It’s been joked that the Internet acted as casting director for Sylvester Stallone’s muscle and explosion symphony The Expendables. Setting out to create a who’s who of action stars of the past 30 years, Stallone cobbled together a cadre of modern stars like Jet Li and Jason Statham along with a healthy stable of direct-to-video relics like Dolph Lundgren and Eric Roberts to form his retro team of ‘roided up ass-kickers. But when looking at the film’s full cast, and its heavy reliance on muscle-heads from the worlds of MMA, professional wrestling and the NFL, it’s hard to shake the nagging feeling that Stallone couldn’t quite assemble the dream team he set out to form--but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Everything from overinflated egos to U.S. Tax Law kept Stallone from perfecting his modern day Dirty Dozen, and we’ve put together a list of Expendables that Stallone failed to get on board.
Jean Claude Van Damme
Expendable Credentials: Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Street Fighter: The Movie
Why He’s Out: Primadonna.
In an interview with The New York Times, Stallone confessed that he tried to recruit Van Damme for The Expendables, but the aged Belgian actor felt that the film lacked depth and that the role Stallone offered him wasn’t substantial enough for a star of his calibre. Says Stallone: “He told me, you should be trying to save people in South Central…I knew I’d lost him.” Van Damme’s next film, Universal Solider 6, is due out in 2011.
Expendable Alternative: JCVD
Van Damme already did the meta, over-the-hill action hero thing in 2008’s JCVD, in which the actor plays himself as a broke, washed up action hero who’s forced to rob a bank to solve his money problems.
Expendable Credentials: Escape from New York, Big Trouble in Little China, Tango & Cash
Why He’s Out: Russell is no stranger to the ups and downs in the career of an action hero. Breaking into the genre with a string of successful John Carpenter films, Russell has done both beloved classics (the aforementioned Carpenter films, Stargate) and universally reviled bullshit (Escape from LA, Soldier), so his inclusion in The Expendables seemed natural. Apparently, Stallone felt the same way, but the director’s pitch was shot stone dead by his Tango & Cash co-star. Stallone reported his defeat to his fan site:
“I know that many people on the site have asked for Kurt Russell. I asked for him too. Actually, I was taken aback when asked to put the request in a letter and send it to his agent. Subsequently, I was called back by the agent several days later after refusing to send a letter and he said Kurt Russell is not interested in ‘ensemble acting’ at this time. So, People, I came, I saw, I failed.”
Expendable Alternative: Grindhouse: Death Proof
Long before Stallone started kicking around the idea for The Expendables, Quentin Tarentino had already made a career out of taking forgotten faces and making them new again. He did it for John Travolta and Pam Grier, and in 2007 he did it again for Kurt Russell in his half of the Grindhouse double bill, the underappreciated Death Proof. Russell falls right back into stride as Stuntman Mike, a gravel-voiced madman who murders women with a classic muscle car, showing that Russell still has a bit of Snake Pliskin left brewing inside.
Expendable Credentials: Passenger 57, Demolition Man, Blade
Why He’s Out: Wesley Snipes doesn’t like paying his taxes.
A good accountant is an important asset when you’re self-employed. They make sure your books are straight, and are good resource for sound financial advice like "pay your $7 million in back taxes before you go to jail." If all else fails, they can at least cook the books enough to keep Uncle Sam off your back (that's a joke, please don't audit us). Wesley Snipes learned this the hard way in 2006, when he was charged with tax evasion and intent to defraud the federal government. A perfect fit for Stallone’s rag-tag team of wash-ups, it was just poor timing that kept Snipes out of the running.
Expendable Alternative: The Art of War II: Betrayal
Snipes has yet to bounce back from his tax problems, but it’s certain to happen sometime down the line. Since he’s not quite primed for a come-back, you’ll have to settle for something from his current line of direct-to-video schlock like The Art of War II: Betrayal, a sequel to a movie you’ve never heard of in the first place.
