1 of 5 | Left to right, 50 Cent, Megan Fox, Dolph Lundgren, Jacob Scipio and Andy Garcia star in "Expend4bles." Photo courtesy of Lionsgate
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- The Expendables franchise producers Kevin King Templeton and Les Weldon said Expend4bles, in theaters Friday, rectifies some missteps they made with 2014's Expendables 3.
"Expendables 3 wasn't received as well as we would have hoped," King Templeton told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "We had to really rethink what we were going to do next -- the whole idea of going back to basics."
Sylvester Stallone created the franchise to unite legendary action movie icons with the new generation. Though Expendables 3 had the largest ensemble cast of the franchise, the producers said it was an error to release it with a PG-13 rating when action fans supported the prior two R-rated movies.
"Hindsight is 20/20, but we understood as producers that was a mistake to release PG[-13] Expendables when your core audience just loves it so much," Weldon said. "This is why we were so committed to making this a hard R, going back more to the roots."
To help bring Expend4bles back to basics, Weldon and King Templeton hired Scott Waugh to direct it. Waugh is a former stuntman, who made his directorial debut with the military thriller Act of Valor.
"He does these hard military movies," Weldon said. "So, he could bring a lot of authenticity to this franchise."
After directing PG-13 movies Need for Speed and 6 Below, and the Jackie Chan-John Cena action-comedy Hidden Fortress, Waugh said he welcomed a return to hard-edged action. This meant simulating blood sprays and using real explosives on the set.
"All my special effects guy kept hearing me say was 'more fuel, more fuel,'" Waugh said.
The Expendables are a team of hired mercenaries led by Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone). The team's latest mission tasks them to recover a detonator villain Rahmat (Iko Uweis) stole from a Libyan general.
The Expendables pursue Rahmat to a battleship, which was a nearly 200-foot set. Visual effects placed the set out at sea.
"It was outside," King Templeton said. "We had the elements much like you'd have one on a ship outside. Obviously, we weren't in the middle of the ocean, but you had to recreate as much as you could."
One liberty the filmmakers took with the battleship was staging a motorcycle chase on it. Waugh said the Expendables films can take such liberties in the name of over-the-top fun.
"The way ships are really built, you can't ride a motorcycle in the lower decks the way the trap doors are," Waugh said.
The current roster of Expendables includes Stallone, Jason Statham, Megan Fox, 50 Cent, Levy Tran, Jacob Scipio, Dolph Lundgren and Randy Couture. Andy Garcia and Tony Jaa also join their mission.
Having all 10 heroes on screen simultaneously was not always possible. So Waugh filmed actors when they were available and combined them together.
"Sometimes, you have to shoot scenes three times because you only have one actor this day," Waugh said. "Two weeks later, you've got the other actor, and at the end of the schedule you have the final actor."
Waugh said schedules did overlap on some occasions to film the ensemble together. However, King Templeton acknowledged that most of their Expendables are the leads of other films, gracing the franchise in supporting roles.
"A lot of them are marquee names who are green-lighting their own films," King Templeton said. "Everything's about timing."
Fox's character, Gina, is a new love interest for Lee Christmas (Statham). Statham had a girlfriend played by Charisma Carpenter in the first two films, but Weldon said it was not necessary to explain when or why they broke up.
"It's like in life, a couple years go by and maybe you had a girlfriend and you split," Weldon said. "You have to have somebody who's going to basically give Jason kind of a duel, if you will."
While Gina and Christmas blend romantic and violent chemistry, other duos can simply focus on their physical partnerships. When Statham or Jaa fight Uwais, Waugh made sure to highlight each fighter's unique skills.
Waugh brought Alan Ng from the Jackie Chan Stunt Team, with whom Waugh worked on Hidden Fortress, to choreograph Expend4bles fights.
"We catered each fight to the strengths of each actor," Waugh said. "Everybody needs to have their moment, and the audience wants those moments, too."
Just as King Templeton and Weldon recalibrated after the response to Expendables 3, they will wait before planning any Expendables 5.
"I want to see how this does first," King Templeton said. "It's not mine or Les's decision. It's going to be the fans that decide."