At the end of the second day of Hall H panels, I'd say the panel Lionsgate threw for "The Expendables" was by far the greatest concentration of testosterone to hit the stage so far, even if Harry Knowles was moderating.
"I'm going to represent estrogen up here today," the Ain't Cool News poobah said before he started introducing the panel participants. Harry's been friendly with Sylvester Stallone for several years now, and from the conversations about that unlikely friendship that I've had with Harry, it's obvious that he still considers it one of the strangest and most thrilling byproducts of running the site in the entire 14 year history of it. His excitement at getting to moderate the panel was palpable, and he was giddy as he brought the cast out one at a time.
Terry Crews ripped his shirt off and threw a spontaneous gun show for the crowd. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Dolph Lundgren. Randy Couture, whose forearms terrified Harry on the set. And, of course, Stallone himself. I wore my "Rocky" t-shirt all day yesterday out of respect for Stallone making an appearance at the Con this year, and I have to say, I think he absolutely crushed it, giving a great hard-sell for the ensemble action adventure.
Harry asked the assembled cast what it was like to get the call from Stallone to be in this film, a call that other actors like Steven Seagal and Chuck Norris were able to refuse. Crews was effusive in his praise for Stallone and referred to "The Expendables" as "the manliest movie ever made." Austin talked about playing the film's villain and how much fun it was to kick the crap out of the guys.
Bruce Willis interrupted the proceedings just long enough to run out onstage and thank Stallone for putting him in the film and letting him have so much fun. Willis said he's seen the movie and just kept shaking his head and calling it "huge" before he left. Stallone talked about how he originally wrote two different cameo scenes for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Willis, and that it was Willis who suggested putting them in the same scene together.
The panel was loose, funny, and engaging, and the chemistry and charisma of the cast was on plain display. Dolph Lundgren talked about getting hurt by Jet Li during their "David and Goliath fight," as Stallone described it. Stallone talked about a crazy stunt sequence Jason Statham did "behind the bond company's back" in which he had to stand up out of the cockpit of a giant airship making a low run over Brazil, and also described fro the audience what happened when Austin managed to break Stallone's neck during one of the film's fight scenes.
Knowles seemed incredulous. "Wait... he broke your neck?" It was obvious from the way Stallone's head, neck, and shoulders all moved as one that there was something wrong. He explained that he has 3 screws in his neck now.
Austin tried to explain, saying it was a two-day fight scene, and his one direction from Stallone was "Make it look real." As Austin pointed out, when the writer/director/star of your film tells you to kick the shit out of him... you do it.
Stallone knows that the possibility of injury is always a reality on these sets, and he pointed out that the films he doesn't get hurt on are rarely good. "I didn't get hurt on 'Rhinestone.' And I made it through 'Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot' injury free. So, you know... hurt me."
Crews called the entire experience "better than four years of film school," and then Stallone set up the first clip of the panel, which he called "the tunnel fight" scene.
And, sure enough, that's exactly what it is. It's just fast, brutal, badass fighting as the team is trying to sneak into someplace through a subterranean tunnel. The Austin/Stallone fight is the heart of the sequence, and it's just two big guys kicking the holy crap out of each other in spectacular fashion. Terry Crews makes a strong impression in the scene with his gigantic super-gun as well, and overall, the crowd seemed to flip for the footage.
Couture's fans repeatedly offered up support for the UFC champion about his upcoming fight during the audience Q&A, and Couture talked about having to train for a fight while he was shooting the film. Stallone explained that he allowed a nuts-and-bolts documentary to be made about the film because he wants to capture the way action movies were made in this particular era, and he laughed about how the local doctors and nurses at the hospital closest to the film's sets become co-stars in the documentary just by sheer virtue of how many times the cast had to go get checked out for this or that small and/or large injury.
He also talked about shooting in Brazil, which he chose for the specific scenery and because it's still a country where you can be allowed to blow up giant tracts of real estate. They had as many as 70 bodyguards on-set at a time out of fear of the country's terrifying kidnapping industry.
The audience Q&A was largely just a chance for people to tell each of the various panelists how much they love them, and the cast appeared to enjoy the interaction greatly. After that, the editor of the Guinness Book Of World Records came out to present Stallone and Lundgren with certificates that confirm "Rocky" as the most successful sports franchise of all time.
Finally, we saw one last clip featuring Statham doing that uninsurable stunt of hanging out of the top of a real airship, firing machine guns during a strafing run, and there's an awesome punchline to the scene that sent the crowd out of Hall H happy.
"The Expendables" looks like ridiculous action movie fun, and I can't wait for it to open August 13 in theaters everywhere.
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