Revisiting Bullz-Eye’s interviews with “The Expendables”

Perhaps it was always too much to hope that Bullz-Eye might be able to secure an interview with Sylvester Stallone in connection with the release of his all-star action extravaganza, “The Expendables” (not that we’ll ever stop trying ’til we get one), but at the very least, we can take a look back at some of the other stars of the film with whom we’ve spoken and reminisce about coming aboard the production in the first place.

“(Sly and I) are sort of friendly. We’ve been seeing each other on and off, just saying ‘hello’ in Beverly Hills. Even though I live in Europe, I’ve been back here on occasion, and we always talk about the good old days. And I just got a call, and he said, ‘You want to check out this script, see this character, and see if you like it…?’ And he was very nice about it. He’s a down-to-earth kind of guy. And I read it, and I loved the writing. It’s, like, I realize that, with Sly, when he sits down and writes something, that’s when he changes things in his career and lots of people take notice. He’s a terrifc writer. I mean, look, he wrote one of the better screenplays ever, ‘Rocky.’ I mean, that’s a fricking classic. So I read the script, and I was, like, ‘This is great! It’s like ‘The Dirty Dozen’ with a sense of humor, and the action is terrific!’ And he wanted me to play this crazy Swede… (Laughs) …who’s this over-the-top, super-dangerous guy, but he wrote the character in a very funny way, kind of like Nick Nolte. One of those guys who drinks too much and who’s, like, a loose cannon. So I was very interested straight away, and then we had some talks. I had a couple of ideas, and he was very, very nice about it. And he actually developed a friendship between me and him that we’ve had in real life, and also the stuff that goes back to ‘Rocky IV,’ where we do have a falling out in the movie, but then we go back and forth, and…it’s really good. I think people are going to enjoy it. ” – Dolph Lundgren

(Be sure to check out my 2008 interview with Dolph, too!)

“I was privileged and honored to work side by side with Sly. Most of my scenes take place with him, and I’m telling you, man, he took me under his wing, and it was a brilliant thing to be able to be under one of the Trinity. There’s a trinity of action stars: Sly, Arnold, and Bruce. And to say that I know all of them is…it’s just a really unique place to be. What can I say? They invented what the movie-going experience is right now. I don’t know what else to say. ‘Rocky,’ ‘Rambo,’ just everything he’s done is iconic, and it wasn’t lost on me. I love the man, and…I’ll just tell you this: I don’t die. I’ll give that away for you. And I can’t wait to do another one, ‘cause Sly’s the king of the sequels…and in my whole career, I’ve never done a sequel to any one of my projects. So I’m, like, ‘Sly, I’m ready for ‘Expendables 2,’ okay?’” – Terry Crews

“I was actually down at my ranch in South Texas, and my guys called me and said, ‘Hey, we’re trying to get you a meeting with Sylvester Stallone. He’s casting a movie called ‘The Expendables.’’ Several months went by, and he’d already cast ‘The Expendables,’ but he still wanted to meet me for potentially playing the part of Dan Paine. So I went in to meet Sly, it was the first time I’d ever met him, and I’m a huge fan. I remember watching ‘Rocky’ back in ’76 or whenever it was, then getting up the next morning, drinking eggs, and running down the street…and now here I am meeting with this guy! (Laughs) And, again, it was just two guys from two different backgrounds, but Sly has a big athletic background, with all of his college activities, his boxing, and all of his action movies, and he’s a big MMA pro wrestling fan as well. So we were still coming from two different worlds, but we met in his office one day, we hit it off like we’d known each other for ten years, and he offered me the part on the spot. I accepted on the spot, I was in ‘The Expendables,’ and it was an absolute thrill of a lifetime to be in that movie with all those people.” – Steve Austin

And, lastly, although our conversation took place well before he’d signed on to do “The Expendables,” I’d be remiss if I didn’t also offer up a link to…

The interview took place in conjunction with the DVD release of Roberts’ very first film, “King of the Gypsies,” and whenever I think back on our conversation, this is the story I remember most fondly:

