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To celebrate the release of THE EXPENDABLES, a few transcript highlights from the SDCC panel, moderated by Harry!!!

Hey, folks. Capone in Chicago here. This seems like as good a time as any to post this. One of the many people to make their first appearance at San Diego Comic-Con this year was Sylvester Stallone (others included Bruce Willis and Harrison Ford), who was on hand to talk about this weekend's release, the testosterone-infused action film THE EXPENDABLES. Our own Harry Knowles moderated the panel, which also included Stallone's fellow cast members Terry Crews, Steve Austin, Dolph Lundgren, and Randy Couture, with a brief appearance by Bruce Willis, who has just done a panel for RED earlier in the day. The panel revealed quite a bit to me about how quick and funny Stallone could be, and how he held an audience with some great stories about mishaps on the set that led to some semi-serious injuries. I also loved that when Harry finally introduced Stallone, the crowd reacted with chants of "Rocky! Rocky! Rocky!" None of the cast gave one-on-one interviews, so instead I thought I'd provide some of the transcript highlights from the panel, which was one of the most entertaining of the entire convention. The panel began with a couple of the actors explaining how they got the call from Stallone, whose comments I've put in red; everyone else gets blue.

Steve Austin: I was just hanging out in my place in Texas, and I'd been hearing some rumors. But it turned out that Sly has already cast all of the Expendables, but I got the call when I got back to L.A. I went down and met Sly, and he described the part Dan Paine to me, and obviously I'm the only villain here at this table. And being the villain, being the bad-ass is something I've always enjoyed my whole life from my past career in pro wrestling. Sly offered me the job, and I took it on the spot because I'm a pretty smart guy, and I had a lot of damn fun making this movie with these guys and kicking the crap out of them.
When Bruce Willis came out near the beginning of the panel, he sat down briefly to say a few words: Bruce Willis: I wanted to thank Sly publicly, in a very public forum, for included me in this great film. I've seen the film, and it's huge. It's great. Thank you so much for having the opportunity for the three of us [Stallone, Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger to be in that scene together. Sylvester Stallone: In all fairness, the idea for that scene was a dream come true. I know we probably won't have the chance to work together because we've all gone our separate way in our lives, and our careers have gone down different paths. And I wrote a scene for myself and the governor where he was trying to get his Humvee in a parking spot and I was trying to get my pick-up truck, and we get out and start punching each other in the face. But we had to do it quick, because he's the governor. So I tried to think of a quick scene for Bruce, and he was going to play this CIA operative. Then Bruce said, "Hey, stupid. Why don't you put us both in the same scene? That might work." And I went, "Wow, you ought to be a director." So he came up with this idea and made it happens, so thank you very much, Bruce. By the way, if Arnold shows up, don't let him in. I've had it with him. [laughs] He's too good.
Dolph Lundgren tells his story of getting the call from Stallone so many years after working with him 25 years earlier on ROCKY IV. Dolph Lundgren: We beat the crap out of each other 25 years ago, and we'd love to do it again. And Sly called me and gave me a great script and a great role, and that was it. I wanted to work with him again, and the rest of the guys just kept piling in one after the other, so we ended up with this great cast.
When asked what hurt more, ROCKY IV or THE EXPENDABLES, Lundgren admitted ROCKY IV was a more physically painful experience, to which Stallone added: SS: Oh my God, I wouldn't want to go through that again. I was in the hospital for four days. No thanks. DL: Jet Li clipped me twice in THE EXPENDABLES, with a few right hooks. SS: Yeah, he and Jet Lit really went at it. That was a dream-come-true match. Talk about David and Goliath, that was fantastic.
Randy Couture relays his story of getting the call. Randy Couture: My agent let me know this movie was coming together, and Sly called me in to come meet him and explained the script and the role, and how he saw it. I grew up watching ROCKY and RAMBO. The first RAMBO was shot in my home state of Washington. I was excited to even be considered. The cast was just amazing.
