“He didn’t want to lose to Jet”: Not Arnold Schwarzenegger, Another Expendables Star Refused Starring in $274M Movie as He Didn’t Want to Lose to 5ft 6in Jet Li

Not Arnold Schwarzenegger, Another Expendables Star Refused Starring in $274M Movie as He Didn’t Want to Lose to 5ft 6in Jet Li

As a film franchise, The Expendables has cemented its commercial standing within the action genre. Sure, criticisms directed at the overarching narrative and dialogues of certain installments have been enunciated, but one aspect cannot be denied: the series is crafted to generate hype. Featuring a spectacular ensemble cast with some of the most legendary figures of the high-octane action genre, it honors the stalwarts of the past and present.

The Expendables franchise
The Expendables franchise

Read also: “I have to get out of the hospital”: Arnold Schwarzenegger Freaked Out After Doctors Apologized and Told Him He Might Die

The adrenaline-inducing franchise, much like most grandiose Hollywood productions that aim to bring to fruition star-studded endeavors, has birthed some of the most intriguing behind-the-scenes tidbits. One particular anecdote shared by Sylvester Stallone revealed how a famous action star, who’d end up starring in the franchise down the line, refused to sign up for a role in the first installment that amassed $274 million at the box office.

Jean-Claude Van Damme Turned Down The Expendables (2010)

Belgian martial artist and actor, Jean-Claude Van Damme
Belgian martial artist and actor, Jean-Claude Van Damme

The mission of The Expendables was to bring together the greatest action movie legends. When your overall premise focuses on a great deal of star power, you must think to involve the most significant actors associated with the subject matter, talents who are synonymous with the genre. In his quest to search for those exact figures that had shaped decades of popular culture through their action flicks, Sylvester Stallone approached The Muscles from Brussels, Jean-Claude Van Damme. How could he not? It just made sense to have the Bloodsport alum feature in the endeavor.

Fandomwire Video

Van Damme was, however, not interested.

Jean-Claude Van Damme was not impressed by Sylvester Stallone's half-baked pitch
Jean-Claude Van Damme was not impressed by Sylvester Stallone’s half-baked pitch

Read also: After Arnold Schwarzenegger, Another Action Legend Reportedly Leaving in Sylvester Stallone’s Expendables 4

When the Belgian martial artist was asked about it in a 2009 interview, he stated that he failed to find substance within the narrative. The Expendables was more about the “action and money” than the characters. When Van Damme inquired about his role in the flick, Stallone was unable to reply and evaded the query by citing the fighting sequences and overall profitability as the movie’s attractive points. Therefore, the Lionheart star rejected Stallone’s proposal due to a half-baked pitch and an underdeveloped role.

This was one version of the story. Sylvester Stallone‘s account of the incident is vastly different, revealing yet another reason why Van Damme was hesitant to join the ensemble.

Jean-Claude Van Damme Didn’t Want To Lose To Jet Li

Jean-Claude Van Damme refused to lose to Jet Li
Jean-Claude Van Damme refused to lose to Jet Li

According to Stallone, the reason behind JCVD’s absence in the first installment of the ensemble action-thriller franchise was due to his refusal to lose to renowned martial artist and actor, Jet Li. In the film series, Jet Li plays the role of Yin Yang, the martial arts specialist of The Expendables, a group of elite mercenaries. Following is what Stallone had envisioned for Van Damme’s character in the first film:

“I wanted to set Jean-Claude against Jet Li, but he didn’t want to lose to Jet. He didn’t think that was cool. But that’s why it would be cool; to have Jean-Claude beaten by the other man. Hey, they could have a rematch. But Steven Seagal and Van Damme, they weren’t really into our gallows humor.”

Stallone had brushed off Van Damme’s absence as his failing to resonate with the series’ humorously grim undertones. In a 2019 interview with THR, the Double Impact star denied the Rambo alum’s assertions. JCVD was simply too preoccupied with directing a film to accept the offer. Regardless, the actor would soon join the team-up action flick premise in the second installment as Jean Vilain.

Jean-Claude Van Damme in Expendables 2
Jean-Claude Van Damme in The Expendables 2

Read also: Unlike Clint Eastwood, Jean-Claude Van Damme Had to Eat Humble Pie for Turning Down Sylvester Stallone’s Expendables

At the end of the day, we can conclude that Sylvester Stallone triumphed in assembling the finest action stars for an uber-ambitious endeavor. While actors like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terry Crews, Jet Li, etc., won’t be returning for the upcoming fourth installment in the saga, we can say that The Expendables franchise, albeit momentarily, made some of our childhood dreams come true.

The Expendables trilogy is available to stream on Peacock. Meanwhile, the latest addition to the series, Expend4bles, is scheduled to be released on 22 September 2023.

Source: The Times and THR

Written by Debdipta

Always having had a deep fascination for content creation and pop culture, Debdipta joined as a writer at FandomWire in 2022. Debdipta enjoys the intricacies of cinema and film-making. Besides her knack for writing, she's also an avid reader, a connoisseur of music across all genres, and a die-hard fan of Charlie Kaufman.