Expendable Credentials: Bloodsport, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Repo Men
Why He’s Out: Scheduling Conflict
With Snipes out of the picture, Stallone tapped Oscar winner Forest Whitaker to fill the void, and perhaps class up his testosterone-laden opus a bit. Whitaker’s involvement didn’t go far, however, as a month-long delay in shooting forced the actor to abandon the project due to scheduling restraints.
Expendable Alternative: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
Unlike practically everyone else on this list, Whitaker’s career is still going strong, as his Oscar win sent him gliding merrily along into legitimacy. So we recommend you just go and watch his best action role in Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog.
Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson
Expendable Credentials: Get Rich or Die Tryin', Streets of Blood, Dead Man Running
Why He’s Out: The Internet Veto.
After Whitaker fell through, Stallone announced that Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson would be taking on the role, a prospect that Internet-types quickly rejected. After all, Whitaker was an Oscar winner, 50 Cent had been in Righteous Kill—not exactly an even trade-off. Stallone defended his decision in a letter to AICN:
"The anger of the casting of 50 Cent is understandable, but not fair. A player is only as good as his coach. If a man can communicate in one medium, he can communicate in another if his strengths are brought out and he has the support of well-wishers. So, trust me, the change of Forest Whitaker to 50 Cent a.k.a. Curtis Jackson is a good one."
But being the cruel bitch that it is, the Internet had spoken, and the former rapper was quickly kicked to the curb. After Jackson fell through, Stallone settled on former NFL linebacker, and insane Old Spice spokesperson, Terry Crews to play the part.
Expendable Alternative: Things Fall Apart.
Considering Jackson is only 35 and his acting career is really just getting started, the former rapper hasn’t had the chance to exploit a mildly ironic late-career come-back role yet. However, he did shed 50 pounds for a part in the upcoming drama Things Fall Apart, in which Jackson plays a cancer-stricken football star. That counts for something, right?
Expendable Credentials: Above the Law, Hard to Kill, Under Siege
Why He’s Out: Seagal does not like Avi Lerner
Even though Steven Seagal hasn’t been seen on the big screen since 2002’s Half Past Dead, the pudgy Buddhist has since been in over 20 direct-to-DVD movies. These cheap cash-ins are the genesis of Seagal’s exclusion from The Expendables. Many of these films were produced by Expendables producer Avi Lerner, whom Seagal became embittered with during filming. Refusing to help line the producer’s pockets with a surefire hit, Seagal turned down a cameo in The Expendables. Instead, Seagal will be appearing in another cheeky throwback action movie: Robert Rodriguez’s Machete.
Expendable Alternative: Steven Seagal: Lawman.
A&E’s Steven Seagal: Lawman is like a madcap stoner TV mash-up from another dimension. It’s Cops, starring Steven Seagal. The show follows the actor, who’s an actual Reserve Deputy Chief in Lousiana, as he patrols the suburbs of New Orleans, nabbing criminals and pontificating like some sort of all-knowing law enforcement sage. If it seems strange to see Seagal proceeding over violent crime scenes, just imagine yourself getting shot and then having Steven Seagal show up to tell you everything was going to be okay. How awful would that be?
Expendable Credentials: Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn, Con Air
Why He’s Out: Nobody asked him.
After appearing in countless films playing the role of “Giant, Pissed Off Mexican,” Danny Trejo finally started to gain a healthy cult following after Robert Rodriguez featured the actor in his phony Grindhouse trailer Machete. His popularity became so rampant that rumors of his inclusion in The Expendables became commonplace, except, well, they just weren’t true. Stallone never even approached Trejo. In an interview with The A.V. Club, Trejo explains:
“Stallone said I was in The Expendables so he could raise his money, you know what I mean? [Laughs.] Because I bring in the Latin audience. So I was in The Expendables all the way up until the time they started casting. I’m not in The Expendables… They have this huge cast, and then all of a sudden, when it comes time to cast, the people that actually raised the money aren’t in it.”
Expendable Alternative: Machete
Machete looks better than The Expendables anyway. Trejo 1, Stallone 0.