EXCLUSIVE: Randy Couture Talks The Expendables
The champion MMA fighter goes head-to-head with Steve Austin in this action-packed Blu-ray and DVD release
The Expendables was one of this summer's biggest hits, and it finally arrives on Blu-ray and DVD today, November 23rd. Sylvester Stallone directs an all-star cast, assembling the world's greatest tough-guy actors in one legendary action ensemble. This hard-hitting thriller features Sly, along with his buddies Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, and Eric Roberts, just to name a few.
The story follows a group of mercenaries as they infiltrate South America to overthrow a ruthless dictator. While the movie is jam-packed full of incredible action sequences, one of the most exciting moments is a fight to the death between three-time world champion MMA fighter Randy Couture and former WWE Superstar Steve Austin (formerly known as Stone Cold). To celebrate this awesome new release, we caught up with Randy Couture to chat with him about his tussle with Steve, working with Sylvester Stallone, and the impending sequel.
Here is our conversation:
I like the beard. Did you grow that out for a part? Or did you just do that for personal preference?
Randy Couture: It was just for personal preference. I get tired of shaving. I was getting ready for my last fight. I took two weeks off from a razor blade. Then I decided I was going to let it grow out. I wanted to keep it for a while.
It's a little less intimidating when we see you with the beard than without it. I'm not sure why that is. But without that beard, you look like a stone cold killer.
Randy Couture: (Laughs) That is funny.
It brings a different, more intimidating look to your eyes! Now, I am not sure if you're familiar with Sylvester Stallone's Tweets? But he wants to bring Steve Austin back for the sequel. And Steven Austin seems to think his character is still alive. But anyone who has seen The Expendables knows that you decimate the man. What is your take on Austin's immanent return to this franchise? Do you think his character is still alive?
Randy Couture: He thinks he's still alive? Yeah, I suppose its possible that he survived the fire. Obviously he's going to be horribly maimed coming back. I got to ride back from the press junket in New York City with Sylvester Stallone and the rest of his folks. It was one of the things we discussed. He was tossing around some ideas for the sequel at that time. And we were both bummed that things had gone the way they'd gone. It appeared that Steve died. He did such a great job. And it was fun getting to hang out with him, and do those scenes. I felt bad. It appeared that he wouldn't get to do the sequel, because he does get killed. But you know Sly! There is always a way to work it out. There is always a way to work Steve back in. We'll see what happens. I haven't seen the new script, so I have no idea.
I heard that they were toying with the idea of Steve having a twin. Do you like that idea? Or does that make it too cartoonish?
Steve is pretty evil in the first movie. What do you think about making him a good guy this time around? I mean, it seems like he already played the "evil" twin...Or is that stupid?
Randy Couture: I don't know! Its tough to speculate and see how the new story is going to twist, and where we are going to end up. I don't know if there is anything that is stupid. I think anything is possible.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie, and it's a scene that got a lot of the fans excited, is when we see you going head-to-head with Steve in this no-holds-barred fist fight to the death. It's pretty spectacular. You both come from different worlds of fighting. How did you guys choreograph that scene together, and how did you work out the differences in your individual styles?
Randy Couture: Obviously, Sly made a decision that's how we were going to end it in the courtyard. We were going to come together. Both on the screen and in real life, there was a collusion of these two very popular worlds. Steve comes from the pro-wrestling world. He is obviously very popular. The new kids on the block are from the mixed martial arts crowd. To see two guys from both of those worlds colliding in a make-believe fight is something unique. Sly is very clever. Everyone gets excited about seeing that. They get excited when something like this takes a foray into mixed martial arts. And Steve Austin is one of the most popular guys from his area of entertainment.
Did you get to see the movie with a real crowd on opening weekend?
Randy Couture: We did. A couple of times. We did the premieres, and we also did a special screening for a bunch of the Marines down at Camp Pendleton. Everyone goes nuts. They are frenzied by the time we get to that point of the movie.
The excitement in the theater just goes up ten degrees when you step in front of Steve. It's a weird feeling to even describe. Its one of the great scenes in action movie history. What is cool about watching the movie is that Stallone really seemed interested in giving each of you guys your one true moment to shine on screen. Everyone in the cast gets at least one big "wow" moment...
Randy Couture: Yes! Yes! I think he worked very diligently to make sure that was the case. I think he realized that he was dealing with a whole bunch of us who all had our own thing. We have our own audiences from all the other stuff we've done. That was the trick. That was the hardest part of having all those guys together. Making sure that we all had a fair shake. I think he did a pretty remarkable job of it.
Sly wants to make five or six of these things. In this first movie, we don't see a lot of backstory. Though, in the build-up to the big action climax, you do have that great dialogue scene about your ear. Why did you feel this was a good venue to include a discussion about that personal topic?
Randy Couture: I didn't decide anything. Sly wrote that scene specifically for me. I thought it was a lot of fun, and very cool. From an explanation point. I thought that all of my college-wrestling buddies would get a huge kick out of that. It wasn't my decision. Sly wanted to do it. Who am I to disagree? I just went with it. I'm not sure if it's on the Blu-ray, or what. But you do get to see the whole rant. They cut it down for the final version of the movie. It was cut into a third of what we actually did that day. But they put it back in. I am anxious to see how the whole thing came out.
Is that going to just be a deleted scene? Or is that scene being placed back into an unrated cut of the movie?
Randy Couture: I think that will be in an unrated, or director's cut, of the film. I am not sure.
