Sylvester Stallone is now leaving the Expendables franchise he helped create, backing away from starring in Expendables 4, despite what would reportedly be the biggest payday of his career. Sources claim that the actor would take in a whopping $20 million for starring in Expendables 4, which we had reported in December would be the final sequel in this action-packed franchise. Still, producer Avi Lerner revealed that he doesn't think Sylvester Stallone is leaving quite yet, so there may still be hope for the actor's return.
Deadline reports that Sylvester Stallone and producer Avi Lerner, whose Nu Image/Millennium company has produced and financed all of the Expendables movies, can't find common ground on the script or who will take over as the new director. Another point of contention is the use of Avi Lerner's own VFX house, the Bulgaria-based Nu Boyana, with Sylvester Stallone reportedly worried about the "underwhelming" results of this franchise. One of the site's sources reveal that Sylvester Stallone and Avi Lerner often disagree on many things, but these arguments normally get ironed out over "a couple of cigars," although sources claim that may not happen this time. Despite this report, Avi Lerner revealed in a statement that he doesn't think the project is "dead" quite yet.
"We've got disagreements with Sly, but we've had them for over a year and a half. Right now, each one has opinion. We agreed on 95% of things, but there are certain things in production we don't agree on. I don't think it's over, but write whatever you want. In my opinion, it's not dead."
Sylvester Stallone directed the first Expendables movie and co-wrote the script with Dave Callaham, while starring as Expendables leader Barney Ross. While he didn't return to direct any of the sequels, Sylvester Stallone co-wrote Expendables 2 with Richard Wenk (The Equalizer), with Simon West directing, and he also co-wrote Expendables 3 with Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt (Olympus Has Fallen), with Patrick Hughes directing. No director has been set for Expendables 4 yet, and it isn't known if Sylvester Stallone co-wrote the script, or who he wrote it with.
The last we heard on this movie was it was set to be the final Expendables sequel, with German company Splendid Films picking up the German theatrical rights to the sequel in December, although it wasn't revealed who was writing, directing or starring in the sequel at that time. The cast has featured a rotating group of action icons, including Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Steve Austin, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford and Kelsey Grammer. It remains to be seen if any of these stars will be back for Expendables 4, provided it's still happening without Sylvester Stallone.
The Expendables got the franchise off to a good start, earning $103 million domestically and another $171.4 million overseas for a worldwide total of $274.4 million worldwide, from an $80 million budget. The Expendables 2 followed just two years later, with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis getting larger roles after having extended cameos in the first, alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme as the villain. The sequel dipped a bit domestically with $85 million, but earned more internationally with $229.9 million for a worldwide total of $314.9 million, from a $100 million budget. 2014's The Expendables 3, though, surprisingly earned much less, even though they decided to shift from an R-rated action-thriller to PG-13 movie, to attract a wider audience, a strategy that obviously backfired. The Expendables 3 earned a franchise low $39.3 million domestically and $175.3 million internationally for a worldwide total of $214.6 million. The fact that the movie was leaked online well in advance of its theatrical debut is also believed to have hurt its run at the box office. Hopefully we'll have more updates on the future of The Expendables 4 very soon.