Not many people know this but Sylvester Stallone‘s 2010 brawny mercenary epic The Expendables was originally shot with the intention of getting a PG-13 rating. Fans of old school action the world over were disheartened but were willing to look past it just as long as Sly delivered the goods, and given the insane amount of heavyweight ass-kicking talent the star/director had assembled for the movie, there was no question he wouldn’t. As the film approached its release date the decision was made to pump some more blood-soaked carnage digitally into the proceedings to get its rating up to an R, despite the nagging stigma that the box office appeal of R-rated action films was dropping off fast each year.
That didn’t prevent The Expendables from becoming one of the surprise hits of that summer, grossing over $100 million in the U.S. and banking a grand worldwide total of over $274 million (with a budget of only $80 million). At that point not only was a sequel inevitable but it was assumed from the beginning that the next Expendables adventure, appropriately titled The Expendables 2, would be from the very beginning designed and executed with the intention of getting that all-important R rating.
But then a funny thing happened to The Expendables 2 on its way to principal photography. A funny thing named Chuck Norris. Continue reading to see how Norris changed the entire course of the movie, and to see a video.
According to an interview the Ginger Bearded One recently granted to the Polish newspaper Kazeta, Norris discussed his character and how he came to be involved with the project. Then he let this slip:
In Expendables 2, there was a lot of vulgar dialogue in the screenplay. For this reason, many young people wouldn’t be able to watch this. But I don’t play in movies like this. Due to that I said I won’t be a part of that if the hardcore language is not erased. Producers accepted my conditions and the movie will be classified in the category of PG-13.
Then Norris ordered every male member of the cast to castrate themselves and accept Jesus Christ as their love and savior.
Granted this quote could have been taken out of context or something was lost in translation, so Harry over at Ain’t It Cool News e-mailed Stallone for a confirmation as to whether or not Norris was speaking the truth, and here’s his response:
Harry, the film is fantastic with Van Damme turning in an inspired performance… Our final battle is one for the ages. The PG13 rumor is true, but before your readers pass judgement, trust me when I say this film is LARGE in every way and delivers on every level. This movie touches on many emotions which we want to share with the broadest audience possible, BUT, fear not, this Barbeque of Grand scale Ass Bashing will not leave anyone hungry…Sly
So yeah, The Expendables 2 is going to be a PG-13 movie. But that’s not what bothers me. It’s the hypocritical attitudes of Stallone, Norris, and the film’s producers. As I mentioned earlier the original film was shot with a PG-13 rating in mind but then later had its violence upgraded to hard R status – guys exploding, throats slit, gruesome bullet wounds, and the damage inflicted by Terry Crews‘ mighty shotgun, the goddamn works – and it was still a massive hit. Imagine that, in the summer of 2010, the summer that Christopher Nolan’s Chinese box blockbuster Inception was ruling the box office, an independently-financed sweaty action flick stocked with aging manly men from the 1980s could still sell millions of tickets in America and abroad. Going for the R rating was a gamble that paid off beautifully and it demonstrated that there was still a sizable market for genre films that weren’t afraid to go for broke.
The fortunes reaped by The Expendables wasn’t just a case of great timing and a fantastic marketing campaign, it was also a mandate for a potential sequel that could up the ante in more ways than one. The first film was plagued by production difficulties, a script that remained incomplete throughout filming, and a lead actor whose battle to reconcile his dual roles as star and director was tougher than any on-screen adversary Stallone ever fought. Relieved (thankfully, although I think he did a damn good job on the first movie) of his directorial duties by fellow skilled action helmer Simon West and joined in the cast by Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger (the latter two returning from the original in expanded roles) gave Stallone the advantage of being able to focus on his acting and writing the script, ensuring that the sequel will be a more polished and coherent adventure.
Therefore the willingness of Stallone and the movie’s producers and financiers to disregard the role that the first Expendables‘ lack of a ratings tether played in its success in order to secure the questionable participation of an out-to-pasture has been like Norris while also increasing its chances at the box office this summer is both a middle finger to their fans and a cowardly move in of itself. Norris hasn’t been in a movie that played in an actual movie theater since the mid-’90s and that was when his career had bottomed out and he was forced to take roles in insipid family comedies, and his television series Walker, Texas Ranger has been off the airwaves for a solid decade. How much clout does this joker really have anyway? Was it that important for Norris to be in The Expendables 2? And has he forgotten that he built his career on R-rated violent action pictures like the Missing in Action, the Delta Force movies, and Code of Silence?
Time will tell if this decision hurts or helps The Expendables 2 at the box office in the long run, but I can’t help feeling disheartened.
The Expendables 2 opens on August 17, 2012.
[Source: Expendables Premiere via The Playlist]