When Harry asked each cast member what was the one scene or stunt that actually made them fearful when they went in to shoot it, since so much of the film is fighting and explosions that is no faked. SS: Sometimes it's just the idea that you're constantly colliding body on body, and the production designer forgot to make rubber mats to cover the bricks. So when you see a man fall or being slammed onto bricks, it's bricks. And no matter what padding you put on it or how many years you've been doing it, the threat of a concussion is overwhelming. So your body takes a big toll. It isn't as though you have to man up; these guys are fearless. If you have to sit and run though fire--which they did--or just on gravel full speed and throw a razor blade while rolling while a building is falling down on you--which they did--there's nothing they won't do. It's just the constant bombardment every day--the heat, the injuries, the infection, the bronchitis, these are the thing the audience doesn't know about. The actors who are willing to suck it up, they're willing to. It's just all part of the job. And they try to look like they're fresh. You don't realize that fight took four weeks of pounding every day, back and forth to the hospital. So I think, the single most unusual stunt with Jason. When I was down in Brazil, I said, "Boy, I sure would like to use a big old air ship." And they said, "Well, we have one in the jungle. It hasn't been used in three or four years." And it was on crates, this 63-year-old plane covered in rust and bat and bird guano. And I said, "Can you clean it up, because I think it would be great for THE EXPENDABLES." So we put this thing together, and it was barely running. Anyway, Jason was willing to come out of a trap door in the front. And I said, "Would you be willing to stand on the nose of a plane going straight down at 200 mph on a plane that hasn't flown in years? And I can't insure you either. We have to do it behind the bond company's back." And he said, "When do I start?" All these things these guys are willing to do, like I said, like let a truck run over them one more time. [Steve Austin] broke my neck. He snapped it. It was my fault. So, Steve, thank you very much. I now have this little thing with three screws [points to his neck], so when people say, "Go get screwed." I say, "I already have. Three times." SA: In my defense, it was a very physical fight scene. One of the things I learned from working with Sly was intensity. We fought for two days, and it was always about intensity and bringing the level up. And he wanted it to look real. And when the writer/lead actor/director tells you to kick the shit out of him, you kick the shit out of him. And Sly is a veteran filmmaker and an icon, and if he told me to do the same thing tomorrow, I would. SS: It was just stupid. It's the same thing I said to Dolph, "Punch me as hard as you can in the chest." And he did, and next thing I know, I'm in intensive care at St. John's Hospital. It's just stupid. Every time I do a film that I don't get injured in, it really stinks. "Oh, RHINESTONE was fun." I didn't get hurt on STOP! OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT. So I say, "Hurt me, if that's what it takes. Cut off my head and use it for a bowling ball. I don't care."
Harry asked Stallone about whether he considered making the film in 3D or using more CGI. SS: You know, I really thought about it. I thought it would be great to do a real live physical action film in 3D, but the more I thought about it, and the constrictions and restrictions of the way you have to film, I kind of thought it smacked of desperation. I love 3D, but with us doing it, I thought, "Why not just do it old school in a classical way?" I was tempted.
Harry asked Randy Couture about what he was able to bring to this film with his style of fighting. RC: I think the set guys, and Sly especially, wanted everything to be as realistic as possible, and I think that meant putting my hands on somebody and actually picking them up and dropping them on their head. It's kind of what I do, and it seemed like the higher I picked them up and the harder I slammed them down on the ground, the happier they were. They got up smiling. We just kept doing that.
Harry asked about the feature-length documentary that was made about the making of THE EXPENDABLES. SS: I thought if we made a documentary…I mean, people always asked what is it like to direct a movie and be in it. It's pretty unusual, especially in an action film, and I wanted to do it for this film because I don't know how many films I have left in me. This is a documentary shot in a very crude fashion, it isn't manicured, and we would catch what it was like to make an action film and all the craziness and injuries that go along with it, one thing after another. What kept going on are the constant visits to the hospital, so you know all the doctors and nurses by name. "Hey, good to see you again Marge. Hey, Linda." It was ongoing joke that there was this constant caravan to the hospital. And in the documentary, we show how the whole creative process goes down. I don't know if there were any crazy things, other than Randy cackling every time he broke somebody in half. He enjoyed this tremendously. Every stuntman was so afraid of him after a while. "Don't touch me. Leave me alone." That's why we shot in Brazil because you can hurt people, kill people, blow the country up, and they say, "Thank you, take a monkey home." One time we were shooting a scene where Steve pulls up with all of these MMA fighters that are playing Brazilian soldiers. They had 70 body guards to just keep the people back, because the area was so dangerous. On the way to the set, you would see carjackings, robberies, it was a rough joint. Half the crew that worked for us moonlight as heavy-duty cops. On their t-shirts, they had a skull and crossbones with a bleeding dagger; that's their insignia. Imagine an L.A. cop with that insignia. But that's what they did; it was hard, hard core. Brazil is a fascinating place, a country of true extremes, but we couldn't have pulled off what we did--to literally just blow up huge amounts of real estate--anywhere else. It was great. "Everyone bring their hot dogs. We're going to barbeque this entire village." Actually, some of the muzzles blasts, we were using full loads and stuff that isn't even allowed--some of it--in this country, that fires as much as 20-25 feet. Muzzles blasts from those guns will kill you, will absolutely tear you in half. I actually worked with an actor, Rutger Hauer, who got blasted with one, and it literally tore a hole in him half the size of my fist. So that's stuff is dangerous.
