"The Expendables" having proven successful enough in its collection of elderly ass-kickers to get a sequel green-lit, it was clear that creator/writer/star Sylvester Stallone would have to raise his game for the second go-round. First of all, with not all the stars returning (it looks like Jet Li won't be back, for one), it would help to draft in a few more action icons to help make up the numbers. And secondly, with the first film being somewhat subpar, and the less than amazing Simon West ("Con Air," "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider") replacing Stallone in the director's chair, it'd need something special to get all but the least discerning action fans excited about a sequel.
But it seems like the erstwhile Mr. Balboa has taken up the challenge, with the film increasingly looking near-definitive in its list of movie stars who've kicked ass and taken names in the 1980s, or since. Only last week it emerged that Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who cameoed in the original, would have "substantial" roles in the follow-up, while Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Donnie Yen, have all been rumored to be involved too.
Well, EW spoke to Stallone to sort out the fact from the fiction, and there's some pretty good news for 80s action fans, as well as some news regarding two other big stars that Stallone is hoping to lock into the film. While there's no mention of Yen, the polymath confirms that both Norris and Van Damme will be in the film, with the latter likely to take on some kind of villainous role, Stallone saying that "We’ll have a big showdown between me and Van Damme, which has been anticipated for a long time, so it should be a good one.”
John Travolta has also said to have been circling the film, and Stallone confirms that he's in the mix, although he sounds less than confident of actually landing him, thanks to scheduling issues: “It’s possible. The one thing I’ve learned is what is a fact on Monday is a complete fallacy on Tuesday. A lot of it is scheduling. It’s not financial. It’s just that Bulgaria is definitely a jaunt. It’s a commitment, you know what I mean? Especially in the dead of winter.”
More possible, presumably thanks to the actor owing the taxman millions of dollars and essentially taking any job that pays quickly and in cash, is Travolta's "Face/Off" co-star Nicolas Cage, who Stallone says he "thinks" is locked in, possibly thanks to the intervention of West, who obviously directed Cage in "Con Air."
But the man-who-was-Rambo isn't just limiting the new additions to A-listers like Cage: "I like using people that had a moment and then maybe have fallen on some hard times and give them another shot. So we’re always looking for actors like Michael Biehn and Michael Pare. I like those kinds of guys. Someone did it for me and I like to see if I can do it for them." Patronizing much? It's unclear whether Biehn or Pare are actually signed on to the film, or if Stallone's just insultingly using them as a 'type,' but we're sure it'll become clear in the next few weeks.
Stallone also suggested that we may be seeing some fresher, more youthful faces: "We also need some new blood in there, a Navy Seal-type, because with the Expendables none of them have 20-20 vision anymore. They need some help, man.” The current generation of leading men being as wussy as they are, we can't think of any big names who might be on his list, so we could see a genuinely fresh face in the part too. Filming gets underway in Bulgaria at the end of the month, and it'll wheel its zimmer frame into theaters on August 17, 2012.