They’re just as big and buff in person as one would expect them to be after seeing them both as professional athletes and as heavyweights on the big screen, but former NFL player Terry Crews and recently retired former UFC champion Randy Couture – who team up once again as part of an elite squad of asskickers in The Expendables 2 this weekend – are surprisingly witty, humble, and in the case of Crews, just as funny as one would think he would be from his famed Old Spice commercials and his almost iconic role as President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho in Mike Judge’s cult favourite Idiocracy (a character he’s currently in talks to reprise).
Despite working a full day (and indeed a full month) of publicity tour stops talking about the latest action opus from the mind of Sylvester Stallone where the mercenaries Toll Road (Couture) and Hale Caesar (Crews) team up with the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, and Jason Statham, Couture and Crews are still remarkably relaxed and candid as the sit on a couch in a downtown Toronto hotel room. If anything, their past professions seem to have given them an almost wondrous amount of stamina, making talking about their new movie seem effortless while one can’t help but think in the back of their mind just how hard they work out and train on a daily basis.
Crews and Couture sat down with Dork Shelf to talk about the rumoured casting of Expendables 3, the differences between working with Stallone and new director Simon West behind the camera, and what it was like shooting in Bulgaria.
So you guys have been going all day by this point, haven’t you?
Randy Couture: Oh yeah!
Terry Crews: Yeah, but it’s all good. By Monday morning no one will want to talk to me again. (laughs) I’ll just be going up to people going “I’m Terry Crews!”
We don’t even have to talk about the movie if you don’t want to!
TC: “Um, could you please leave us alone, Terry Crews.”
(mass of laughter from the entire room)
I just read that some casting rumours for Expendables 3 has been kicking around and apparently they are looking at Nicolas Cage, Harrison Ford, and Clint Eastwood.
TC: Are you serious? HOLY SHIT!
Now, I guess the hard question is if YOU guys are confirmed for Expendables 3.
RC: That’s pretty awesome, and actually that’s the first we’ve even heard of that today.
TC: Oh man! Clint Eastwood and Hale Caesar?!? What the hell?!? (laughs)
The role of Terry Crews will now be played by Nicolas Cage
RC: Well, I’ve been a huge fan of Clint Eastwood’s so if they’re in talks with him, that’s amazing news to me.
TC: They’re “talking.”
RC: One of my favourite movies is The Outlaw Josey Wales, and I’m a huge fan of westerns in general and he did a ton of those. Gran Torino was an amazing, amazing movie. I think when you talk about someone who really captures the generation behind us and how things used to be you think of someone like him. And that’s what Expendables does. It goes back to the way we used to make the action flicks. That gritty, kind of real, no wirework, no CGI, boots on the ground kind of movie, and that’s what makes it special.
TC: I mean, Unforgiven is probably one of my top five movies of all time. My mind is being blown here.
RC: I mean, we’ve only heard that they might be working on a script and everything was real hush-hush, and we heard the same thing after the first one, but to hear that they might be casting people already is awesome.
TC: I mean, Nicolas Cage?!? I mean, come on, now. Face/Off is another huge favourite of mine. I’m really like a kid right now just living an unbelievable life. Just being around this and acting in this because there’s been so many times when I just leave the theatre and just think, “Man, I wish I was in that.” And now I can just be, like, “I’M IN THAT!” I am not only in it, I’M IN IT! (laughs)
I’m still a kid, man. You know, Randy and I talk sometimes, and you know how you’re like a four year old kid and you’re running around outside playing with guns or pretending in your backyard and you’re an action star in your head already, to be one of the very, very few people who get to be even near this kind of experience… what can I say? This has been a dream.
I’m getting all emotional now! The tears will start flowing any minute now. (laughs)
Getting into the actual movie now, how would you compare working with someone like Sylvester Stallone as a director and working with someone like Simon West who’s kind of adapting Stallone’s baby?
