March 16, 2016

The Expendables 3: From Script to Screen


After hearing that a fourth Expendables movie was in the works it reminded me that this is something I’ve wanted to discuss since The Expendables 3 came out in 2014.

I got to look at an early version of the script a while back and it was originally quite different and of course was not written as a PG-13 movie.

So let’s take a look at what the major changes were.

Obviously some of the dialogue and action scenes were different but I want to focus on the changes which jumped out at me.



  • The opening train scene takes place at night but aside from that it’s always been pretty much the same.
  • Hale Caesar is killed by Conrad Stonebanks rather than injured. This works much better dramatically and makes you feel that lives actually are at stake. Apparently the only reason Caesar lived is because Terry Crews loved playing the character so much.
  • Church was originally in the script and would later be replaced by Drummer (Harrison Ford). His dialogue is different and it’s him in the chopper at the end with Trench and Yin Yang.
  • When Sly was trying to get Jackie Chan on board, his character was called 3D and was a bit of an Asian stereotype so it’s no wonder he declined. The character would be rewritten to become Galgo ( Antonio Banderas); both characters would end up being the annoying comic relief guy with similar scenes although 3D was slightly less annoying. He has an argument with Gunnar about chopsticks of all things which was quite lame. His confession as to what happened to his unit remains pretty much the same though. He had what sounded like a pretty epic fight scene at the end which could have been something special.
  • Luna (Ronda Rousey) is introduced in a different fashion with Barney protesting having a woman onboard. This makes him come across as more of a dinosaur and I’m glad they changed it.
  • Luna ends up getting tortured a little more by Stonebanks when the Young Expendables are captured later in the story.
  • Smilee’s (Kellan Lutz) story is a little different where he is discovered working on a farm rather than having fistfights for money.
  • Christmas’s girlfriend Lacey has a small role and tries flirting with one of the crew and it’s a shame she was removed as it would have kept up the continuity. When the Expendables are broken up we get a scene with Christmas sitting with Lacey and some friends having dinner demonstrating how he just isn’t cut out for the civilian life.
  • Toll Road also nearly loses his shit while buying groceries which was also changed in the final film.
  • All of the stuff about keeping Stonebanks alive and taken to The Hague is not in this version and it flows a little better. There is still not enough motivation to him though and he was always an underdeveloped villain.
  • When Stonebanks escapes from the van and Barney has fallen off the bridge into the water, he is saved by Trench who kills Conrad’s goons. It gives him a bit more to do in the film rather than just flying the helicopter all the time.
  • The much talked about axe scene starts off with Christmas (Statham) fighting the henchman Krug in a vicious knifefight; when Krug gets the upper hand and is about to kill Christmas The Surgeon (Wesley Snipes) runs in and throws the axe to Christmas. He then cuts Krug in half which certainly would have given the film an R rating.
  • There appears to be a lot more blood and guts in this version so the final film was certainly toned down.
  • When Yang, Trench and Church arrive in the helicopter during the finale Yang originally got to have an epic one on one fight which could have been pretty satisfying, so it’s another case of Jet Li being left out (most likely due to his poor health in all fairness).
  • Stonebanks’ death was more brutal too rather than him getting shot (booooring!), Barney picks up a piece of rebar with fifty pounds of concrete at the end of it and crushes Stonebank’s skull. For the life of me I don’t know why THAT was removed!!
  • But that’s not the end; Barney then takes out his knife and cuts off Stonebanks’ Expendables tattoo from his skin and tosses the flesh away.

The film still has the same flaws and the Young Expendables were never interesting but it’s always fun to read early versions of movies to see how they differ from the final product.

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About the Author

Eoin Friel
Eoin Friel
I grew up watching JCVD, Sly and Arnold destroy bad guys, blow things up and spew one-liners like it's a fashion statement. Action is everything I go to the movies for and the reason I came up with this site is to share my love for the genre with everyone. We also want to help promote new talent whether you're making blockbusters, low-budget Indie movies or fan films; if it's action, it's awesome.



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