Director Scott Waugh embraced collaborating with his cast to bring these thrills to life. “The most fun on this franchise is working with actors who are themselves action icons,” he notes. “We really wanted to raise the bar by getting back to the roots of the original Expendables, while adding some new characters and even more wild scenarios. So, it’s a blend of getting back to the franchise’s roots while taking the action to the next level.” But as with all the films its The Expend4bles stunt teams that raise the bar.
While next-level, explosive action provides the thrills, Waugh maintains the heart and soul of The Expendables films are “what the team members will do for one another by risking their lives – and being expendable – for their brother or sister fighting alongside them.” Waugh also strove to make his bad guys – led by Iko Uwais and French-Cambodian actor/fight choreographer Daren Nop as Rahmat’s chief enforcer Bok – as memorable as his Expendables. “We had a great time bringing these bad guys to the party,” he says with a laugh. “We all know Iko from The Raid and Daren is one of the top fight guys in France. All the characters are legit stunt experts, which allowed me to capture the action without stunt doubles, which will propel audiences into the action and fighting.”
For Waugh and the producers much of The Expend4bles stunt teams credit goes to The Jackie Chan Stunt Team with helping create the nonstop action. The team is a group of stuntmen and martial artists who worked alongside Jackie Chan before branching out into other top action films. Founded in the 1970s, it initially included Hong Kong action stuntmen and martial artists, before expanding to include international talent. “Jason really wanted to raise the bar with the style of fighting in this movie, and we were blessed to have the Jackie Chan Stunt Team with us. They added so much creativity to the fights,”
Waugh points out. Producer Kevin King-Templeton also credits second unit action director Brian Smrz with “upping the ante of the action in different areas, including hand-to-hand combat in more of a Hong Kong style than we’ve seen in the previous Expendables films. “Scott and Brian choreographed the fight sequences, many of which were filmed in Greece, where we had a huge steel factory,” King-Templeton continues. “One sequence took over a month to design.” Producer Les Weldon similarly praises the work of Waugh and Smrz. “We wanted to preserve a lot of in-camera action, and Brian is a genius when it comes to physical action. Even though capturing the action in camera takes more time than to green screen it for CGI, it creates a much more visceral feel, which is what the Expendables films are all about.”
Yariv Lerner, another producer, confirms the action in EXPEND4BLES “is way above and beyond what we’ve seen before, and I’m excited for moviegoers to experience it on the big screen. Some early scenes, set at a Libyan military site, were captured at a massive steel factory in Greece and provide the scope and style you couldn’t dream of in dressing a set. The factory presses tin and had all this amazing machinery in place. We incorporated it into our story, and it worked wonderfully.” Another key location, also in Greece, was the interior of the Jantara, the massive aircraft carrier commanded by Rahmat. The production built that set, which encompassed a four-story bridge, seven cranes, nine scissor lifts, and 180 light panels.
Much of the action centers on eye-popping motorbike and car chases, with daredevil and The Expend4bles stunt teams included stunt motorbike legend Robbie Maddison, doubling for Statham, taking centre stage. The world record holder had previously stunt doubled for Daniel Craig in Skyfall, for Vin Diesel in xXx, and for Tom Hardy in Venom. For EXPEND4BLES, Maddison performs an incredible jump or, as he calls it, “a whip to invert the motorcycle so its machine guns point downward at the pursuing villain. “This stunt has been a dream of mine since I was a child,” Maddison continues. “I was able to live my dream on EXPEND4BLES.”
Another key player in the action is Eddie Hall, crowned as The World’s Strongest Man in 2017. While highlighting the film’s extraordinary action and visual palette, the filmmakers note that it’s all rooted in the characters and the evolution of The Expendables. Says executive producer Rob Van Norden, “The most exciting thing about this is watching Jason Statham’s Lee Christmas really come into his own. Sly was always the tip of the spear with this franchise, and there’s still so much of him in it, but we now finally see Jason take the wheel.” “It’s a natural progression,” agrees King-Templeton. “Sly has been an incredible custodian for this franchise, and for this he wanted to put Jason in the forefront.” Waugh adds, “Jason brings an intensity and vulnerability to the films, and that’s why he’s so likable. He has incredible charisma.” But for Statham and the rest of the cast, the film is, above all, “about the camaraderie and chemistry.”
Summing up, Waugh says, “EXPEND4BLES is a film to enjoy for its characters, thrills, heart, and laughs. That is the film’s triple-threat. Audiences will laugh and be at the edge of their seats but will also be rooting for these characters and their bonds.”