kind of in the same vein as you were, which was I already knew he was in it for a lot of it still, but there was a storyline to it that really leans on Lee Christmas’s character – his revenge and redemption story. So I was just thrilled to work with Sly. He’s 77 years old now, so I wanted to check that box before it became an empty box. I was so excited to get that opportunity and just humbled that they would even ask me to come direct franchise. So it was a great opportunity.

I’m pretty obsessed with Sly. And he does have a tendency to take over movies from directors. So I’m guessing he had some opinions on set.

Well, he’s a prolific filmmaker.

Oh yes, he definitely is.

I think Sly and I have a great working relationship, so I understand and I’ve heard these stories. But it was definitely, luckily, different for me. He and I have a mutual respect that he knows I know he created the franchise and I’m going to lean on him, “Hey man, what do you think of this?” And he’s very candid about his opinions, but also I respect his opinion. So it was a collaboration that was fun. Sly and I have been trying to work together for a good five or six years, so this wasn’t the first time we’ve crossed our path.

Oh, what didn’t happen?

Well, he was supposed to do a Hidden Strike with Jackie Chan, the movie I did just came out earlier this year. His schedule had a conflict by the time we were able to get it up. So, unfortunately, he couldn’t come to do the film and we cast John Cena instead. And I just wanted that opportunity, man, to work with Sly. So I was thrilled when this came up.

The Expendables team is smaller this time than in the third one. In the third one, everyone in the world is in that movie.

When I signed on, I said I really wanted to do a throwback to the original Expendables. I really thought that was one of the best ones. I thought Simon West did a great job on 2. I just thought 3 was just a different departure with too many people. And it was PG13, it was softer. So I was excited they wanted to, like you say, contract the amount of characters. You can’t keep track of 30 people. It just kind of gets to the revolving door. And so, I go, I’d rather go a little bit less and focus on each member more. And I think that was the opportunity that we had with Expendables 4. It kind of pays homage back to the original.

When you signed on was it already rated R?

When they called me I said, “Are we going to continue with PG-13 or are you guys going to go back to hard R?” And they were like, “No, 100 percent we know we’re going back to R.” So they had already made the decision before I came on. “Oh yeah, we’re going back to the brand and going back to R and making it right.” So, they had made that decision before I even came on.

Dolph Lundgren’s character, Gunner, his storyline is he’s been sober, but he sucks now. He finally becomes good again once he takes a shot.

Have a drink, right? This is so against being politically correct right now, but it’s just so Dolph Lundgren’s character, Gunner. That character is just so irreverent anyway. And that was really, talking with Dolph, I mean, he had a major influence in that storyline.

Oh, what did he say? He is funny.

Very funny man. And I think he comes across great with that arc in his story. He’s like, “We’ve got to give his character a great arc.” And that was well paid off when he got his big moment.

Is there going to be a fifth movie? Is the plan for Jason Statham to take over as the leader?

Look, I think first and foremost, if the fans want another fifth one, the box office always tells us where the fan base is. So if it looks like there’s a desire for another one, I’m positive there’s a way we could figure it all out.

Who would you want to be on the team?

I mean, honestly, it depends on the story. I think we’ve combed through pretty much all of the ’80s action heroes now and they were the villains too, so like Mel and Jean-Claude, but they all died.

Van Damme played Vilain. I don’t know why I remember that.

So it would be looking at the next script and seeing what actors are out there now that are of the newer breed – or not really ’80s action stars, but ’80s actors, the brand. But, I don’t know. Like I said, I think the tagline, old blood meets new blood is really true and kind of putting all these heroes together. And I feel like if a fifth comes about, it would be awesome to be a part of.

I’m always wondering how Statham feels about these movies. He’s not in the generation of ’80s or ’90s action stars. He’s still kind of in his prime as an action star.

I don’t know. I know that he really loves Expendables. He really does. He enjoys the brand. He really feels like it’s part of his DNA. So he’s just a big quintessential element in it. He’s very funny. Jason’s hilarious. Jason’s sometimes more funny because he’s not trying to be funny, and that makes him hilarious.

Speaking of the rated R thing, I wasn’t really paying attention. I didn’t realize it was back to R until the first knife through the throat…

We’re there.

Also, there’s a plot point where I guy basically offends Stallone so that guy meets a gruesome end. He wasn’t really even a bad guy…

But that’s the beauty part of the brand, right?

He rubbed Sly the wrong way, so he dies in a fire.

Yeah, it’s fine.

‘‘The Expend4bles’ opens in theaters this weekend. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.