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Next week, the biggest action stars of the past 30 years join together for an explosion-filled, knock-’em-down extravaganza in the feature film “The Expendables.” However, fans at Comic-Con International got to see actors assemble first for the July 22 Lionsgate presentation.
The panel featured writer, director and star Sylvester Stallone and cast members Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin, Randy Couture and Terry Crews. When Crews walked out, he immediately unbuttoned his shirt and stood on the table, to thunderous applause. As Stallone took the stage, the audience burst into a chant of “Rocky.” Stallone did a quick one-two jab before sitting down.
The panel started off with a viewing of an extended trailer, which received loud applause and cheers from the crowd. Harry Knowles of Ain’t It Cool News acted as moderator, and jokingly said he represented estrogen on the panel because the cast members contain all the testosterone.
The cast started off by talking about their response to Stallone asking them to be in the film. “He had me at ‘Hello,'” Crews said. “I go in there, it’s a dark room and I hear, ‘Sit down. Do you want to be in this movie?'” The actor jokingly did an impression of Stallone.
“I got the call when I got back to LA,” said Austin, who was in Texas when he first learned about “The Expendables,” but had also heard that the film had been cast. “He described the part to me, and I’m the only villain at the table. Being a villain is something I’ve enjoyed in my career. I had a lot of fun making this movie with these guys and kicking the crap out of them.”
Bruce Willis then walked onto the stage and took a seat, much to the surprise of the audience and the cast. “Nice to see you all again,” he said. “I just came out to say hi and thank Sly publicly for including me in this film.”
Stallone and Willis talked about finally getting to work together. “I knew we’re never going to get a chance to work together again,” Stallone said in reference to Willis and Schwarzenegger. He said he originally wrote two separate scenes, one with Schwarzenegger and one with Willis. “Bruce said, ‘Hey, stupid, why don’t you put us both in the same scene?’ He came up with the idea and made it work.” Willis exited the stage afterward.
“We beat the crap out of each other 25 years ago and I would have loved to do it again,” said Lundgren, who appeared opposite Stallone in 1985’s “Rocky IV.” “I was in. Suddenly I’m in this great cast and really pleased to be a part of this.”
The actor mentioned a few injuries he received on set from Jet Li. Stallone expressed his love for the fight between the two in the film.
“Talk about David and Goliath,” he said. “That was fantastic.”
On the subject of injuries, Stallone mentioned one of his own. “He broke my neck,” Stallone said, point to Austin. “It was my fault. I now have these three screws in my neck. So now when people tell me to go screw myself, I say that I already did. Three times.”
“When a director tells me to kick the shit out of him, I kick the shit out of him,” Austin said.
Stallone also mentioned a time during “Rocky IV” when Lundgren injured him, but again said it was his own fault. “I told him to punch me as hard as he can in the chest, and next thing I know I’m in Saint John’s Hospital for four days.”
Stallone said he considered filming the movie with lots of CG and in 3D, but then decided against it. “Why not just do it old school and in a classical way?” he said.
They then showed an exclusive clip known as the “Tunnel fight scene.” It featured Stallone fighting Austin, while Li, Statham and Crews shot and stabbed, with lots of blood and violence, a number of soldiers. Broken arms and legs were featured, along with Li stabbing someone in the chest. Crews gunned down an entire hallway of soldiers. The action and violence level led to tons of cheers and applause from the audience.
Stallone talked about making a behind-the-scenes documentary. “It was shot in a very crude fashion, in the way I wanted it to be,” he said. “What kept going on was the constant visit to the hospitals. It’s like, ‘Nice to see you again, Marge.’ It’s a constant caravan to the hospital.”
Questions then opened to the audience. A fan asked if there is an Ivan Drago-Rocky rematch in the movie, referencing Stallone and Lundgren’s firght from “Rocky IV.” “Well, there’s a confrontation because Sly plays my boss and my character is a bit edgy,” Lundgren said. “He’s seen too many battles. A little bloodthirsty.”
“I had to chill him out …forcefully,” Stallone added.
Another fan asked if there was any arm wrestling going on behind the scenes. “Well, let me put it this way: I beat my hair dresser and my make-up man,” Stallone joked. “Let me tell you the truth, I hate that sport because I’m so bad at it.” Stallone then went to arm wrestle Austin, but then stopped. “I’m kidding, Steve. It’s a joke. Humor,” he laughed.
Another audience member asked if there was anyone Stallone wanted to include the film but was unable to get. “I explored people,” he replied. “I talked to Van Damme. I talked to Seagal. I talked to Chuck Norris. There’s availabilities and extenuating circumstances, like insanity, but I tried. I tried.”
A fan wearing a shirt that read “DOLF” asked Lundgren about making friends with the other actors. “Nice shirt, by the way,” Lundgren laughed before answering the question.
Later a fan asked Stallone what his influences were while growing up. “I was always impressed with mythic action films where the underdog rises up,” he said. “I actually was very geekish. I actually went to school with a Superman uniform under my clothes. I guess that makes me one of you guys.”
Craig Glenday, editor of “Guinness World Records,” came on-stage to present a special award to Stallone. He said that with so much talent on the stage that “It’s a perfect opportunity to acknowledge one of the greatest filmmakers.” He told Stallone that “‘Rocky’ is the most successful sports franchise in history” and he presented both Stallone and Lundgren with awards for the achievement.