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Expend4bles Rights a Wrong – An Interview with Kevin King-Templeton and Les Weldon

In Expend4bles, a new generation joins the world’s top action stars for an adrenaline-fueled adventure. Jason Statham and Sylvester Stallone are back, leading the irreverent and indestructible team of elite mercenaries who laugh in the face of death. They are again joined by Dolph Lundgren and Randy Couture. Armed with every weapon they can get their hands on and the skills to use them, The Expendables are the world’s last line of defense and the team that gets called when all other options are off the table.

Because the Expendables simply refuse to die … until they’re dead.

The Expendables’ new mission finds them once again aboard their iconic turboprop plane, the Antanov, headed to a secret base adjacent to Libya’s nuclear weapon program. They’re on the hunt for a pitiless arms dealer, Rahmat, and his private army, which has stolen detonators to a nuclear device that could start World War III. When Christmas goes off mission to help a comrade, Rahmat makes a narrow escape, taking the detonators with him. It’s a rare but total mission failure for The Expendables. As the team regroups, they set off on their most fateful journey to stop Rahmat and uncover the high-level operative he’s serving.

Expend4bles is helmed by Scott Waugh, a former top stunt coordinator whose directorial credits include the hit action film Need for Speed. The film was produced by Kevin King-Templeton and Les Weldon, who have produced all four films in the Expendables franchise, as well as Yariv Lerner, and Jason Statham.

Megan Fox as Gina, Andy Garcia as Marsh and Jacob Scipio as Galan in Expend4bles. Photo Credit: Yana Blajeva

In celebration of Expend4bles R-Rated return, The Koalition spoke to producers Kevin King-Templeton and Les Weldon to learn more about the franchise, learning from the mistakes of making Expendables 3 PG, what fans can expect with the fourth installment and more.

“We didn’t like how [The Expendables 3] ended, so we wanted to re-energize it. It wasn’t as well received as we had hoped and obviously [that’s] because of the PG-13 [rating]. We obviously made a little miscalculation there. We wanted to right that wrong and give the fans what they wanted. I think the fans spoke and they wanted a harder action-adventure escapism-type entertainment movie. [Expend4bles] is more about getting back to the roots of Expendables, especially the first and the second one. We’re all about coming at the audience like a freight train, but yet, within all of that, keep the humor, keep the characters in there, keep the banter alive and make all of the characters that have been added organic to the story. [We] don’t just bring in a well-known actor who’s going to sit there like a bump on a log but actually make it story driven. The actors who come in and the actors who have been cast can add an additional dimension to the story. [We wanted to] go back to the early days of the first and second [movies] that were really character driven. We really strive to do that on this one. What I love with all of the characters [and] the actors [is] they fit perfectly within that character.”

“The important thing is to get the Expend4bles script right first. You have to have the story. You can have the actor fit the script [but] you have to have the script and once we have all agreed on the script, on the final draft, that’s when we went to cast. We thought long and hard about the cash but pretty much we got whoever we went after. We wanted people who [are] not so much my key names but serious actors. Andy Garcia is a serious actor. You wouldn’t necessarily see Andy in one of these action-adventure escapism extravaganzas, but he brings a lot of weight to this part, he brings a lot of gravitas. Megan [Fox] [is] a love interest who is strong. She couldn’t be a shrinking violet; she couldn’t be the girlfriend in the kitchen at home. Those days are over, we need someone that was strong [and] everyone thought of Megan and rightly so. She’s ‘the sexy’ character, but there’s also a level of toughness to her that kind we hope transcends on the screen.”

Christmas met his match with Gina, a fellow mercenary with whom he’s experiencing a tumultuous – and very loud – breakup. They end their relationship because they’re just too competitive with one another. So, it’s no surprise that Fox was ready for the challenges presented by a testosterone-fueled franchise. Gina is clever and also…reckless. Even after their wild break-up, there’s still something there. Christmas wants to connect with her, but he doesn’t have the capacity for that. They have this cat-and-mouse relationship. That competitiveness peaks when Christmas is sidelined and Gina returns to her mercenary life, as the new leader of The Expendables. You haven’t seen a character like Gina in the previous films. She brings something new and fresh to the franchise, including some humor and attitude. Gina is not overly serious; she’s sarcastic and loves hassling the boys.

