With Sylvester Stallone tweeting some thoughts and updates on Expendables 3 last week, our thoughts turned to possible (and a few impossible) casting choices. We’ve kept this old school, so you won’t find a Rock or a Diesel here, but a few of our candidates still have action careers that survived post-'90s. Others… not so much. Sly also mentioned a desire for a young, sexy female star (who can blame him?) and some sort of Q-like young, male, geeky type. But suggestions for those are for another list… Here then, are our own thoughts – give us yours in the comments.
Who's that? A fine actor and a credible martial artist, Snipes made his action breakthrough in Passenger 57, and worked opposite Stallone on Demolition Man. He’s probably best known now for the Blade movies, although most people prefer to forget the third one. Snipes is currently serving a three-year jail sentence thanks to some tax issues, but should be out in July this year, and a project like the third Expendables would be just the thing to get him back in the game.
Last seen: Lots of straight-to-video stuff, but his supporting role in Antoine Fuqua’s Brooklyn’s Finest felt like a bit of a comeback.
Likelihood (out of 5):
Who's that? A solid tough guy, now aging into credible cragginess, and Stallone’s co-star in ‘80s action fondue Tango & Cash. Veteran of John Carpenter’s Escape From New York (and, ahem, LA), The Thing and Big Trouble In Little China. Paid millions for being stoic and wordless in Paul WS Anderson’s Soldier. Employed by Quentin Tarantino as Stuntman Mike in Death Proof, although he didn’t end up appearing in Django Unchained as originally planned.
Last seen: Football drama Touchback is Russell’s only release since Death Proof, but he’s got The Art Of The Steal in the can, and Bone Tomahawk on the way.
Who's that? Han Solo. Indiana Jones. Jack Ryan. Never exactly an action star in the cheesy sense we’re talking about with the other Expendables crew, Ford nevertheless knows his way around a gun and a fist fight, and had a spate of action-dad roles in the ‘90s: The Fugitive, the Ryan films, Air Force One.
Last seen: Cowboys & Aliens. Ender’s Game and Anchorman 2 are incoming. Oh, and there may be life in Han Solo yet.
Who's that? The Man With No Name and Dirty Harry, iconic veteran of westerns, cop films, a handful of war and military flicks, and two redneck comedies with an orang-utan. An absolutely bulletproof, iconic, classic Hollywood tough guy, Eastwood very rarely turns out for films he isn’t directing himself these days (Trouble With the Curve was the first time in 19 years) and his role, in a weird way, was taken last time by Chuck Norris, who arrived onscreen to a Morricone soundtrack.
Last seen: Baseball scouting movie Trouble With the Curve, talking to a chair. Also, singing Looking Glass’ Brandy (You're A Fine Girl) with Bill Murray at a karaoke night.
Who's that? Legendary Chinese action star and martial artist, now officially uninsurable having broken every bone in his body doing stunts - some of them more than once. Stallone has publicly said he wants Chan in Expendables 3, although Chan himself doesn’t yet seem entirely convinced by the prospect.
Last seen: Chinese Zodiac, which he said may well mark his retirement from blockbuster-scale action movies. We’ll see…
Who's that? An actor (he played Hamlet!) who did action, rather than an action star. Still, Lethal Weapon and Mad Max are undeniably high genre watermarks, and there are solid standalones on his CV like Payback and Conspiracy Theory. Apocalypto, which he directed, showed he still has an affinity for mad violence. Sadly, he’s become more known lately for off-camera rage and craziness, but last year’s How I Spent My Summer Vacation proved he can still cut an action dash. He’ll next be seen in Machete Kills though, so an Expendables might be an ironic action ensemble too many.
Last seen: Direct-to-DVD (in the US, at least) Mexico-set actioner How I Spent My Summer Vacation. It sounds like a Just A Minute topic, but trust us, it’s not.
Who's that? ‘80s action stalwart, usually as a heavy or part of an ensemble. He directs too. He was the green beret that Arnie was going to eat for breakfast in Commando, and part of Arnie’s merc team in Predator (he’s the one that mows down the jungle with Ol’ Painless). Duke was never an above-the-title star, but he’d be a fitting Expendables presence nonetheless: maybe as a villain, or another shady figure in Mr Church’s organisation.
Last seen: Elmore Leonard adaptation Freaky Deaky, which went straight to video in the US and has yet to reach these shores.
Who's that? One of the leaders of the ‘80s Brat Pack, along with the likes of Kiefer Sutherland and his brother Charlie Sheen, Estevez did some wild-eyed gun slinging in his time, starring as Billy the Kid in the two Young Guns films. He also had another brief action franchise in the Stakeout movies with Richard Dreyfuss, and knocked some heads with Sheen in Men At Work. Lately, he’s been directing to some acclaim, but it’s not unthinkable that he’d be inclined to blow some shit up again.
Last seen: Adventure dramedy The Way (with his dad Martin Sheen), which he also directed.
Who's that? Stallone’s nemesis-turned-ally in the Rocky films, an unwelcome part of Schwarzenegger’s Predator team (the CIA had him pushing too many pencils), and briefly, star of his own proto-franchise Action Jackson, although that was never followed up.
Last seen: Straight to video Battleships knock-off American Warships, from the infamous Asylum studio. Also, Arrested Development, where he revealed his tried-and-true stew recipe.
Who's that? A character actor with much more than action on his CV, Ward was the star of ‘80s classic Remo Williams: Unarmed And Dangerous, and he faced down giant killer worms in Tremors, so he’d be utterly Expendables-appropriate – perhaps some kind of ex-military suit who goes unexpectedly Remo would be in order.
