Expendables 2 - Poser, main characters
Theatrical Art featuring the main characters ©2012 Liongate

They’re back. Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) and Toll Road (Randy Couture), join forces again in The Expendables 2, when CIA operative Mr Church (Bruce Willis) enlists them to take on a seemingly easy job. They are assisted by new members, Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) and Maggie (Yu Nan), with extra help from Booker (Chuck Norris) and Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger).

But the simple task soon turns deadly, due to their latest nemesis, Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme).

I spoke with Jason Statham and Jean-Claude Van Damme about their new blockbuster at the press day for the movie.

Does it up your game when you work with a cast list like this?

Poster featuring Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) ©2012 Liongate

Jason: Yeah, it takes you back. You see all those people right next to you about to shoot a scene together.

Normally, you are used to sitting in the cinema and watching them on the big screen. It’s slightly different. (he laughs)

These are cinema’s biggest action heroes of all time. That is as good a line up as you could ever get.

We have to tip out hats to the chaps who coined the phrase ‘action hero.’ That phrase only appeared because of Sly, Arnold and Bruce.

How did you become involved with The Expendables 2?

Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) ©2012 Liongate

Jean-Claude: Sly called me about the film. I said, ‘Can I play the bad guy? I know how to do action, and if I give you myself as the bad guy, I think it will have more of an impact with the audience.’

He loved the idea. It was a good decision, I think.

Is it fun to play the villain after all your good guy roles?

Jean-Claude: It’s fun, but it’s also fun to be in The Expendables as a good guy, because then I could do The Expendables 3, Expendables 4. But I made the decision to go the bad guy way. But I’d like to come back as a twin.

As you get older, is it harder to do the action sequences?

Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) and Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) ©2012 Liongate

Jason: What we do is a contact sport. It’s inevitable that you’re going to get an injury, whether you’re twenty years old or forty years old. If you’re doing it correctly and you’re giving it your most, there’s going to be injuries that come.

The thing is, this group of lads lead by example. They don’t sit on the chair and have some stunt double do it. I have a massive respect for those chaps, because I’m seeing it firsthand.

Jean-Claude, you have a wonderful fight scene with Sly at the end of the movie. How long did that take to shoot?

Poster featuring Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) ©2012 Liongate

Jean-Claude: Not long, because Sly knows the camera very well, and I know my moves and I’ve seen almost all his movies, so I know what he can do.

Sly told me to go and design the fight. When he said that to me, there was joy in my body.

Then he brought in his stunt coordinator, who was a cool guy, and he added his own spice, and that’s how the final fight became what it was.

I was like a kid with his idol. I wanted the fight to look great. He made me look good.

Jason, you and Sly have a great rapport on-screen. Is that relationship the same off-screen too?

Jason: Yeah, we’re good friends. The chemistry is either there or it’s not. I don’t think you can work on that, you can’t practice how to create chemistry, it’s just one of those things.

If you’ve got that sense of humor, that banter, it comes easy.

What was it like for you seeing all these action stars together?

Poster featuring Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) ©2012 Liongate

Jean-Claude: It was amazing. I saw Sly in Rocky and Rambo. I saw Arnold in Conan, I saw Bruce Willis in Die Hard. All these stars made it before me, so they were big heroes of mine. They were my role models.

After Bloodsport I was dreaming to have just one of those guys in my movie, or for me to be in their movie.

Suddenly, years later, I’m the villain and they are all running after me, when I was running after them, buying a ticket in the theatre, (to see their films).

Click below to hear Jason Statham talk about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to the big screen.

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Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter. More by Judy Sloane