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August 10, 2014
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Mel Gibson flexes muscles for 'Expendables' role
By Michael Rechtshaffen, Special to QMI Agency

Mel Gibson in "The Expendables 3."

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- While the plot for The Expendables 3 has Sylvester Stallone’s Barney Ross recruiting a batch of fresh-faced mercenaries including Kellan Lutz, boxing champ “Vicious” Victor Ortiz and celebrated UFC Women’s MMA fighter Ronda Rousey, all eyes in the Four Seasons Hotel ballroom are trained on a decidedly more wrinkly individual seated back in the panel’s second tier.

Flanked by Stallone and Wesley Snipes is none other than recovering industry pariah Mel Gibson, cast as the film’s villain, a ruthless arms dealer — and Expendables co-founder — named Conrad Stonebanks.

Looking a bit uncomfortable facing a roomful of media who had been instructed to keep all questions pertaining only to the movie, Gibson, 58, nevertheless seemed pleased to be a part of a franchise that has grossed well over half-a-billion dollars to date.

The last time Gibson starred in a box office hit was 2002’s Signs.

“When I first got the script I didn’t read it so that I was the bad guy,” deadpans Gibson. “I didn’t know I was the bad guy until I saw it last night. I thought Dolph Lundgren was the bad guy. So it was a surprise to me. And I’m kind of shocked and a little offended.”

Gibson worked hard to get into fighting shape for the finale, in which he and Stallone go mano a mano on the site of an abandoned Bulgarian steel foundry.

“Mel’s very fast, very strong,” praises Stallone.

“It was fun,” concedes Gibson. “It was fun being shot full of holes by Sly.”

Gibson isn’t the only new member of the Expendables returning to the big screen after taking time off to deal with well-publicized personal stuff.

Snipes, who plays a slightly unbalanced, knife-throwing doctor named Doc, was originally tapped to play the role of Hale Caesar (played by Terry Crews) four years ago, but wasn’t allowed to leave the country prior to serving jail time for tax evasion.

“I was in this movie because Wesley did not do the part,” explains Crews. “And when I first saw Wesley on set, I said, ‘Man, I’ve been keeping this spot warm for you.”

“It was a great opportunity to work with some of the actors that I’d always admired,” says Snipes, whose character is sprung from prison during the film’s action-packed opening. “Also there was the chance to act a little crazy in this one. Doc is a medic but he’s been away for about eight years and he was quite lonely and spent a lot of time talking to himself, so he comes back cuckoo.”

Also new to the fold is Kelsey Grammer, who, while not technically an Expendable, helps Stallone scout those younger recruits.

“I know that at first there was sort of a surprise that Kelsey Grammer would be on this ride,” smiles Grammer, who was granted a week off from shooting Transformers: Age of Extinction to film his Expendables 3 scenes in Bulgaria. “But I’m a lot tougher than people think. If you know anything about my personal life, you’d realize that.”

Among first-time Expendables recruits not in attendance were Antonio Banderas and Harrison Ford, who replaced Expendables 2’s Bruce Willis after the Die Hard actor reportedly demanded $4 million for four days of shooting.

“Things didn’t work out and then Harrison Ford came along,” says Stallone. “That happens in film recasting. It’s nothing personal.”

It didn’t sound that impersonal a year ago, when Stallone tweeted, “WILLIS OUT…HARRISON FORD IN!!!! GREAT NEWS!!!!! Been waiting years for this!!!!”

He followed with a second Tweet clearly aimed at his former Planet Hollywood partner, which read, “GREEDY AND LAZY…A SURE FORMULA FOR CAREER FAILURE.”

“It sounds like it got personal and I’m sorry it did sound that way,” says Stallone of the dig. “It was just actors talking and things move on. I think Bruce Willis is a great guy.”

Who knows? Maybe they’ll patch things up in time for Expendables 4, which is already a go with Pierce Brosnan, Jackie Chan and Hulk Hogan rumoured to be attached.

Given how many fading action stars have yet to be tapped for what has been dubbed Sly’s Avengers, should we expect an Expendables 5, 6, 7 and 8?

Stallone rolls his eyes.

“After the fifth Expendables, you start wearing Dependables.”


The Expendables franchise has proven to be a fading action star’s best friend, but what would it do for their signature characters from back in the day? Which of their alter-egos would have made for an excellent Expendable? Here’s how Stallone and company weighed in (Schwarzenegger wasn’t on hand to comment, but T-800 a.k.a. The Terminator would be a safe bet):

Wesley Snipes

Expendables character: Doc

Expendables-ready character? “Blade!”

Mel Gibson

Expendables character: Conrad Stonebanks

Expendables-ready character? “The obvious one would be he crazy cop from the Lethal Weapon movies…maybe that whack job from Conspiracy Theory?” (Someone suggests the guy who talks to his hand puppet in his 2011 flop, The Beaver).

Dolph Lundgren

Expendables character: Gunner Jensen

Expendables-ready character? “I was thinking Ivan Drago (Stallone’s opponent from Rocky IV). He talks a lot. He’s good with words!”

Jason Statham

Expendables character: Lee Christmas

Expendables-ready character? “Mine would probably be the little garden gnome who I did the voice for in Gnomeo and Juliet.”

Sylvester Stallone

Expendables character: Barney Ross

Expendables-ready character? “I think Rambo would fit in—and then he’d turn around and kill them all. That’s the downside of working with him. He’s a loner.”

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