HN Entertainment’s Nicholas Whitcomb recently spoke with screenwriter Richard Wenk (The Equalizer 1-2, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Kraven The Hunter) about his previous work on The Expendables franchise specifically his work on The Expendables 2. Richard revealed that Mickey Rourke’s role was given to Liam Hemsworth and Jet Li had a scaled-back subplot due to the production losing an offer to film a segment of the film in China (something that has been rumored for The Expendables 4 for years).
HN: I did want to touch upon The Expendables 2, what was it like I guess working with Sly [Stallone] on that sequel? How did that project come to you?
WENK: “It came to me through the director Simon West, who I had written a movie for previously called The Mechanic and he was hired to do The Expendables 2 and called me. I met with Sly [Stallone] and he was very gracious, open, and allowing me the freedom to create the story and the additional characters that I thought would be needed for the second movie.”
“Those movies are puzzle pieces, who is going to be in them, and how long? What’s the driving inciting incident and all those things with the creator, which is Sly. But I worked with Simon [West] on the size and scope of the movie and the action blocks and things like that.”
HN: Was there anything major you had to cut from the film? Perhaps, like a cameo or an actor you couldn’t work in there?
WENK: “Originally, Mickey Rourke was in the movie, then he wasn’t. That facilitated the creation of the [Liam] Hemsworth character, the additional character.”
“I can tell you that the original script called for a big chunk of the movie to take place in China and at the last minute China decided to rescind their offer to shoot there. We had to come up with a way of having Jet Li stay in China when they never actually went to China.”
“It was actually Sly’s idea to have him just jump out of the plane over China. Those are the kind of things that you’re flying by the seat of your pants and you’re like ‘What do we now?… Cause the rest of the script Jet Li’s not in it’. There was a whole subplot they brought these Chinese businessmen home and he decided he wanted to stay home with his family, that was all in the script. It was Sly’s idea to just open the bottom of the plane and have him leap out.”
When asked about ideas for the possible fourth film Wenk suggest maybe scaling back the cameos and number of characters to the original two movies that focused on the main core of guys.
WENK: “If I were the boss of The Expendables franchise I’d circle back to the origins of it I think it feels like I’ve attached myself to the core group of guys and what I liked about doing the second one it didn’t really expand into the Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas additions. It was sort of living with the original concept that Sly came up with and I would probably circle back and have it a little more like that. I think it kind of expanded beyond, it kind of jumped-the-shark a little bit and I think the best action movies are the best [when] you attach yourself to certain characters and when you have too many or it gets too loud, you’re less engaged. So, for me, I’d tie it back.”
“Those are the key characters we fell in love with and want to follow and I think in the second one with the addition of the cameo of Chuck Norris was a nice wink to that time [the era of 1980’s action films], it was organic to the story it didn’t intrude. I’m a big believer of sticking with what got ya there and their interpersonal relationships.”
Richard is currently working on two interesting projects at the moment with Sony’s Kraven The Hunter, a Spider-Man spin-off feature film not unlike Venom and Morbius. Along with his re-imagining of the 1992 Jean-Claude Van Damme action flick Universal Soldier that he hopes will begin filming by the end of the year.
We’ll be posting more from Nick’s interview with Richard very soon.