After a nine-year absence from screens, Sylvester Stallone’s Barney Ross has finally gotten the band back together to lead EXPEND4BLES into theaters tomorrow, with the expansive roster of action icons also learning from the mistakes of the past by returning to the hard R-rating of the first two installments.
Also in keeping with tradition, there’s a raft of new faces both in front of and behind the camera. Megan Fox, 50 Cent, Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Levy Tran, and Andy Garcia are among the fresh additions to the ensemble cast, with Scott Waugh following in the footsteps of Stallone, Simon West, and Patrick Hughes by directing an Expendables adventure.
Fresh off the success of Netflix’s global sensation Hidden Strike starring Jackie Chan and John Cena, EXPEND4BLES marks the filmmaker’s first time helming an established blockbuster franchise. Ahead of the film’s release, We Got This Covered had the chance to speak to Waugh about his latest feature, taking the brand back to basics, working with so many icons, how his history as a stuntman informed the set pieces and much more, which you can check out below.
This isn’t just your first franchise movie, or the first Expendables in nearly a decade, but it’s also the first one of your features that you haven’t edited as well, so what was that like for you as a filmmaker coming into an established IP and getting hit with all of these new experiences at once?
Scott Waugh: You know, being a part of the Expendables franchise is just kind of one for me, as a previous stuntman, and it’s an excitement to work with somebody like Sly, and Jason. To me, you gotta check boxes in life. And a couple of the last two checkboxes I have in my career to work with the quintessential action heroes is Sly, and I’m on a current movie with Arnold. So I will have completed my quest in life. I can die peacefully now!
The basic concept of The Expendables has always – and always needs to be – basically the same; they get big guns, they banter, and they blow away a small army. But how do you approach that as a first-time director on the franchise, knowing there’s a certain set of expectations audiences have that you can’t deviate from, but also having the task of finding a fresh angle and new way in when it’s four movies deep?
Scott Waugh: I think, happy to hear you ask that question. And I think, first and foremost, you always have to be adherent to the brand. And being a new director to the franchise, I tried to bring my personal taste into it, but be reliant on what they’ve already done. So I’m not deviating from the first three. And it really became a collaboration between myself, Sly, and Jason in terms of the tone, and the action that we were going to bring. And I feel like this fourth installment is truly a throwback to the original.
We went back to a lot of original tone, a lot of original story type. And also, back to the original core cast, to really bring back where the brand started, and we’re very proud of what we accomplished. I think for myself, one of the things I wanted to bring new to the brand was a level of style of fights. That was one thing I feel that we can elevate in the brand. And so we do take down, not a small army, but a big army, and we do it in the cool Expendables fashion.
The cast is smaller than 2 and 3, but it still has that Expendables flavor of bringing in new faces with new skills and creating new dynamics. So even though it doesn’t quite have that revolving door of guest stars and cameos as before, would that have always been your preference as a filmmaker to keep the focus on a smaller group of characters to be able tell the story the way you want to tell it?
Scott Waugh: For myself, the reason I really gravitated towards the fourth installment was the conciseness of the story. And its ability to focus in on the core characters. And I felt like two and three, for me as a filmmaker, were sometimes challenging because you had so many characters coming through the door, the story will kind of get lost because you’re trying to service the characters rather than service the story. And I felt like this one really goes back to the original style of Expendables.
Sylvester Stallone created the franchise but has said this is his last Expendables movie, while Jason Statham is listed as a producer on the series for the first time. There’s a passing of the torch vibe in the movie, but was it also that way off-camera given the circumstances?
Scott Waugh: Look, I think the beauty of Jason and Sly is their relationship, and you can’t deny Sly’s franchise ability, to continually create new franchises. So there’s a respect level that comes from even myself working with somebody like Sly, relying on his expertise, and really being respectful of what he started. And I think Jason still is very respectful of Sly, and wants to actually continue on with a brand in Sly fashion.
So we would continually, even on the day, still bounce stuff off Sly, and really, really lean on him. So I think Jason is going to do very well taking over the franchise. He’s a perfect character to continue on with it. And yes, I do believe it remains to be seen if Sly would come back for the fifth one. I would honestly be slightly surprised if he does not.
On a similar note, then, does that mean you would be easily convinced to become the first director to make two Expendables movies?
Scott Waugh: I am game and open to it, I really had a terrific time working with these legends. And if asked to come play again, I would be, you know, I’d be thrilled.
Any self-respecting action junkie has been naming Iko Uwais and Tony Jaa as potential Expendables for years and they’ve finally got their wish, but I’ve always been curious about how the casting process works for the franchise based on nothing but the sheer volume of iconic stars to have dropped by.
Scott Waugh: I think they always service the story first. And so the script was written, and then obviously, we try to find actors that can facilitate the new roles. And, you know, I myself, I’m paying attention to some of the brand work that I’ve done before, maybe a little bit lesser-known legends around the world. And I thought Iko Uwais, fantastic fight guy from the The Raid, really wanted him to be a part of this movie.
And the beauty of Tony Jaa was he was the original casting done five years ago with him and Jason, when they originally talked about possibly spooling up Expendables 4. And so Tony Jaa was the first one actually signed on a long time ago. And I think it’s evident between him and Jason in the movie, their chemistry, because they’re just fantastic. Off-screen and on-screen.
You’ve got an extensive background as a stunt performer which is obviously a huge benefit, but when you’re working with guys like Sly, Dolph, Jason, Iko, and Tony that literally have hundreds of action movies under their collective belt, does that have an effect on the way the sequences are put together in terms of not just their experience, but playing to their strengths as performers?
Scott Waugh: I think the beauty of working on an Expendables franchise film is you have actors that can do their own stunts. So now, me being a stuntman, I can now lean into their strengths and develop action that I know they can do, and do something really exciting with them.
I don’t have to hide the stunt double. So it’s really fun working on an Expendables franchise, with these types of actors. So I think the collaboration was great. You know, I’ve worked with majority of these actors in some capacity probably back in my stunt career, I really crossed paths with the majority of them, so it was an easier collaboration for myself and them.
If you could draft in one actor past or present that hasn’t been part of the franchise yet to be an Expendable, who would be your number one pick and why would it be them?
Scott Waugh: Wow. You know, to be honest, I think one of the coolest cats that would have ever been a part of the franchise would have been Steve McQueen. One of the obviously coolest actors in the past, and had that edge, and skills to be a part of this kind of franchise with his stunt driving and motorcycle racing and all that, so I think he would have been an awesome addition to the whole franchise. And hey, with AI, who knows?
EXPEND4BLES premieres in theaters tomorrow, Sept. 22.
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