A Few Things You Might Not Know About The ‘Expendables’ Franchise

The Expendables 3‘s bullet-riddled opening weekend is upon us, and action movies may never be the same — at least until The Expendables 4 The Expendables 5 come out. (Yes, there will be an Expendables 5, I’m calling it now.) This version might not be quite as blood soaked as the first two with its PG-13 rating, but we were lucky to get an R for the sequel.

Sylvester Stallone’s first Expendables and its sequel were the most commercially successful movies he had done in years and of course revitalized our favorite action stars of the ’80s and ’90s, but making the movies wasn’t a cakewalk. The process of getting that many high-profile — and not so high-profile — stars to make time in their busy schedules for the same movie wasn’t an easy process, and it was plagued with injuries and scheduling conflicts. In anticipation of the Expendables’ third mission, here are 12 obscure facts about the making of the first two action blowouts.

1. Mickey Rourke took the role as a thank you to Sly. The ’90s were not kind to Mickey Rourke’s career — or his face. He was doing movies like Exit in Red, Another Nine & a Half Weeks and other titles that you’ve never heard of. He started to make a small comeback with parts in The Rainmaker and Buffalo ’66 and the 2000 crime thriller Get Carter, which Sly campaigned get Rourke a role in (and even offered to pay his salary himself).

Rourke was working on Iron Man 2 during most of the Expendables filming, but swung by the Expendables set for 48 hours to shoot his scenes.

2. Sly is a fan of the Chuck Norris joke. Sly loved the Chuck Norris facts of 2007 just as much as anybody, and wanted to find someway to incorporate one of them into the script for Expendables 2. It was Norris’ wife that suggested they use the one about the cobra. (“Chuck Norris was bitten by a cobra, and after five days of excruciating pain… the cobra died.”)

3. It wasn’t Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Willis’ first time working together. It was the first film the three action heroes had worked on together, but not their first time doing business as a unit. All three were financial backers in the Planet Hollywood restaurant chain in the ’90s.

4. Wesley Snipes couldn’t make it to the shoot because he was under arrest. Snipes was offered the Terry Crews part of Hale Ceaser, but couldn’t take the role because he wasn’t allowed to leave the country due to owing Uncle Sam tax money. The part then bounced from Forest Whitaker to 50 Cent — yup, 50 Cent was next in line after Oscar-winner Forrest Whitaker — but 50 had to concentrate on his music career and perfecting the formula for SK Energy Shots. The part was then given to Terry Crews.

5. Stallone and Schwarzenegger have the same voice in Germany. In the German adaptation of the films, the same voice actor provides the voice dubbing for Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s characters.

6. The first Expendables was Stallone’s biggest movie since Rocky IV. Stallone had some decent action movies in the 1990s, but nothing with him in a lead role had cleared the $100 million mark at the U.S. box office since 1985’s Rocky IV. His highest grossing movie over that 25 year time frame was 1993’s Cliffhanger, which pulled $83 million.

7. Dolph Lundgren’s character being a chemical engineering genius was true to life. In The Expendables 2 we find out that Gunnar Jensen is a chemical engineering hot shot, which plays on Lundgren’s real-life education. Lundgren earned a degree in chemistry from Washington State University in 1976, then a degree in chemical engineering from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, and finally a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Sydney in Sydney in 1982. Lundgren’s movie character turned down the science career to work as a bouncer, and in reality, Lundgren turned it down to work as a bodyguard for his girlfriend at the time, Grace Jones.

8. Steve Austin nearly had his leg blown off. Making the movie didn’t come without bumps, bruises, and limb-threatening stunts for the cast. Sylvester Stallone reportedly sustained 14 injuries, including a broken tooth and a cringe-worthy hairline neck fracture that resulted in the surgical requirement of a metal plate in his neck. Steve Austin didn’t have it much easier and nearly had his leg blown off when he was standing too close to a stunt explosion. The only thing that saved the leg is he was holding a heavy bag at his side that took most of the damage.

Injuries that require metal plates seem to be a trend for Sly, because he reportedly had a new metal plate put in his spine after taking a bad fall while making the most recent film. Antonio Banderas also had a sore knee, for which Sly called him out:

“Is that it?! He got a pain in the knee?! I wake up with that! I mean, usually I grade the quality of a film by the intensity of the injury. I do Rambo, The Expendables, I break my neck, I break my spine, I dislocate both shoulders, I go, ‘This is going to be a good movie!'”

9. The Expendables 2 made a contribution to Bulgaria’s railroad system. When you get the chance for free roadwork you take it, and that’s exactly what Bulgaria did when the Expendables came to visit. The crew needed to shoot a scene on a railway bridge over river Osam, so they built one. The bridge remains today as part of Bulgaria’s rail system. While in Bulgaria, Schwarzenegger also took the opportunity to meet with the prime minister and give him his sword from Conan.

10. The first film marked Schwarzenegger’s return to action movies. For much of the 2000s, Schwarzenegger was busy mucking up California as the governor and hadn’t appeared in a movie since 2004’s Around the World in 80 Days. When Sly came calling about bringing him on for the film, Schwarzenegger agreed to do the part for free if it meant shooting a machine gun again.

11. Tennis star Novak Djokovic was supposed to have a cameo in Expendables 2. There’s only so much room for cameos in the Expendables — only joking, there’s always room for one more cameo. Novak Djokovic had filmed a scene for free with him attacking terrorists in the airport using his tennis racket, but the scene was left out of the theatrical release.

12. Stallone looks at the films as a way of reviving old action stars. As you probably noticed, a substantial portion of the Expendables cast hit their career peak a good 20 years ago. Stallone has said that he looks at the films of giving these guys whose careers might have dipped another shot to do a blockbuster film.

“I like using people who had a moment and then maybe have fallen on some hard times and give them another shot. I like those kinds of guys. Someone did it for me and I like to see if I can do it for them.”