RC: There’s a particular intensity that comes from working with Sly. I think that’s just part of how he’s wired, and then you take into account with the first film all the hats that he was wearing at the same time. Aside from doing all the re-writes and looking at all the dailies as the director, with him also being the star of the movie in front of the camera there was a dimension to that that Simon didn’t have to deal with here and that Sly didn’t have to deal with in this one. It was a much more relaxed Sly this time where he could really take a breath and focus more on the craft. He was still doing re-writes and tweaking scenes – because let’s face it, this is still his baby – but I think Simon knew going in that this was going to be a collaboration. Sly was always going to have a very vested interest in how this was going to come out, and no one really does action better than Simon. Look at The Mechanic or Con Air and look at the cast of guys he had in that one. He has a very clear vision of how to capture everybody and make everybody feel strong, and he knows what he wants to get on film to tell this story. I think Sly respected that in Simon, and I think Simon respected what Sly brought to the table.
I mean, I definitely took more direction from Sly in terms of tweaking the characters and the dialogue, whereas Simon was more like, “Okay guys, this is what we’re shooting today, this is where the camera’s going to be, and you need to watch out here because that’s going to blow up” and he had a definite handle on the grand, big scheme. I think that they worked great together.
TC: There were plenty of times where Sly would just say, (in Stallone voice) “Look at this, man. Look at how he set this shot up.” He was complimenting Simon the whole time because Sly knows his stuff, and he just said “Man, the way this guy has a vision for this movie, man. I’m telling you he’s got it. He’s on it.” He was always telling us that it was going to be huge and that we would have no idea. He would just be looking at Simon and he was just blowing it up. It was awesome.
And I mean, on the first one, Sly was at his wit’s end. The first movie was Sly’s Heart of Darkness, you know, like what Coppola went through with Apocalypse Now. It took everything from him and he almost lost it all. He broke his neck on the set, and he was directing and he couldn’t move his arm. I remember when scheduling was getting messed up at the end and people had to leave. People would be coming up to him and saying “I’ve got a hard out on this” and he would just have to say “Well, we have to re-write that.” He was just at the point where everyone knew he was just going THROUGH IT now. You didn’t want to tap him on the shoulder and say “So, Sly, how did I do?” (laughs) You didn’t know what you were going to get! You kind of wondered because he was being pushed at so many different levels.
Then there were the budget constraints. People thought that the first Expendables had all kinds of money, but that wasn’t the case. It was a matter of Sly trying to do as much as he could with what he had, but it wasn’t something everyone knew was going to be a bonafide hit. You always heard that people wanted 80s action. The internet kind of blew up and said “Yeah! We want 80s action!” But they wanted Snakes on a Plane, too! So nobody knew whether it was going to be a hit or not. There was always that pressure because if it failed, then who was going to give him another chance? That was laying all on Sly. It wasn’t laying on me or any other cast member. It was on Sylvester Stallone. It could have been his last hurrah, but it turns out that the beautiful trick that is Sly was that it turned out to be this, and it’s bigger than anybody would have thought. It’s beyond what was the original thing.
We thought that it was Hard-R and that it was only going to be for guys and that if we made some money back it would be a cool homage. But then kids came, women came, teenagers, families, and everybody was just, like, EXPENDABLES! EXPENDABLES! It took over the world. It was nuts, man. It was bigger than I thought. Sorry about that. I’m a little long winded. (laughs)
Randy, you’ve retired from fighting and you’re in some of the best shape of your life, and Terry, if Old Spice has taught me anything, you just kind of wake up in the morning looking like this…
TC: SHHHHHHUUUT UP. (laughs) Oh man, my wife hates me for those. (laughs) Alright, where’s the check? Write me a check, buddy. (laughs)
So you guys are off shooting in Bulgaria in what looks like some pretty remote locations. As guys who always like to stay at the top of their game physically, especially around the crew of heavy hitters you surround yourselves with here, what was it like being out there?
RC: Well, we really didn’t have to compete with those guys. We had to compete with ourselves because we drive ourselves pretty hard. I know Terry does, and I’m the same way. We can’t let ourselves go. Then to be mixed in with that cast of guys, you don’t want to be that guy. “Oh man, his shoe’s untied” (Terry starts laughing) “He’s got his uniform on wrong again.” “He keeps dropping that gun! What the heck is that?” You don’t want to be that cat, so you show up with your A game. Everyone showed up in shape and knowing what they brought to the table and that they were all going to get their chance to shine and to show that. That was a unique juggling act that happened in the first one, too. Everybody got their moment to kind of do their thing, and Simon and Sly made sure that happened here, too, even with the bigger cast with more guys to show off and do their thing. I thought it was fun.
