Sylvester Stallone is the main star of ‘The Expendables 4.’ So why is he barely in it?

Sylvester Stallone’s small role in “Expend4bles” is the action hero’s swan song in the franchise he launched back in 2010.

Stallone’s character, Barney Ross, has been the main character in the movies leading up to the fourth “Expendables.” Stallone also co-wrote the screenplay for the previous three and directed the first movie.

So fans were puzzled last weekend when they went to see “Expend4bles” and Stallone was barely in it.

The reality is, his exit from the franchise has long been in the works.

Sylvester Stallone in sunglasses with a gun over his shoulder
Sylvester Stallone plays Barney Ross in the “Expendables” franchise. Lionsgate

Stallone was this close to not even being in ‘Expend4bles’

“The Expendables” franchise was created by Stallone and screenwriter David Callaham, who launched the franchise in 2010 with Stallone starring alongside Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, and Bruce Willis as an elite mercenary team.

The movie brought in over $270 million at the worldwide box office on just an $80 million budget, and the franchise was off and running.

2012’s “The Expendables 2” did even better, taking in over $314 million at the worldwide box office, while adding more action hero legends to the roster like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Chuck Norris.

But 2014’s “The Expendables 3” — despite adding Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, and Mel Gibson — hit a speed bump when it only brought in $215 million worldwide on a $100 million budget (not counting the advertising dollars spent). And though a fourth movie was already locked in, Stallone didn’t like where things were going.

In March 2017, Deadline reported that Stallone had left the franchise (and a $20 million payday). The publication reported that his exit was over creative differences on “a new director, on the script, and on certain qualitative elements of the film.”

In January 2018, Deadline reported that Stallone was back in the fourth “Expendables.” But, it turns out, not as a main character.

Jason Statham and Sylvester Stallone smiling
(L-R) Jason Statham and Sylvester Stallone in “Expend4bles.” Lionsgate

Jason Statham admits Stallone’s smaller role ‘doesn’t feel right’

Although Stallone gets major screen time in the trailer for “Expend4bles,” in the actual movie, that’s not the case.

After getting the team together for a new mission, this one including the likes of 50 Cent, Megan Fox, and Andy Garcia, Stallone’s Barney Ross character seems to die early on, leaving Statham’s Lee Christmas as the face of the movie.

However, after 90-plus minutes of butt-kicking, Stallone comes out of nowhere to save the day in the final action sequence. It turns out that Ross faked his death to one-up the bad guys.

This marks what Stallone says is his final appearance in the franchise. Back in October 2021, Stallone announced in a video posted on his Instagram page and shot on the set of the movie that he had just filmed his final scene.

“When something you’ve been so attached to, I guess it’s been about 12 years, and I’m ready to pass the baton on to Jason and his capable hands,” said Stallone.

However, even Statham admits seeing Stallone leave the franchise he helped create with such little screen time was a bummer.

“In this particular story, he is absent for reasons we don’t talk about… we have to guide ourselves through the ocean without him,” Statham told Cinema Express. “There is something about not having him around that doesn’t feel right. So, we are getting through, the story is the story, we are trying to do our best, but the best days are when he is on set.”

Jason Statham and Megan Fox in bed
Jason Statham and Megan Fox in “Expend4bles.” Lionsgate

‘Expend4bles’ opened to the worst box office in the history of the franchise

Where the franchise goes from here will be some tough sledding after the opening the movie had over the weekend.

“Expend4bles” took in just $8.3 million at the domestic box office on its opening weekend, the lowest in the franchise.

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