Writer, director, and star Sylvester Stallone has fueled The Expendables with testosterone-loaded heroes Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, and Eric Roberts—a dream list of silver screen tough guys of the past, present, and future. With UFC Hall of Famer Randy “The Natural” Couture and WWE Hall of Famer “Stone Cold” Steve Austin also in lead roles, Sly has captured lightening in a bottle for his team of mercenaries who travel to South America to overthrow a dictator.
Everyone on set, whether they were professional wrestling’s top dog like Austin or the former UFC Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight Champion like Couture, had something to offer. Rourke was a pro boxer. Statham, Lungren, and Li are traditional martial artists. And Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Willis are the toughest guys in blow-you-up history.
“The Expendables was a bunch of badass guys who came from badass backgrounds and credibility, mixing it up to make a badass movie,” says Austin, who pushed back a previous engagement to be part of the star-studded cast. “Everybody checked their egos at the door, and it was just a bunch of cool guys hanging out making a cool movie, which is gonna kick ass this summer.”
Austin declared it as an all-time favorite movie cast. When offered his role as villainous bodyguard Dan Paine, he accepted it on the spot. The opportunity to be part of an action dream team motivated the entire cast to work harder. Stallone led by example.
“It’s not surprising that Stallone has been so successful—he works harder than anyone,” says Austin. “Because Sly was burning the candle at both ends with everything he had to do, and he still made time to work out. It made me kick it into extra gear.”
Austin always saw Stallone in the gym and Couture always saw Austin in the gym and so on. Dedication to staying in shape and executing scenes properly is a tired albeit worthwhile balancing act.
“It’s movie making. It’s a grind. Long hours, long nights, long shoot—we shot for 11 weeks. It was pretty damn long,”says Couture. “But it was beneficial because you got to see how hard these other guys work. You get to sharpen your own tools.”
The experience was positive as Couture and Austin felt comfortable in their roles. “I have always enjoyed being the bad guy going back to my wrestling days,” says Austin. “I ended up being a very hated guy that people loved, but there’s just something about the bad guy, maybe there’s some more memories that you can take.”
Couture, who plays mercenary Toll Road, was interested by “some depth and diversity in his character” and “that’s what was fun.”
Most importantly, they know they’ve made a film worth the price of admission.
“If you’re into action films, this is the action film of all action films,” says Couture. “MMA fans, who tend to be the adrenaline junkies anyway, are gonna love this film.”
“This is a movie where you don’t see a bunch of wires,” says Austin. “When someone gets hit, they go flying 20 feet—they’re gonna get hurt. The violence and action are brutal and realistic, and those are the kind of movies I want to be part of.”
One question Austin never bothered to ask was who is tougher: Randy Couture or himself?
“Randy Couture is a badass pro fighter,”says Austin. “I actually fight with him in the movie, but at the end of the day, the guy I’d fight last on the set is Randy.”
Between Couture and Austin alone, there’s enough tough guy star power in this action movie for any fan. Factor in the rest of The Expendables and there’s no telling what kind of explosives will go off.
“This is the kind of movie that’s gonna pop up as one of the classic action films 10 years from now,” says Couture. “It’s gonna be a good one.”