What If The Expendables 3 Was Made In The ’90s? – ManlyMovie

What If The Expendables 3 Was Made In The ’90s?

What if the Expendables 3 was made in the 1990s?

Let’s face it, The Expendables 3 is a ’90s get-together. A throwback, a celebration. That’s why it has even less of a plot than most action movies. It’s a whose who of who was.  It would’ve been more than a wet-dream for this to have appeared in the ’90s. Let’s say, when each of the main actors was at his peak and for the sake of averages – 1995. It probably would not have been possible because of the sheer cost of casting it, but probably moreso because of the sheer strength of egos. I admit it, the formulae below are crude, I’m taking salaries and typical box-office return per big name and adding them up. Now obviously not every Stallone fan was a Gibson fan and vice-versa, etc.  Some might think I’m being too optimistic, so I’m going to try and compensate by removing residual star power (sorry Dolph and TMoney, that means you). I think it would’ve passed the billion mark but, as someone who remembers the ’90s this might even be a severe under-estimation (my budget is probably far too small too). I mean, who knows what kind of numbers this thing would’ve made. But anyway, onto bare minimums…

How much would it have cost?

The cast is Mel Gibson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes.  Not to mention Harrison Ford. Let’s start with the big one: Arnie. Arnie was the highest paid out of these actors circa 1995 with a salary for Eraser being $20,000,000, Mel is a close second with pretty much the same typical salary. Second is Stallone with salary for Judge Dredd being $15,000,000.  Harrison Ford was in a somewhat similar league to Stallone back then, earnings wise.  Snipes could’ve possibly demanded $10,000,000.  Again these are rough numbers, possibly off by one or two.  Let’s expect salary cuts too, back end deals and such as is common with ensembles.

Even before adjusting for inflation, the casting budget has already almost matched The Expendables 3’s entire budget (real budget was circa 60-70,000,000). So now the movie is cast, there’s the little matter of shooting it, casting other actors (remember that on top of Lundgren etc, Crews and Couture must be replaced) etc. Shooting it in Eastern Europe is not an option, a lot of war was still raging there in the ’90s. America would be the probable location. The likes of Die Hard with a Vengeance alone had a sole budget of 90,000,000. For an investment like this, the only way to go is all the way in order to ensure it turns a profit. I’d guess that the budget would’ve been around 200,000,000. You also have to consider the price of ego. Encouraging each man to come on board would probably drive prices up beyond their normal salary. It would be a fine line making sure no one is man ahead of the other.

Estimated Cost (1995): $200,000,000+
Inflation Adjusted: $300,000,000+

How much would it have made?

Again, to keep variables down I’ll ignore the chance, for example, that it drew in an even larger audience due to riveting acting or whatever. It’s easier to over-estimate than under-estimate things. So we’ll just go the crude way and take the big names’ drawing power. Rounded. Starting with Arnie, True Lies pulled a massive $380,000,000. Next, Judge Dredd for Stallone pulled $115,000,000. The likes of Ransom, with Mel: $309,000,000.  Ford’s Clear and Present Danger netted a hefty $200,000,000 while Snipes’ Money Train around this time drew $70,000,000. These are, of course, international numbers. Like I said, not every fan of each guy is a fan of others. But on the other hand, like Stallone said recently, there’s strength in numbers. You can multiply that even further considering this would’ve been the ’90s. It would’ve been the equivalent of taking Batman and Superman with Bale and Cavill, and throwing them into The Avengers II. I actually think it would be fair to add an additional $100,000,000. Remember, just two years later Titanic had already busted the billion mark, so this kind of number wasn’t new to the ’90s.

Estimated Box Office (1995): $1,000,000,000+
Inflation Adjusted: $1,500,000,000+

A slightly more ’90s’ take on an EX3 trailer

Who could’ve directed it?

I mean, it’s a great idea.  But a scary one.  If it’s 1995 and you pitch something as outrageous as this to even the A-list directors, they’d probably run up the side of a hill. I think the list would be narrowed pretty quickly down to the extremely ballsy, extremely talented but also extremely batshit.  Mel might have listened, but he was caught up with Braveheart and that took a lot out of him.  My second thought would be that somebody would approach John Woo and that the man would be crazy enough to do something stupid, like saying yes.  Now there’s a pant-shitting thought, John Woo directing this ensemble in the mid 1990s.

Other possible scenarios, Arnold Schwarzenegger convinces John McTiernan to step up to the plate.  After all, we’re talking about the director of Predator here, and Arnold might just get inside his head.  On the downside, there’s the ugly possibility that somebody like Paul W.S. Anderson is hired, just getting started around the time in the big leagues.  Now his 1990s movies weren’t so bad, but if he directed this and fucked it up, he’d probably literally have to leave planet earth because not even his corpse would’ve been safe.

What would it have been like?

