Nov 6, 2022

TG The Expendabelles is Dead!

THR sat down with Jeffrey Greenstein, the new boss of Millennium Films and he confirms that The Expendabelles is dead.

THR: Millennium seems to be making a lot more films with female leads: Red Sonja, Till Death, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. Is this a strategic shift for you?

JG: I don’t think it’s necessarily a shift, at least from our perspective. Maybe it’s more that the rest of the world is now thinking about other stories to tell. With The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Salma’s character was just so much fun, it made sense to build the second film around her.

We also like working with the same people, so we did Till Death with Megan and she’s in the new Expendables. It’s really just about working with talented people. But I will say something: We’d been trying to develop The Expendabelles, a female version of The Expendables, but my problem with that project was always trying to find a way to justify why we’d have a woman team. Instead of trying to explain that, why not just have women on the regular team and [they’re] badass? Instead of having to explain why a women character got there and all that, you just do what you’d do with a man: show them kicking ass.

THR: What role does Avi play as chairman?

JG: He’s still involved. He’s still got projects, like The Expendables, that he created, that still heavily have his imprint. He loves the business. We talk every day, and talk through everything. Some of the projects are more mine, some more his. He still brings things to the table. It’s a good relationship.

THR: When it comes to the really big films, — The Expendables, Red Sonja — how much has the market changed given that you no longer have the Chinese and Russian presale market?

JG: It’s a change, but the business is cyclical. I remember when Italy and Spain were huge markets, and then Italy and Spain died. Back in 2010, there was no theatrical market in China. We don’t hang our hat on any specific territory. We handle all the sales and distribution ourselves. We have our finger on the pulse, we’re constantly monitoring where these things are.

The same goes on the production side. At the moment we’ve got a situation where interest rates are rising, because of the war in Ukraine. You’ve got rising construction costs, increased energy and gasoline costs. Higher costs for paint, materials. But you’ve got to roll with the punches and figure out how to make the movie in the best way possible way. At the end of the day, I just love making movies and I’m going to continue doing so.

THR: Do these market changes mean you’ll be making different types of movies? Or even series, which is a growing market but not one Millennium has been involved in up till now.

JG: Our focus is on making the bigger films but also segueing into television with some of our IP as well. We control the brands for Hitman’s Bodyguard, Rambo, Hellboy, Expendables, et cetera. And we’re exploring how to build those brand and continue to deliver content for their core audiences and fans across all media, whether that’s location-based entertainment, or gaming, or whatever.

THR: So is there going to be an Expendables theme park in Sofia?

JG: We’re exploring all avenues and we have some plans that we’re working on. I can disclose more. But there’s a lot of fun to be had, right and delivering content in all kinds of ways to fans globally.

20 facts you might not know about 'The Expendables'

It started as a different project 

Dave Callaham has found screenwriting success in recent years, getting writing credits on films like Shang-Chi and Wonder Woman 1984. In 2005, though, he was working on a movie about mercenaries called Barrow. He had a deal with Warner Bros. and turned his script into them. After this, he rewrote Barrow a couple of times and ended up with "story by" and co-screenwriting credit.

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Callaham’s script was found by the creative force behind 'The Expendables'
When he saw Callaham's script for Barrow , Sylvester Stallone was looking to make an ensemble action movie in 2006. Sly took a liking to Barrow and said he used it as a “starting point” for The Expendables. Stallone did a lot of rewrites (he has co-writing credit) and directed and starred in the film. It was a passion project for him.

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It was a return for a former action star

Dolph Lundgren was once an action star and also Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. However, he had fallen by the wayside on the movie front. Stallone cast his former costar in The Expendables, making it Lundgren’s first theatrical movie since Johnny Mnemonic in 1995.

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One actor who was approached appeared in the sequel

In his quest to get every notable action star possible in The Expendables, Stallone went to Jean-Claude Van Damme and asked him to be in the movie. Van Damme did not like the character he was offered. Stallone was able to amend things because the Belgian actor played the main villain in The Expendables 2.

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Another actor turned town a cameo as well

Stallone also couldn’t get Steven Seagal to make a cameo appearance. The martial artist and actor (though “actor” feels a little bit like a stretch when Seagal is concerned) turned it down because he did not want to work with producer Avi Lerner.

