Expend4bles director Scott Waugh raises the bar on the action franchise

The former stuntman hope's the fourth installment in the hit series will be its most immersive yet

50 Cent joins the franchise in Expend4bles. Photo: Lionsgate
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When Scott Waugh was asked if he wanted to direct Expend4bles, he was immediately interested for obvious reasons.

The Expendables action franchise has become hugely popular since the original was released in 2010, pairing together a who's who of classic action movie stars like Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris and Jean Claude Van-Damme.

Now in its fourth film, Expend4bles pairs Statham, Stallone and Lundgren alongside Tony Jaa, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, and Megan Fox, as they aim to stop the mercenary Rahmat (Iko Uwais) from stealing nuclear warheads for the mysterious Ocelot.

Waugh’s excitement about directing Expend4bles was somewhat tempered by the fact that he was asked just four weeks before production began. “I got asked to come in and take over the movie so that it could get to the starting line. We had four weeks of preparation. Jason had approved the script so it was locked and I couldn’t touch it,” Waugh tells The National.

But despite this tight time-frame, Waugh was such a huge fan of The Expendables franchise that he already had an idea for what he wanted to do that was new. “I focused in on the action sequences and how to really bring them to life. I brought in a fighting team from Hong Kong, who I used on Jackie Chan’s Hidden Strike, to elevate the fights.”

Key to this success was the inclusion of Thailand’s Jaa and Indonesia’s Iko Uwais, both of whom have found great success with the Ong-Bak and The Raid franchises, respectively. Waugh knew that these martial arts specialists would bring more sophisticated and visually intriguing fighting styles to the film.

“Their fighting is so different to the brutal force that you know from The Expendables. Iko and Tony’s styles are fast and explosive. It really helped to elevate the fights and make them so entertaining. Plus, Jason is obviously a fantastic fighter. The combination of the three of them really raised the bar.”

Waugh wanted to make the fights between the characters much more captivating as previous instalments had focused more on “blowing up a lot of stuff and people being shot."

“I really wanted this film to be on a par with the first Expendables, which I really loved the most. It was about elevating the action within the tongue-in-cheek style. That’s what I brought to the franchise from the beginning.”

The Expendables’ ability to mix high-octane and explosive action with laugh out loud comedy moments, is exactly what attracted Waugh.

“Each action star isn’t afraid to make fun of themselves. It’s what makes the franchise so fun and entertaining. The actors don’t take themselves so seriously," he says. "But each actor has their own special skill sets when it comes to their physicality and performing. They really lean into that and know when to bring the best out of their characters.”

If there was one director who was primed to take Expend4bles to the next level, it’s Waugh. The son of famed stuntman Fred Waugh, who was the original Spider-Man for the 1970s television show, Scott followed in his father’s footsteps by doing the stunt work on numerous Hollywood blockbusters.

In 2005, he pivoted into directing, and he has since overseen Act Of Valor starring active duty US Navy Seals, Aaron Paul in Need For Speed, Josh Hartnett in 6 Below, as well as Chan and John Cena in the aforementioned Hidden Strike.

“As a stuntman, you see action differently than most people. Because you’re actually inside the action and living it. You want to share the excitement and exhilaration that a stuntman feels with the audience. I’m always trying to put the camera in positions and move it in ways that the audience is able to participate with the action, rather than just having them sit back and watch.”

Making the action so immersive for viewers is something that Waugh picked up from his father. “He was a pioneer in the action space. He built the precursor to the steadicam. He designed the first helmet camera. He came up with new styles of cameras that immersed audiences in the action. The last movie he did, Last Action Hero with Schwarzenegger, was really groundbreaking at the time.”

Now that his work on Expend4bles is complete, Waugh is really stepping into his father’s shoes with his next project.

After the actors' strike comes to an end, Waugh teased that he is teaming up with Schwarzenegger on his big action comeback, which revolves around a father trying to break his framed stepson out of prison in order to flee the country.

“It’s a straight action movie with a straight narrative. It’s called Breakout. I think it’s going to be amazing,” he says.

Expend4bles is now in UAE cinemas

Updated: September 28, 2023, 4:09 PM