Word spread quickly on Friday that Sylvester Stallone was washing his hands of The Expendables series, declining to return for a planned fourth film in the series. For those who caught the latest installment of the film, this might not be a surprise. While featuring a massive cast and a box office take above $200 million against its $90 million budget but didn’t fare as well with fans or critics compared to the first two installments. Deadline reports that the main issue for Stallone seemed to be a slew of creative differences with Nu Image/ Millenium head Avi Lerner, including not being able to find “common ground on a new director, on the script and on certain qualitative elements”:
Sources said that Stallone — who set a high bar for himself reprising Rocky Balboa with Michael B Jordan and director Ryan Coogler in Creed — was concerned about potentially underwhelming results of another franchise with which he is indelibly linked. Stallone wrote the first script with Dave Callaham, co-wrote all the sequels, and directed the first film. But knowledgeable sources said that Expendables team leader Barney Ross has led his last mission.
Lerner acknowledged the differences he has had with Stallone, but wasn’t willing to concede a divorce just yet. “We’ve got disagreements with Sly, but we’ve had them for over a year and a half,” he told Deadline. “Right now, each one has an opinion. We agreed on 95% of things, but there are certain things in production we don’t agree on. I don’t think it’s over, but write whatever you want. In my opinion, it’s not dead.”
With that said, the entire story could just be a negotiating tactic. As Deadline points out, Lerner and Stallone have had plenty of spats in the past but have been able to hash it out “over a couple of cigars.” But if Stallone is really gone from the franchise and it moves forward with another film, will it still have that same success?
Part of the reason the series has been successful to this point is the nostalgia it carries along with it. Seeing so many action stars return to shoot nameless bad guys and make quips was fun to see, especially in the second film and its airport finale. But without Stallone, you’re losing that driving force behind the series and its connection to that nostalgia. Then again, as the series has proven, there’s no shortage of action heroes out there.
There are many routes for this series to continue without the man behind Rambo and Rocky Balboa. Two of them have been in the films already and could easily carry the entire thing themselves. The most obvious would be Arnold Schwarzenegger, nowfree from his role on The Celebrity Apprentice and his feud with Donald Trump, to come in and take over for Stallone. He’s reportedly already on board for the fourth movie and has established Trench Mauser as an equally valuable aspect of these films.
Now Schwarzenegger is pretty old at this point, though. Both he and Stallone are pushing 70 and the former governor likely isn’t pushing himself the same way his action co-star does. You can’t say the same for Jason Statham, who is also a major part of The Expendables and a lot younger. He’s proven that he can carry a franchise and he could bring in some fresh names to fill the Sly void — not as fresh as the young additions in the third film. While we’re at it, cross it over with The Fast And Furious films. Team versus team, explosions all around, pure action and excitement as Terry Crews takes on The Rock and Vin Diesel ends up becoming the leader of The Expendables.
The only other options are to end the series now and forego another installment or just give Kelsey Grammer the lead. He’s shown he can lead a squad of best friends into some sticky situations before, so why not give him the action role he’s been craving since X-Men: The Last Stand.