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It took a few tries to cast one role
For the (ludicrously named) character of Hale Caesar, Stallone wanted his Demolition Man costar Wesley Snipes. This was at the peak of Snipes’ tax problems, so he had to decline. The part was rewritten for Forest Whitaker, but Whitaker had a scheduling conflict. 50 Cent was next, but he didn’t play the role either. Ultimately, Terry Crews got the part of Hale Caesar.

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Another 'Demolition Man' actor was never going to be in it
There were rumors that Stallone would get Sandra Bullock to have a cameo in The Expendables. She was also in Demotion Man at the beginning of her career. This proved to be an unfounded assertion. Bullock said she didn’t even know the movie existed when asked about it.

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Some big names were considered for one part
Stallone set his goals high to cast the role of James Munroe. He also seemed to have mob movies on his mind, given that the director reportedly considered Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, and Al Pacino. Ultimately, the part went to Eric Roberts, who had been in The Specialist with Stallone.

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One actor swapped cameo roles
Sly wanted Arnold Schwarzenegger for the role of Mr. Church, the man who hired the Expendables. Arnold did not take the role but instead had another cameo. Schwarzenegger swapped into the role of mercenary Trench Mauser.

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Another actor turned down Mr. Church before the role was cast
When Schwarzenegger opted for a different cameo, Stallone went to Kurt Russell to play Mr. Church. Alas, his Tango & Cash costar was not interested. In the end, it was Bruce Willis who ended up with the uncredited cameo as Mr. Church.

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It was the first film for three restaurateurs
Sure, Schwarzenegger and Willis only have cameos, but this movie was still notable. Those two and Stallone were all investors in Planet Hollywood and were the faces of the celebrity-indebted restaurant franchise early on. Despite being business partners, The Expendables was the first movie all three Planet Hollywood investors were in together.

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Stallone got some casting help
Much of The Expendables was shot in Brazil, and Stallone needed some locals to play soldiers. The director turned to MMA fighters Anderson Silva, Rogerio Nogueira, and Antonio Nogueira. Stallone figured that they might know some guys who could play convincing soldiers. Silva and the Nogueiras indeed helped and got cameos themselves.

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Mickey Rourke was not around much
When The Expendables was filming, Rourke was also playing the villain in Iron Man 2. Rourke had to fly in and was only available for 48 hours to film The Expendables. However, the actor wanted to do it because when Rourke was on a real downswing in his career, Stallone had gotten him cast in Get Carter.

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Stallone was put through the wringer

While filming The Expendables, Stallone suffered a broken tooth, an ankle injury, and a fractured bone in his neck. He also had to deal with bronchitis and shingles. The actor could blame the director for putting him through so much, but, well, he was the director.

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Two songs written for the film didn’t make the cut
Stallone went to Sully Erna, the frontman of Godsmack, to get him to write a song for the film. Erna plays an unfinished song called “Sinners Prayer” for Stallone, who liked it and wanted it for the movie. Then, Stallone cut the scene he was going to use it for from the film, and the song was removed from both the movie and soundtrack. The band Shinedown was also asked to record a new song for the film, which they did. While it was used in one of the trailers, it did not make the film or soundtrack.

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It was a big hit
Fans of ‘80s and ‘90s action films likely came out in droves to see The Expendables. The movie debuted with $34.8 million at the domestic box office, making it the No. 1 film of the weekend. It would repeat that feat in its second week. All in all, The Expendables made $103.1 million domestically and $274.5 million worldwide.

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A director’s cut was released on TV
Over Memorial Day weekend in 2011, the network Epix premiered the director’s cut of The Expendables. This version featured 11 more minutes of footage. Notably, it brought back the Shinedown song and “Sinners Prayer,” which played over the opening credits.

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There have been two sequels
The Expendables 2 — featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme! — hit theaters in 2012. It’s the best-reviewed film in the series and also made $315 million worldwide. However, they may have flown too close to the sun. The Expendables 3 was released in 2014, got bad reviews, and only made $39 million domestically, though the international box office rescued it from being a disaster. It made $214.7 million worldwide.

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Two spinoffs were nixed
In 2012, after the success of The Expendables 2, a distaff take on the serious was announced. The film was given the interminable working title of “The ExpendaBelles.” It never came to fruition, though. A TV series based on the films was announced, but it fell by the wayside. In 2021, talk of the TV show picked back up, but nothing has happened yet.

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A fourth film is on the way
After the relative failure of The Expendables 3, the franchise laid fallow for a bit. Nothing stays dead in Hollywood, though. The Expendables 4 is scheduled to be released in September 2023. 50 Cent is in the cast this time.