Dolph Lundgren, Sylvester Stallone, and Chuck Norris walk into a Bulgarian bar … and leave early so they’re fresh for work the next morning. Not a single person kicked in the throat? No spray from a belt-fed M-60? No panties thrown? That doesn’t sound right, does it?
Only if you believe Randy Couture. The UFC Hall of Famer attended said bar—actually an old Byzantine bathhouse converted into a club—for a The Expendables 2 party, and here’s how he described its lack of debauchery: “It wasn’t like we could get too crazy, we had to get up before dawn.”
This happens, apparently, when the mean age of your starring cast is 52 years old. Those guys need their sleep. Filming for 14 weeks is tough on most action stars—regardless of their age—but for 49-year-old Randy Couture, it was a piece of cake.
“The physical part of it is fun and always makes me smile,” Couture says.
Now officially 15 months into retirement, Couture is just getting started as an action hero. “The Natural” reprises his role of “Toll Road” in The Expendables 2, which debuts worldwide on August 17. The bigger-budget sequel adds Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme to an already crowded field of 1980s idols. The summer flick is the original The Expendables on an aggressive regimen of testosterone replacement therapy.
“There’s way more action, if that’s even possible,” Couture says. “It’s a pretty good plot, pretty good story, and there’s a ton of what fans want to see, which is their favorite action heroes getting after it.”
To be fair, Couture says that the all-star cast held up a lot better this time around. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who doesn’t return in the sequel, battered Stallone in the original. This time around, Sly only hurt his shoulder when jumping out of a truck. The rest of the crew wasn’t so fortunate. A pyrotechnic explosion gone awry killed one stuntman and seriously injured another midway through filming. It was later ruled an accident, and Stallone had to rally a shaken cast.
“That flipped the tone for everybody, and it became pretty real at that point,” Couture says. “It was a sobering experience.”
Despite the on-air time of his former job in the Octagon, Couture says he’s still “weirded out” by seeing himself on camera, although he’s comfortable with his cauliflower ear blown up to the size of a house onscreen.
“It’s more about pulling off the performance,” Couture says. “I think we got to develop all the characters a little bit more this time. I get to expand and show a little more of Toll’s character and sense of humor, the kind of guy he is, and I think people will dig that.”
Of course, the former UFC champ doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as just an action star. But if his post-fighting life means flying through the air on a zip line with Dolph Lundgren, his feelings wouldn’t be too hurt. It beats getting punched in the face and choked out by professional mixed martial artists.