July 7, 2022

From left to right: Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Ying Yang (Jet Li), Toll Road (Randy Couture), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) and Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) in The Expendables. (Photo by Karen Ballard)

The Expendables (R Liongate) opened on August 13, 2010 to become the top selling film in the nation. The story centers on a group of hardened mercenaries that have a loyalty born in war that is only to each other. Sylvester Stallone, who wrote and directed the film, stars as Barney Ross, the leader of the “Expendables.”

The Expendables (expendablesthemovie.com) are comprised by an all-star cast, including Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, David Zayas with Terry Crews and martial arts legend Jet Li as hand-to-hand combat specialist Yin Yang.

Living life in the fringes of the law, these hardened mercenaries take on what appears to be a routine assignment: a covert, CIA-funded operation to infiltrate the South American country of Vilena and overthrow its ruthless dictator General Garza (David Zayas). When their job is revealed to be a suicide mission, the men are faced with a choice to accept it and redeem themselves – or destroy their brotherhood forever.

Giselle Itié also costars as Sandra.

Stallone reportedly had a script after more than 100 drafts, and completely reworked the direction of the film and its character.

“For Sly, it’s not just blowing something up,” said Producer Kevin King Templeton. “The script has to have heart and story. If it doesn’t have heart, he doesn’t want to be involved in it.”

Stallone’s depth as a writer and director is the primary reason Jet Li, the globally known martial arts superstar, immediately agreed to play the part of Expendable Yin Yang, a role that Stallone wrote with Li in mind.

“I respect him a lot,” says Li. “He’s not just a great action man, he’s also a great writer. And I think his movies always show you great characters.”

A close-quarter, stealthy combatant who can attack his opponents virtually undetected, Yin Yang is a Vietnamese-American hoping to live his own version of the American dream; and Li imbues him with a quiet intensity.

“My character is very straight forward, very simple,” explains Li. “He’s single. He doesn’t have a family. But in his mind he’s always dreaming about the future. He constantly thinks about making money so that he can get married and have kids and save for their education, even though none of it’s happened yet.”

Jet Li’s martial arts choreographer was Cory Yuen. His fight team included Ju Kun, Jianyong Guo and Lin Sang. The stunt crew included Don Theerathada and Anothony Nanakorpanom.

For the Expendables, Stallone amassed the all-star cast in a gritty, adrenaline-fueled odyssey, harkening back to a time before computer effects when every punch was real and brute strength and sweat were supplied by the actors themselves, not prosthetics or stuntmen.

“This movie was shot with brains and brawn, not modern technology,” says Stallone. “This is all about real fighting. Mano a mano.  Keeping things as real as possible, instead of falling back on CGI. It’s the kind of filmmaking I grew up on, and that’s the way I direct.”

Says producer Kevin King Templeton, “This is a cast of real action guys, guys that look like they’re capable of doing what real mercenaries do. No CGI, no green screen, no muscle suits.  These are real action guys with weight.”

Adds producer Avi Lerner, “There’s no other way to say it. This is a big movie. It’s got a testosterone-fueled lineup, big, big sequences, tough action, all starring a lot of actors doing what they do best. When you see explosions, they are real explosions. When you see a Stallone set that gets decimated, it’s really decimated. The actors are really there in it.”

Actor Tze Yep also has a role as a pirate gunner.

Born in Beijing, Jet Li (Ying Yang) began practicing Wushu (Chinese martial arts) at age eight. Three years later he won his first national championship as a member of the Beijing Wushu Team and remained the All-Around National Champion from 1974 to 1979.

Li made history with his 1974 two-man fight performance at the White House for President Nixon, shortly after American diplomatic relations reopened with China. During this time he also represented China through martial arts demonstrations in over 45 nations.

At the pinnacle of the sport at age seventeen, he decided to begin a film career.  His first film, Shaolin Temple, remains one of the most beloved films in China and around the world.

The success of the film propelled Jet to a full-fledged Chinese movie star and national hero. The box office popularity of his subsequent 25 films secured his stardom in Asia.

In 1998 Li moved on to Hollywood with the blockbuster Lethal Weapon 4 opposite Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, directed by Richard Donner.

Li also played the villain in the Universal feature The Mummy: The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the 1998 third installment of the hugely successful The Mummy franchise with co-star Brendan Frasier. Rob Cohen directed the feature which was filmed on location in China and Montreal.

The family film The Forbidden Kingdom, in which Li plays an ancient Chinese martial arts warrior with fellow martial arts expert Jackie Chan, also proved a huge hit with audiences worldwide.

Li saw the release of Lionsgate’s action-packed thriller War in 2008, alongside co-star Jason Statham. The Expendables will mark their third time working together.

In 2006 he starred in the Focus Features biopic Fearless, directed by Ronni Yu. Li played Chinese Martial Arts legend Huo Yuanjia, who became the most famous fighter in all of China at the turn of the 20th Century.

An international celebrity, Li is a box office phenomenon on both sides of the Pacific. Recent Chinese-language films include acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou’s Hero (also starring Zhang Ziyi, Maggie Cheung, and Tony Leung and grossing $175 million worldwide) and Peter Chan’s The Warlords, for which Li won for Best Actor at the 2008 Hong Kong Film Awards.  This was the first time in the awards’ history that a martial arts actor had received the award.

In 2004, while on vacation with his family in Maldives, Li survived the Southeast Asian Tsunami. His survival prompted him to establish the Jet Li One Foundation in 2007. He put all movie projects on hold for 2008, and devoted his time and energy to the project.

The Jet Li One Foundation (www.onefoundation.cn) believes that 1 person + 1 dollar +1 month = 1 big family.

“If each person donates one dollar each month, our individual donations will be transformed into a much greater fund,” said Li. “When we combine our charitable strength, we can make much greater impact to help those in need.”

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