Also, Bulgaria wasn’t that far out there. The hotel was great, the people were friendly, I had kind of an in over there with a Secret Service buddy that was stationed over there who was married to a Bulgarian girl, so we were kind of wired in that way. The hotel had a great, great gym and we spent nearly every day of the three months in that gym when we got off. We got our workouts in. The food was kind of Greek-like, and I really don’t mind Greek food. (laughs)
TC: They had a great Italian spot there, too, remember that?
RC: Oh, yeah. That was some really fresh pasta.
TC: We knew we were a part of something special, you know? For one, it’s like complaining about football camp. You’re in the NFL. It better be hard.
You have to know what you signed up for.
TC: THANK YOU! You don’t want camp to be a Hawaiian vacation. That’s the thing. I knew I was going to be spending an extended time away from my family, so I knew that was going to be the most difficult part for me. But here I was working on the biggest movie in the world, and every day you didn’t want it to be easy, but you DID want it to be special. We knew every day we were there.
And Bulgaria opened up for us. They went out of their way because they knew they had the biggest movie in the world, and we came in and we blew up the country. (laughs) Literally! We set explosives everywhere! “You know that bridge? That’s not going to be there tomorrow!” That was a real bridge and that’s going. (laughs) We couldn’t do this in the United States or anywhere else. They gave us everything and they were so nice and so wonderful. Again, they put out the red carpet for us in every way and I will always be cool with those guys over there. They were some good people
RC: It really was good.
You guys talked a little bit about this being an homage to 80s action, but where do you guys see action films going from here and what do you think the future of action films might be?
RC: I think we’ve obviously kind of reignited what used to be, and I think you see that trend in everything we did. It’s a modern take on how they used to make action films. I drive a 2008 Dodge Challenger and it looks a hell of a lot like a 1970s Challenger, and that’s why it’s so cool. I think a lot of the things we all do now has that sort of retro feel, and Expendables is that retro kind of movie. This is the way we used to make action flicks. There’s no wires or CGI. That guy really picked that guy up and threw him and he didn’t fly out of the scene or leave the shot or was in a super suit. I think that’s why people can relate to it. These are real, authentic guys with authentic skills. You’ve seen it in their past movies and I think now we’ll see a resurgence in that because it’s cool.
TC: I think if you look at what modern movie making has become, it has become about who’s the youngest and who can work with CGI the best. You don’t have to really BE tough anymore. You don’t have to really go through anything. They can just put some muscles on you and you don’t have to worry about it. “We’ll have that guy flip around over there, don’t worry about it.” You don’t SEE the struggle with a lot of the comic book movies and stuff. And I’ll say that when you look at a lot of comic book movies now, guys like us just don’t fit in. They want 19 year old kids that they can go four or five movies with. It’s that kind of thing where they’re thinking about the franchise before it’s actually done anything. So, with this, however, it’s something that you look at and think that you haven’t seen it in a while. It’s a real man on screen in a time where everyone is so young. I’ve got nothing against youth, but it’s just a matter of finding another story to tell or another way to take it. I think Hollywood doesn’t really know what works until you make it, and Sly risked everything to make it. In hindsight, everyone is like, “Yeah! That’s what we wanted!”, but you didn’t know. You didn’t know that it was done. And I think that in the future, it’s going to make people realize that they have to take risks in the action genre. You just can’t rely on the same alien in a spaceship killing the crew again. (laughs) Let’s try something new. Let’s take a chance on something you didn’t think would work, and hopefully it can become another Expendables. I think in the future for action, that’s the way to go. Let’s take a risk on an older guy or older woman.
So then The Expendables could beat up The Avengers, then?
TC: (laughs) YEAH! I’LL SAY THAT! I’LL SAY THAT RIGHT NOW. BRING THEIR ASSES OUT! (pause, looking at recorders) Oh, wait, how do you stop that?
Well, you guys have one Hemsworth on your crew.
TC: YEAH! That’s what we do! Liam vs. Chris! We’re gonna take his brother hostage! Well, okay, maybe not. Maybe.