Old-school testosterone makes big screen return
SYLVESTER Stallone leads the powerhouse line-up of action- adventure superstars when they walk into the interview room.
Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger is close behind, then Stallone's old on-screen fighting partner Dolph Lundgren, followed by "the muscles from Brussels" Jean-Claude Van Damme and finally, at 44 years old, the relative new kid on the block, Jason Statham.
It's a whole lot of testosterone for one room and though their combined age is 280, these icons of the big screen are looking as impressive as you'd expect.
They're promoting their new movie The Expendables 2, the sequel to the 2010 worldwide hit The Expendables, which garnered more than 273 million US dollars.
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Stallone co-wrote, starred in and directed the first film but handed over directing duties to Simon West of Con Air fame this time round.
It's still very much his baby though.
"We've pulled together the most phenomenal action-adventure cast that I've ever been involved with," says Stallone in a deep growl that instantly brings to mind his Rocky alter-ego.
He returns as Barney Ross, the leader of a band of old-school mercenaries who are reunited to avenge the loss of one of their "brothers" and, in short, save the world from global disaster.
It's action the old-fashioned way; lots of guns, explosions, muscles and one-liners.
"Our characters hark back to a time when our heroes were flesh and blood and we're bringing back that old-time rock'n'roll," says Stallone.
What he means is they're not the spandex-wearing comic book heroes currently seen on the big screen.
Austrian-born Schwarzenegger, the former Mr Universe-turned-movie star-turned California Governor (he stepped down in early 2011) made a cameo in the first film.
"I was happy to be asked again to be back," says Schwarzenegger, laughing, referencing his iconic Terminator line.
Perhaps to the chagrin of others (one cast member later remarks as an aside he thought his co-star's political campaigning was over) he manages to dominate the conversation.
But then, bar the cameo in 2010, this does mark his movie comeback after eight years.
"The interesting thing was when I was a Governor I would visit a movie set and my aide would always say, 'Don't you miss that?' I said, 'I can't imagine doing that ever again'," says Schwarzenegger in that famous flat tone.
"Then a few years later I'm in a movie and having the greatest time. Expendables was an ideal movie to come back to.
"Firstly because you're with the top action heroes, but the spotlight doesn't go on me, it spreads out amongst all the action heroes so it was a safer way to come back."
Schwarzenegger returns as Trench, Barney's nemesis who teams up with him eventually when the high stakes demand it.
Kick-boxing superstar Van Damme, 51, makes his Expendables debut as the villain, brilliantly named JeanVilain.
"I have to thank Stallone for putting me back on the big screen because I have good eyes, good face," says Van Damme, the joker of the pack who breaks into a cheesy smile.
He and Stallone go for it in a classic hand-to-hand battle in one of the final sequences.
"It was great. Mano-to-mano with Rocky," says Van Damme.
"It's kind of like a heavyweight championship fight you never thought would happen," adds Stallone.
Statham, the British former diver-turned-movie star, thanks to his role in Guy Ritchie's 1998 Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, returns as Barney's closest ally Lee Christmas.
"He's kind of a working man's hero, a guy you'd want to go out and have a beer with," says Statham, in his raspy geezer voice.
Despite working with many of the great action heroes in the first film, he admits he still gets star-struck working alongside his idols.
Despite the star-studded roster, Stallone insists there was no room for huge egos on set.
"I would like to say there was because it makes a more interesting story but there wasn't," he says.
"Everyone knew what to do and the key with men like us is very simple. If you give out respect, you get respect."
Lundgren, 54, who went head-to-head against Stallone as Russian fighter Ivan Drago in 1985's Rocky IV, reprises his role as Gunner.
"He's still crazy but the main thing now is that he's with the team all the way through," says Lundgren.
Ideas for a third instalment are already under way.
"We're thinking of concepts because the third one's the hardest by far," says Stallone.
"The second is a natural progression but the third, now that's when the air gets rare and we're thinking pretty ambitiously about it.
"You have to do something the audience don't expect at all."
Remarking on the future of the Expendables franchise, Stallone adds: "Maybe this is the beginning of a revival. Or, maybe it's the end of an era.
"But one thing is for sure, this is going to be quite an experience for the audience."