Stallone and Schwarzenegger join forces to break out of prison – and talk to Time Out. Words Dan Brightmore
Aside from Arnold’s guest appearance in The Expendables, your new film Escape Plan is the first time you guys have shared top billing on a big action movie. What’s it been like working together?
Sly: It’s hard to find something in this genre that’s different but after I read the script I knew Escape Plan was the one. Even though it’s contemporary it’s futuristic at the same time – it sounds like a contradiction in terms but it’s true! But the most important thing is, who are the players? Who’s gonna be your competition and your antagonist and eventually your buddy in this thing? Arnold of course! When he complied it was green-lit immediately. There was no one else considered, he was ‘the’ guy.
Arnie: For me, it was all about the chance to work with Sly. We were trying for decades to make a movie together and finally we found the right story. Yes, we did The Expendables but in this film, we are starring alongside each other throughout the whole movie. And with Mikael Hafstrom we’ve got a really talented director [he made Anthony Hopkins exorcist chiller The Rite] with a great vision to tell the nail-biting story of a jail break. And with Mark Kenton as producer who we worked with at Warner Bros we had someone we could trust.
What kind of weird films have you been offered that haven’t made the grade?
Sly: They would bring us things where we would dress up as girls and there were bickering neighbours and we’d have arguing pets. I’d go, ‘This is not working. Why don’t we be two creepy inmates when we are 20 years past our prime?’ There’s a good idea. And that’s where we are. But it turned out great actually. It’s fantastic. We found a new prime!
You’ve said you enjoy working together because you get the best out of each other…
Sly: Because we have very healthy egos! We’re very competitive. Everything we’ve accomplished in our lives has been through struggle and overcoming the odds because we’re just not willing to settle for second best. Rarely do you get two personalities like this working together. For example, when Muhammad Ali was in action in the boxing ring, it was great to see, but when he fought Joe Frazier everybody had to see that because when you pair two indomitable forces out of that can only come a great scenario. We’re just a couple of old war horses and more than a little alpha territorial!
Arnie: The competitiveness pays off! I remember in the 1980s when the action genre really got going we were pushing each other all the time. I ran into Sly one time and I said: ‘I think that in Commando I killed more people than you did in Rambo!’ And Sly said, ‘Absolutely not! I killed 97 and you killed 93!’ But I was defiant, and told him: ‘In the next movie I’m gonna kill more than you,’ but he told me he’d be killing more than 100 so I’d never catch up! This is how it went. Who has more muscles? Who has the biggest guns? Who can shoot the most people? Who can kill people in the most unique way?
Sly: Who gets paid by the bullet!
Arnie: We’d even argue about who had the biggest box office! It was just competitive all the way around.
What about making Rambo versus Commando?
Sly: You mean together? Me and him? Do you think he would do it? Hmm, Commando and Rambo. Why not? They’re almost the same guy!
There are a lot of funny moments in Escape Plan. How important is comic relief in an action thriller?
Sly: I have to defer to Arnold on this one because he really developed action comedy and the use of humour in very dramatic situations… My characters? Rambo is not exactly a barrel of laughs but his characters can pull it off and it has to do with his personality. The humour defuses the violence and lets the audience know not to take it too seriously and that it’s not intended to be mean-spirited – it’s just escapism.
Arnie: Yeah, there’s one very intense moment where I’m getting busy with a big gun wiping out all the bad guy’s guards on the top of prison but I’ve got my smirk on my face and the deadpan line to deliver. And the buddy thing kicks in because Sly is coming up from the water and I’m handing him a gun and just killing more people.
Sly: And he’s being modest. He invented the one liner. ‘I’ll be back!’ That’s one of his major contributions – they didn’t have those before!
Have you got much in common?
Sly: We’re both Austrian. We’ve both been Mr Olympia seven times. And he’s wearing my suit.
Arnie: We are both into the body, the muscles, the acting, art, painting, family – all of those things. There’s a lot of things we have in common. He’s more talented when it comes to the art, even though I paint and draw, but he’s really talented. And we have the same accent.
Are the days of the old-school action hero numbered?
Sly: Let’s just say it’s fading away… So we wanted to see how far we could push this genre because these days you’ve got superheroes who can blink and a fireball comes out! Then you have a bunch of guys like us going one-on-one making it as real as can be… Which is just your basic male pattern badness!
Escape Plan is in UAE cinemas from October 10.