Soon after “Rocky” made a star of Sylvester Stallone, the actor recalls standing backstage at the People’s Choice awards waiting to make his entrance, dressed in a wide-lapelled blue tuxedo, frilly shirt and big bow tie. (Hey, it was the ‘70s.) An older man walked into the greenroom. He was tall and broad-shouldered, by Stallone’s recollection. He came over to him, took his hand and shook it.
“Hello, my name is John Wayne, and I want to welcome you to the business,” Stallone recalls The Duke saying to him.
Stallone smiled and under his breath said to himself, “God ****!” Since then, the Oscar-winning actor and successful franchise generator (“Rocky,” “Rambo” and now the “The Expendables”) has always had a soft spot in his heart for welcoming up and coming actors to the business. With the third installation of “The Expendables,” Stallone, who co-wrote the story as well as stars in the action-packed drama alongside action icons Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham and Jet Li, the actor says he’s just warming up. He welcomes several new younger performers to round out the cast including MMA fighter Ronda Rousey, “Legend of Hercules” star Kellan Lutz, “The Great Debaters” actor Glen Powell and boxer Victor Ortiz.
The 68-year old-quick-witted and often humble actor recently spoke about returning to the successful franchise and bringing on board legendary screen icons Ford, Snipes and Gibson and his thoughts on gun violence.
Q: Did you write Mel’s dialogue and did he stay on script?
Stallone: I just wrote a guideline and then Mel came up with the idea. It had a reality to it. I think what gave it some heart was that he was actually saying something that had some truth. It was valid and he was committed to it. I don't believe he saw himself as the bad guy. Then you bring in the aspect of Cain and Abel, where two brothers also can become the worst enemies. Usually when you love something that much, you can also hate it even more because of that schism, that break-up. He just killed it. In the van, I had some dialogue back-and-forth with him and the more he did the scene, the more I realized I shouldn't speak. I just let him roll. He was convincing himself. He was convincing me. He was convincing the audience. He says, “What did you do today, Barney? Who'd you kill? What'd you blow-up? What makes you holier then thou?” So it was great.
Q: Is it true that Jackie Chan was invited to be a part of the movie?
Stallone: Absolutely. Jackie was on, but literally it became a scheduling problem. People are coming in for four or five days. It was critical timing. Everything stopped for them. Jackie is just so busy in his regular life, he has so many businesses and he's so loved over there in China, so in-demand that he literally couldn't cut those three or four days loose. We'll get him next time. Don't worry. He's a good friend.
Q: In an era of sensitivity to gun violence, does that change how you make a good old action film? What are the challenges of that?
Stallone: First of all, there's no blood (shown in the movie), and ours is so over the top that it isn't something that you would expect people to repeat, but I know exactly what you mean. It's a very sensitive thing that, unfortunately, we experienced on the second one. I really don't know the answer because it's part of the mythology, but it's also becoming part of a reality. I don't know what the answer is. We just try to make it so it looks as though it's a fantasy. It isn't real. Sometimes I think when you make a movie, some movies get so real, and then you can say, "Oh, I can do that." There are not a lot of people that can do what the Expendables do.