The Expendables series is known for its ensemble cast, but some big names have turned the franchise down. One of Sylvester Stallone’s major action movie franchises, The Expendables series kicked off in 2010, directed by Sylvester Stallone and bringing together a cast of action heroes in a tribute to ‘80s action movies. The Expendables was a big hit upon its release, with The Expendables 2 following in 2012 and expanding its roster even more.
While 2014’s The Expendables 3 brought in the biggest ensemble the franchise had ever seen, its PG-13 rating led to it being a financial disappointment. Despite its downturn, The Expendables amassed a very impressive cast in its first three films. With Stallone as the series anchor, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, and Terry Crews make up the main team, with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis as close allies, but that’s only a portion of the franchise’s large cast.
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The Expendables movies have also included Jean-Claude Van Damme, Scott Adkins, Chuck Norris, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, and Antonio Banderas, among other big names. The Expendables 4 also brings aboard stars like Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Megan Fox, and 50 Cent. Other stars like Pierce Brosnan and Dwayne Johnson have either been rumored or expressed interest in the series at various points, but for as many action stars The Expendables has enlisted, there have also been a substantial number who have turned down offers for the series. Here is everyone who turned down joining or returning to Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables franchise.
Stallone’s initial casting choice for Mr. Church in The Expendables was Kurt Russell. However, Russell declined the role, reportedly due to being disinclined towards “ensemble acting at the moment”. This ultimately led to Bruce Willis becoming Mr. Church in The Expendables.
Following on his appearance in The Expendables, Bruce Willis returned in The Expendables 2 with Mr. Church having an expanded role. Willis was originally set to return as Church in The Expendables 3, but a pay dispute would lead to him not coming back. Harrison Ford’s role in The Expendables 3 as Drummer would essentially be equivalent to what Church’s was to be.
Jean-Claude Van Damme
As part of the action hero ensemble that The Expendables was, The Muscles from Brussels was approached by Stallone. It is not entirely clear who Van Damme would have portrayed in The Expendables, but due to Van Damme not finding the story compelling, he ultimately declined Stallone’s offer. It would end up being a moot point within two years, with Van Damme joining The Expendables 2 as the villainous Jean-Vilain, which also re-united him with his frequent on-screen co-stars Scott Adkins and Dolph Lundgren.
The part of The Expendables mini-canon wielding Hale Caesar was initially written for Wesley Snipes. Due to his tax-related issues at the time that precluded him from leaving the United States, Snipes had to turn down the role. Snipes would subsequently be seen in The Expendables 3 as Doc Death, making a meta-joke on his real-life tax conviction after being rescued by his teammates, Stallone’s Demolition Man co-star Wesley Snipes saying, as Doc Death, that his was imprisoned due to “tax evasion”.
After Snipes had to turn down Hale Caesar in The Expendables, Forest Whitaker as originally set to assume the role. In the end, a scheduling conflict forced Whitaker to back out of The Expendables. Whitaker would nonetheless later appear alongside one of The Expendables’s core players, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in the 2013 action movie The Last Stand.
50 Cent would also become attached to the role of Hale Caesar in The Expendables after Snipes and Whitaker abdicated the part. While the official reason is not clear, 50 Cent ultimately did not end up portraying Hale Caesar, with the role finally being assumed by Terry Crews. 50 Cent would later co-star with Stallone in the Escape Plan trilogy, and eventually in The Expendables 4.
Despite being a core member of the team in first three Expendables movies, Terry Crews chose to sit out The Expendables 4. According to Terry Crews (via IndieWire), he was asked to drop a sexual assault charge by producer Avi Lerner, which Crews refused and instead left production.
While The Expendables was being put together, Steven Seagal was also approached about making a cameo appearance in the ensemble action movie. Seagal declined, owing to a rift with series producer Avi Lerner.