Sylvester Stallone Originally Wanted The Expendables To Be A Comedy

File this under the wide world of what-ifs in Hollywood history: What if "The Expendables" had been a comedy? That's how director, co-writer, and star Sylvester Stallone originally envisioned the first film in the franchise, which kicked off in the summer of 2010 and is still going strong with a fourth installment in 2022. It was not until late in the pre-production process that Stallone decided to shift creative directions and make "The Expendables" more of a straightforward action flick, albeit one that would have a certain testosterone-fueled ensemble appeal, as it teamed up actors, UFC and wrestling stars, and bodybuilders and Governators, like Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"The Expendables" was filmed in New Orleans — in a Winn-Dixie building-turned-film studio, of all places — and in a 2009 interview with, Stallone explained how the movie began life as a comedy:

"This started out as a dark comedy; it started out as a satire. Then we thought, 'Let's make a really hard R' — then I go back. It constantly was being just brutally changed. It wasn't until a week before filming that I said, 'Let's just make it this kind of movie.'"

This was Stallone's Wild Bunch

As Sylvester Stallone embraced the "hard R" idea for "The Expendables," he began to see it as a movie akin to Sam Peckinpah's 1969 Western "The Wild Bunch," which was notorious in its day for its depiction of graphic violence. It's worth pointing out that Stallone was coming off the fifth "Rambo" movie in 2008, which was also so violent that some now classify it as a splatter film. Of "The Expendables," he said:

"Let's say we dug up 'The Wild Bunch' and gave them one more shot. These guys don't fit in this kind of world. They are 'The Expendables.' That's why they're called that."

In all honesty, "The Expendables" as a comedy could have been amazing and might have actually worked better than the movie we ultimately got. Imagine if Stallone had taken the idea of aging action stars from the '90s in the tonal direction of a Shane Black film or even something like Edgar Wright's "Hot Fuzz," with its spoofing of bombastic Michael Bay flicks. If you think about how the more lucrative "Fast & Furious" franchise has leaned into increasingly over-the-top stunts while paying a lot of lip service to #family, "The Expendables" could have maybe benefited from a little less violence and a little more humor.

As it is, "The Expendables" series has never been a critical darling, with the first three films currently sitting at 42%, 67%, and 32% on Rotten Tomatoes, respectively. It's been enough of a box office success to keep warranting sequels, however, so who knows, maybe for "The Expendables 5," Stallone and company will decide to let their hair down and make a true action comedy. We can always hope.