The problem is there’s a killer amount of egos on one set here.  I’m sure the first thing they would’ve collectively demanded would’ve been no shitty underlings like Rousey or her 1990’s equal hogging screen time.  But assuming it worked out and everyone played ball, the results would’ve been unimaginable.  The hype generated currently by Batman Vs. Superman would’ve paled in comparison.  The inclusion of Schwarzenegger and Stallone alone would’ve shaken the earth to the core.  It would’ve also have been R-rated, probably hard R depending on the director.  I also think it would’ve given the old violent action era a second wind, pushing it up to 2000 and beyond.  And it might have gotten so big that others would’ve wanted in on the action.  Sponsorship deals by famous musicians etc.

It would have been, simply put, the greatest fucking thing ever.


  1. Mhundred

    September 13, 2012 at 2:55 am

    Those numbers are so off it’s not funny. I mean start with the salary. There is no way the movie would even be made during that time if all 4 of them were paid there top premium fees.

    In most heavy hitter ensembles think ocean 11 the stars take salary cuts and maybe arrange back end deals, so there’s that. 2nd of all the current EX-2 had arnold and Willis and van damme in it for a combined 10 minutes or so and this is with the guys not in their career primes even. So its unlikely all 4 would even have room to be featured equally, the movie would likely foucs on either arnold or stallone or both with the rest as featured.

    As for budget there was nothing amazing about the action or effects in EX-2. So on a high end level the total of a 90’s ex-2 would be likely 100m the very high end for that era.

    As for gross again not even close, only arnold’s T2 can be seen as a juggernaut the other guys films were quite sucesful but not in the avengers or TDK range of today. So no to a billion dollar gross in 1995. Think $600m tops.

  2. Anonymous

    September 14, 2012 at 5:56 am

    I think that a realistic budget for the mid-late 90s for a movie like this would have been about 140M (same as Lethal Weapon 4, Armageddon, Godzilla was 130M), everybody would have had to take a pay cut with gross points instead of upfront money for it to have some money for the production itself.

    And IF it had been a solid action movie, perhaps written and directed by James Cameron right after True Lies (instead of what we’ve gotten with both installments of The Expendables so far, which I do enjoy, but can see that they are severely weak storywise) perhaps it would have been able to gross somewhere between 350-500M worldwide (back then!).

    What I think that would have been able to gross, had they had a very good script and direction, is that it would have been able to gross perhaps more than their average highest grossing movies led by themselves, but it would NOT have been able to beat other blockbusters like Titanic, Jurassic Park, Independence Day, The Phantom Menace, etc…

    Stallone’s highest grossing movie is Rocky IV with 300M
    Arnold’s highest is Terminator 2 with 520M
    Willis’s highest is The 6th Sense with 672M (not an action movie and rated PG-13).

    So perhaps all 3 together in their prime could have made something between 350-550M. / Not taking into account inflation.

    The first Expendables was able to gross 274M worldwide in 2010.

    The 2nd currently is at 235M, and I think that it will be able to surpass slightly the 1st installment.

    • Anonymous

      September 14, 2012 at 5:57 am

      I wrote 350-500… up… I meant 350-550.

  3. Manly Movies

    September 14, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    I dunno, I don’t think you are appreciating the star-power and demand for these guys in the 90’s. Remember, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore alone were talked about ceaselessly. I still stand by the Avengers/Batman/Superman comparison – it woulda been that big.

  4. Anonymous

    October 21, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    You’re right; he’s underestimating. When True Lies came out, Arnold was still riding the wave of his popularity. I think Stallone, however, was waning. Not much, but a little.

    The opitimum year would’ve probably been ’94, just after Demolition Man, but you’re about right.

    People’ve forgotten how big these guys were. They were bigger than Cruise and others. They were essentially guaranteed and credible larger-than-life characters inside and outside of movies.

    I actually remember Arnie and Stallone being asked about the possibility of an Expendables-esque film being made back then. They each responded that it could happen . . . if only everyone did it for free.

  5. Boatman_90

    February 8, 2015 at 11:58 pm

    Great article night.
    Had this movie been made in the 90’s fuck me what a movie we would’ve had on our hands. Would’ve cut out all the bullshit and pussies and we would be left with a serious action movie where all the stars are trying to outdo each other. I would keep lundgren in it though. I really hated rouseys part in ex3 especially the way they capture her in the club scene. The close up was just awkward.
    In the 90’s this movie would have blown up the box office and it would have fueled a whole lot of other action movies including spin offs for each character

  6. Jeff

    February 9, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    I agree, great article! Love it. But, it is also a sad reminder that the state of American action cinema is no longer the one I grew up with. Every time I see a new action movie being released, I reminisce about the good old days and how few films meet the mark anymore. (sigh).

  7. Mucho Macho

    February 9, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    Night this was a really awesome read.
    If The Expendables would hace come out in the 80’$ fucking head would have exploted!
    If The Expendables would have come out in the 90’$ fucking head would have exploted!!
    & i got to admit as a grown man i was smiling hard with childlike joy, watching Drago & Rocky together again on screen shooting at a bunch of pirates.
    i still would love to see Big Mac direct a “done right ” Expendables movie.

  8. Timothy Paich

    February 22, 2016 at 11:14 pm

    I heard a Demolition Man prequel was written long ago but cancelled because it would flop. Maybe there were to have back Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes. Maybe even Jesse Ventura to when his character is arrested and frozen in the cryo-prison.