“The chemistry between Megan and Jason [Statham] was pretty powerful, same with 50 Cent. 50 came in and stepped up as being one of the core Expendables. He’s got a lot of star wattage, a lot of star power, a lot of gravitas. He brings a powerful persona to the group. The new cast members get elevated and refreshed. [We stuck to] the core of what we had and just made this movie a little different from the last one, which is what we tried and do with each one of these.”

Expend4bles is above and beyond what’s been seen before and must be experienced 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 not seen before. Real sets are incorporated into the story to give the location more of an authentic feel.

The producers credit The Jackie Chan Stunt Team with helping create the non-stop 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. They really wanted to raise the bar with the style of fighting in this movie the Jackie Chan Stunt Team added so much creativity to the fights.

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.”

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.”

Another key location in Expend4bles, 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 stunt motorbike legend Robbie Maddison, doubling for Statham, taking center 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.

The core team is buttressed by some new blood with equally unique styles and tactics – but with the same Expendables-style attitude – as Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Megan Fox, Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Jacob Scipio, Levy Tran, and Andy Garcia come aboard the global franchise. They are a tight-knit team who run missions for various and ultra-secretive agencies. The leader of the pack, Barney (Stallone), has been with The Expendables since its inception. As Barney heads into battle, you’ll never find him without his lucky skeleton ring. As he describes the elite force he commands: “We are the shadows and the smoke. We are the ghosts that hide in the night.”

Barney’s number two – until he passes the torch in this new installment – is Lee Christmas (Statham), a hot-headed, knife-wielding merc who’s always by Barney’s side. Christmas is rough around the edges, but The Expendables are always there to support him. If you double-cross Christmas, you’ll probably end up with a knife between your eyes.
Gunner Jensen (Lundgren), a hulking giant, is, like all The Expendables, dedicated to the team’s success. A former chemical engineer, Gunner combines brains – when he chooses to use them – and brawn. He’s truly an agent of chaos.

Barney and Christmas are closer than brothers and Expend4bles remind audiences how close they are, in the film’s opening scenes. But as The Expendables come together for their new mission, Barney is still very much in charge, greeting his longtime team members, welcoming the newcomers, and setting the table for the daunting and life-changing challenges to come. It all seems like business as usual for Barney and the team, but as the mission unfolds, and Barney remains in the pilot’s seat of their plane while his men battle the enemy on the ground, everything is about to change.

The fourth founding member of The Expendables is Toll Road (Couture), a skilled demolitions expert who’s also proficient in grappling. Due to the latter, Toll Road sports a prominent “cauliflower ear,” which his teammates, including the new crop, enjoy making fun of.

Newly “Expendable” are Marsh (Garcia), a suit-and-tie CIA bigwig who assigns the team to its most dangerous mission; Easy Day (50 Cent), a former Marine who had once worked closely with Barney; Gina (Fox), a hired gun and Christmas’s hot-tempered ex; and the hot-blooded, fast-talking Galan (Scipio), who’s the son of a former Expendable stalwart. Also starring in Expend4bles are two contemporary martial arts movie legends: Tony Jaa as Decha, a Buddhist monk and former teammate of Barney; and Iko Uwais, as Rahmat, a former special forces operative and now a deadly arms dealer.

Despite the explosions and action sequences, “At the end of the day the movie is about humanity and your relationship to other people. What happens in the film [is key to] how they have to unite together. Even though they’re mercenaries, they’re mercenaries that you love [and] they do the right thing. They’re not out there just doing bad things as mercenaries. Whatever they’re doing has some kind of moral code to it and that’s why I think the audience can root for The Expendables. They’re really a ragtag group that you can associate with and get behind.”

To learn more about Expend4bles, check out our full interview in the video below.

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