I didn't get to see that version. I did watch the bloopers on the DVD, though, and they are a little bit different from the normal blooper reel where the cast and crew seem to be having fun. Sly seems very serious here. Like, people are afraid to laugh...
Randy Couture: There was some joking around. I thought the gag reel was pretty funny. We had some fun doing everything that we did. Sly wasn't a slave driver. I think that he was wearing a lot of hats. Sometimes there were three units going all at one time during the making of the movie. And he is watching all of it. He is doing all of the re-writes. Plus he is in front of the camera for a ton of the scenes. I don't know how he did all of that. Anyone doing that much, working nights that whole time, there is no way they're not going to be intense. And he is an intense person. That's funny that's how the blooper reel came across.
Sly always has such a great sense of humor about himself and his work whenever you see him on a talk show, or on the red carpet. So he's not all business...
Randy Couture: He is very funny.
In talking about the upcoming sequel, do you hope to see more of a backstory given for this group of mercenaries? Or their own individual stories?
Randy Couture: I hope that's the case. But people go to this type of movie for a certain thing. And a big dramatic backstory probably isn't it. Knowing Sly, he'll find a way to work that in. To tell that, and still make it part of the action. I really don't know what to expect going into the second one. I haven't had a chance to see the script yet. I think its still in the works. But I am excited to see what direction we are headed.
Stallone's script doesn't follow the traditional three-act beat structure of most action movies. He has a decidedly different flow to his narrative, much like the last Rambo. What did you think when you first got a hold of the script and read it?
Randy Couture: The first thing that struck me was...I got the script and read through the whole thing, I really liked the characters and the whole story, I liked the action and how it worked out. But then about a month later, the real incident with the Navy SEALS and the Somali Pirates actually happened. When that came on the news, I was like, "What?" I was shocked to hear the opening scene from the movie script I had read a month before was playing out in some fashion in the real news. I thought that was incredible. That was the first thing that struck me about the script. It was using elements of the real world. It wasn't just make believe. He worked that in.
Do you know what current topic Sly might tackle next with the sequel? With the last Rocky, and the last Rambo, and this, he certainly has his finger on the pulse of the world...
Randy Couture: With the global economy the way it is right now, a huge thing has become these kidnappings for ransom. There have been a few cities identified around the world. As someone who travels a fair amount, I have read some articles and I have seen some things. There are a lot of kidnappings for ransoms going on. Having shot in Brazil; that is one of those places that has been identified as a problem area for that sort of thing. I know Mexico City has a problem with the cartel, and all the stuff that is going on down there. That has hit the news a few times as well. Some of these people have been kept locked up for years. It's just insane. That is something just off the top of my head that occurs to me. I have no idea what Sly is going to come up with.
Its known that Stallone wants to bring back all of the Expendables that we see hanging out inside Mickey Rourke's tattoo shop at the end of the movie. But he also wants to bring in some new guys. Who are some of the older action stars, and some of the newer action stars, that you want to see added in The Expendables 2? Who is your dream cast this next time around?
Randy Couture: I don't know whom I would add to the list. I was so excited with the chemistry we had before. There was no drama. There were no issues. I almost hesitate to see anyone added to this, for fear that it now gets screwed up. Sly covered all of his bases with the first one. It will be interesting to see whom he has gotten to know, whom he has talked to, and how it will work out for the second one. Who we end up bringing in, and how it goes.
That is interesting to me. I haven't heard anyone else express the concern that bringing in new guys would spoil the chemistry. And that is a very legitimate concern. It could screw things up a little bit. None of the original Expendables died in this first movie...
Randy Couture: No. Nobody died. Everybody comes out the other end in the first one.
What about Dolph? Did he originally die? And then get brought back at the end because of overwhelming test screening demand?
Randy Couture: My take on that? It was always Sly's intention to have that reveal. You thought Dolph was gone, then you have this reveal that he didn't die. That Sly didn't kill him. Again, I am not in the position to be making those decisions, or to be in that loop. That was just the way I understood it.
What are you doing removed from The Expendables franchise? What other movies are you currently working on?
Randy Couture: I have been reading a lot of scripts. I turned down a few projects over the course of the summer. Most of which were straight-to-DVD projects that weren't going to help me stay on the path that I am on. I just agreed to play a role in a Bruce Willis movie that is shooting next month. In Michigan. It's called The Set Up. I am looking forward to that. I play a very angry, interesting gangster. Pete. We're also talking about several other scripts that are somewhere in the process. Some of those are lead characters. And obviously, I will be doing The Expendables 2 sometime in the spring.
Were there any big superhero franchises that you were looking into?
Randy Couture: I did look into a few, and so far, I have not landed any of those characters. In my sport, I got the nickname Captain America. Everyone was asking me if I was going to try out for that movie. As far as I know, I haven't heard anymore about that movie. I don't know. I think I still have some real hurdles to get over in being considered a real actor at this stage. They are still looking at me as a fighter and not a real actor. Certainly, The Expendables was a big help.
You got your start in a David Mamet film. Red Belt. I would think that would be a pretty good calling card right there...
Randy Couture: I certainly think that doing anything with David Mamet gives you some credibility. That didn't hurt at all. David was very supportive of where I am at, and what I am trying to do. That certainly helps. I'd like the opportunity to do more dramatic roles. I don't want to just play thugs and knuckleheads because I am a big, muscular guy. I would like to play some more dramatic characters. I would like to do other stuff. I think it's going to take more time. I think we are headed in the right direction. We are trying to make good decisions about the roles I get involved in. I am certainly happy to be involved in action films. It's a genre that I have always liked. We'll have to see how it all unfolds and how it all works out.