Last seen: Playing The Major in bomb comedy 30 Seconds Or Less. He’ll also show up in 2 Guns with Denzel Washington and Marky Mark.
Who's that? Star of the five-movie American Ninja franchise, plus numerous other corner-shop VHS hits. His martial art of choice is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and he’s said publicly that he’d love to be an Expendable if Stallone would like to have him (around the 11-minute mark here).
Last seen: Straight-to-video sci-fi actioner Stranded, with Ice-T, way back in 2002.
Who's that? Eccentrically-haired zen warlock who perversely turned to glossy Bruckheimer action – The Rock, Con-Air, Gone In 60 Seconds etc. – following his Oscar win for Leaving Las Vegas. Not quite as old-school as most of the Expendables – he’s ‘90s and beyond, rather than ‘80s – Cage has nonetheless proved time and again that he’s up for a spot of mayhem. Expendables producer Avi Lerner has said he thinks Cage a likely candidate, although Lerner is not unknown for occasionally speaking out of turn and through his hat (see the recent Texas Chainsaw 4 debacle and the Amber Heard / Red Sonja film he promised us).
Last seen: Ghost Rider 2, Seeking Justice and Trespass all in quick succession most recently, with Stolen, The Frozen Ground and Joe (among others) incoming.
Who's that? Arguably the most obviously missing Expendable now that Van Damme has made an appearance. In the ‘80s Seagal broke arms and skulls through the violent likes of Hard to Kill and Marked for Death – see the last video here for more details – then went a bit more mainstream with Under Siege and was seduced by hubris into directing grand follies like On Deadly Ground (promoting environmentalism and harmony by blowing shit up!). He’s spent the last decade and more knocking out straight-to-video clunkers where he doesn’t even show up to loop his own dialogue. He’s also the reincarnation of a Buddhist 'treasure revealer', a blues musician, a part-time cop, and he’s had a sort of CSI-ish TV show (True Justice). He’s actually not averse to sending himself up either – see Exit Wounds, Executive Decision, Machete – but sadly Stallone has confirmed he’s still definitely off the cards for Expendables 3. Stallone didn’t specify why, but legend has it Seagal has an ongoing beef with Expendables producer Avi Lerner.
Last seen: The just-out Maximum Conviction, with ex-Expendable Steve Austin.
Who she? The queen of ‘80s action. She never achieved the giddy fame or box office heights of her male contemporaries, but the prolific Rothrock punched and kicked her way off the video shelves for years. Surely a shoo-in for the “female Expendables” that’s being developed as we speak, but there’s no need for sexist segregation: she’d be equally effective in all-male company.
Last seen: 2004’s Sci-Fighter, although she had a cameo as “Nanna” in last year’s family affair Santa’s Summer House.
Who's that? Craggy grump who survived projects with Walter Hill and Paul Verhoeven. Ever-effective as a villain or an irascible authority figure, he even came out of Highlander 2 looking basically fine and positively shone in the likes of Starship Troopers. Still prolifically busy, he mostly sticks to small indie films, but mixes in the occasional blockbuster (X-Men: First Class, Terminator: Salvation).
Last seen: Last year’s financial crisis drama California Winter.
Who's that? Speaking of Highlander… Lambert “arrived” as Tarzan in Greystoke, went back to France to win a César for Luc Besson’s Subway, and then made his name in the face of all logic as the French-accented Scot in Russell Mulcahy’s immortal epic. Low-rent American action constituted most of his ‘90s – Highlander sequels, the Fortress films, Gunmen – but he seemed to retreat to France recently for critical acclaim with Claire Denis' White Material. And then he made Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.
Last seen: Equestrian drama Ma Bonne Etoile.
Who's that? Statuesque amazon who hacked through Red Sonja alongside Schwarzenegger (it’s her film really, so that should probably be the other way around) and strutted through Beverly Hills Cop 2 opposite Eddie Murphy. She had a bit of a romantic dalliance with Arnie though, and is also the ex Mrs Stallone (they met on Cobra) so that might make things slightly awkward.
Last seen: Stripper With A Shotgun: half of straight-to-video double-bill Grindhouse 2wo (we apologise; that really is the title). N.B. She didn’t play the stripper.
Who's that? Star of Grease, sufferer-through Look Who’s Talking, comeback king in Pulp Fiction. A jack of all trades, he’s equally comfortable with comedy and drama, and has frequently peppered his CV with action roles, albeit like Cage in the 90s onwards. He’s worked with John Woo twice (Broken Arrow and Face/Off), and in recent years has torn up The Taking of Pelham 123 and From Paris With Love. And he has Stallone previous: Sly directed him in Staying Alive.
Last seen: As dodgy Dennis in Oliver Stone’s Savages.
Who's that? The bedrock of the Iron Eagle films – four militaristic action epics – and a co-star in the Dolph version of The Punisher, among many other action roles. Like Michael Ironside, he can mostly be found in small indie dramas these days.
Last seen: Supernatural yarn Breaking At The Edge, released in the US at the start of this year.
Who's that? In two words: James Bond (or, if you prefer, “tax exile”). But, obviously, Connery is much else besides. His last great action role was Michael Bay’s The Rock alongside Nicolas Cage, and he swore off filmmaking forever after The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Stallone coaxing him out of retirement for an Expendables would, to put it bluntly, be fucking something. But outside of idle daydreams, there’s no chance in heck.
Last seen: A golf course somewhere warm, or watching Andy Murray play tennis in New York.