Audience questions followed, including one about whether there were any arm-wrestling matches between Stallone and any of the other actors during the shoot. SS: Let's put it this way. I beat my hairdresser, my make-up artist, and my three-year-old. Let me tell you the truth, I hate that sport because I'm so bad at it. Jesus Christ, that's a sport where you are going to get your hand smashed in the table. After that movie [OVER THE TOP], I sort of retired, but maybe today...[he turns to Steve Austin with arm ready, and the crowd goes nuts, but then he pulls back]. Joke, it's a joke. Humor. He broke my neck.
Stallone was asked about other potential actors that he may have pursued for THE EXPENDABLES. SS: I talked to Van Damme, I talked to Seagal, I talked to Chuck Norris. There are availability issues and other extenuating circumstances--like insanity [crowd erupts into laughter]--that prevents these things from happening. I reached out; I tried.
Harry asked Stallone about whether it's hit him that he actually pulled the movie off. SS: No. Truthfully, you know how they say ignorance is bliss? I just wanted to get this movie made, and I just reached out. I never had a massive plan or went back and though this is going to be incredible, everyone is going to be so overwhelmed. It just happened. Now, if I had known it was going to be this difficult, I probably would have been a lot more intimidated by it. But it all came together. It's just like with ROCKY, I thought I was making a b-film for the second billing at drive-in movies, which were very big back then. I had no intention that it was ever going to be what it was, at all. I thought it would great to get some footage of myself, and it just turned into what it was. Same way with this. I just said, "I want to make a good action film." I had no idea that this cast would be such that people would say, "How did you ever do it?" Truth is, I don't know. I just reached out, and it happened.
Stallone was asked by an audience member about filmmakers and films that influenced him growing up. SS: I was always impressed my mythic action stories, where the hero would rise up at great peril and perhaps save people. It actually played into my real life. I actually was very geekish growing up--I used to wear a Superman costume under my clothes. So I guess that makes me one of you guys! The influence on me as a director would be kind of sword and sorcery-type films. I loved THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS. I was more interested in Steve Reeves and heroism. It tapped into my insecurities growing up. That's who I wanted to be.
When asked if an injured actor on a movie set has ever led to a form of payback, Stallone replied: SS: It depends. I've worked with actors that when that happened, and I can't wait until they go to Take 2, so I can put my foot right through your friggin' chest. I've had that. I had that on DEMOLITION MAN, believe me. And DEATH RACE 2000, with David Carradine. Every day, he had to smash me in the face. But I couldn't do anything because he was the star, but when it was my turn…[laughs]. I know that Steve and I in the first scene, we cracked our heads together. The scene is one-second old, and we've got a stitch here, he's bleeding. That's it. I think if you like the other actor, no problem; if you dislike him, they're going to pay.
At the end of the presentation, Harry surprised Stallone with a special guest: Craig Glenday, the editor in chief of the "Guinness Book of World Records," who presented Stallone with a plaque to officially recognize the ROCKY films as the most successful sports franchise in cinema history (more than $2 billion at the box office). For obvious reasons, Lundgren also was given a copy of the plaque.

When asked to comment on the success and impact of the ROCKY films, Stallone said: SS: Please don't think I'm just saying this, but I am in total, constant awe. I'll wake up in the morning, the fog is still outside, and I cannot believe this house, my life, my children, everything I have I owe to this humble character. I don't know where it came from; it just came up one day. I was just writing about my insecurities, and I put them in the body of a boxer. I never knew. I was so depressed, my career was going down. And I said, "If I could just do one more thing, and end the ROCKY series with dignity." ROCKY V, I blew it--big mistake. I take all blame for it. But I said, if I could just do that one thing. And it took seven years, and it was really tough to make a sequel to a failed film 18 years later playing a 60-year-old fighter. Talk about a tough sell, that's a tough sell. But it wasn't about playing it; it was about gracefully going on to the last portion of your life. When that worked, I was ready to retire. I was done. I didn't have anything more to prove. And then I thought, maybe I should close out RAMBO, and that worked. And I got greedy again, and here I am! I don't want to quit.
It was a fantastic panel for a film that delivers on every action-oriented promise it makes. THE EXPENDABLES is in theaters now.
-- Capone Follow Me On Twitter

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