“I’d been working about two or three weeks (on ‘King of the Gypsies’), and when we went into our night shoot, I had my first scene with (Sterling Hayden), in the back of a car. I show up early like I always do, and he shows up late, like he always did, and I’m waiting for him to get ready. The assistant director comes and knocks on the door and says, ‘Mr. Hayden would like to speak with you.’ And I’m, like, ‘Cool, man, great!’ So I go over there, and I knock on the door. (does a perfect Sterling Hayden growl) ‘Come in, come in!’ So I open up this door, and it reeks of hash! And he says to me, ‘Have a seat, son! So, what are we doing tonight?’ I say, ‘We’re doing scene 85.’ ‘I know the number! What the fuck happens?’ I say, ‘Well, it’s a night scene, and you want to bring me back into the fold because you don’t think your son is too capable but you think your grandson is,’ I being the grandson. He goes, ‘Okay! How’re your improvisations?’ I said, ‘I’m pretty good.’ He says, ‘Well, that’s what we’re doing tonight: we’re gonna improv the whole thing. Now that I know what we’re doing, we’re just gonna shoot from the hip, okay?’ I said, ‘Great!’ He said, ‘Y’wanna get high with me?’ I said, ‘No, if I get high, I can’t talk.’ And he says, ‘Well, I can only talk when I’m high!’ (imitates Hayden’s raspy laugh) So that’s kinda how we started. And we bonded, and I probably haven’t ever enjoyed working with an actor more until I worked with my wife.” – Eric Roberts

  

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A Chat with Billy Corgan

As I type this very sentence, I’m in prep mode for the Smashing Pumpkins concert tonight at the NorVa, in Norfolk, VA. Yesterday, however, I was in conversation with the man who fronts the Smashing Pumpkins: Billy Corgan. The opportunity to chat with Corgan came up at the last second, so I’m in debt to my friends and fellow writers who stepped up to the plate and provided me with a few questions, but I managed to slip in a few of my own invention as well. During our conversation, we discussed the current state of the Pumpkins (as you probably already know, he’s the only original member in the line-up), their new music, why he gets frustrated with fans who can’t get exited about his attempts to move forward, and the chances of seeing him playing alongside Jimmy Chamberlin, James Iha, and D’arcy Wretzky again anytime soon. Hint: it’s about as likely as world peace.

Billy Corgan: Hi, Will!

Bullz-Eye: Hey, Billy, good to talk to you!

BC: Thank you!

BE: Well, I know you guys are on tour at the moment, but I actually wanted to kick off by asking you about something from the studio. How did the release of the Teargarden by Kaleidyscope Vol. 1 EP go for you? Was the reaction better or worse than you expected?

BC: It was…probably in the range of expectation, which I have to admit wasn’t real high. (Laughs) Because I knew that I was doing something kind of different, and I thought it would take awhile to put across the different ideas. Not just musical, but, y’know, “Why free? Why have a limited edition?” All of these types of things. I think that part’s gone okay. Musically, I’ve been more focused on trying to figure out a sort of musical way to connect and how that’s going to work over the long range in keeping myself and fans interested. I’ve been sort of more focused on that.

BE: Of the songs I’ve heard thus far, I think my favorite song is “A Stitch in Time.”

BC: Oh, thank you! That’s funny, I was just talking about that: some of the hardcore Smashing Pumpkins fans don’t think very much of that song, and I don’t understand why. I think it’s a very strong song.

BE: I mean this in the best possible way, but…it’s very much a pop song.

BC: (Hesitates) Yeah, but I also think it fits well with some of my other acoustic material, like “Disarm” and things like that. It’s very hard to write an acoustic song that has a narrative just within the acoustic form, if that makes sense, where the song can just hold up as an acoustic song and not just be, like, a nice song that you’re playing acoustically. I sort of look at them differently. And I see it in that way. Maybe people don’t like the production on it, I don’t know. But, yeah, I really like it. It’s one my favorite songs.

BE: So will these songs be collected in the future, a la The Aeroplane Flies High?

BC: Yeah, the plan is to ultimately create a full box that would include all the released material, hopefully some unreleased material, and then maybe, like, a DVD or a documentary. Some kind of reason to get the whole thing all at once.

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What A Way To Go: 25 Final Films From No-Longer-Living Legends

Everybody dies, even famous actors. Some have the common sense to phase out their careers while they’re still at the top of their game and enjoy the fruits of their retirement, others milk their fame for all its worth and work ’til they drop, which is often well past their sell-by date, and, of course, there are those who die far earlier than anyone anticipated, least of all themselves, leaving their most recent project – whatever it may have been – as their last project. Bullz-Eye took a look at the filmographies of some of Hollywood’s greatest actors and examined their swan songs, and, indeed, all three of the aforementioned categories are represented.

There were only two caveats used when citing these final films: they had to have been live-action works (i.e. no voiceover performances), and the actors had to have been playing someone other than themselves. You will no doubt find yourself asking, “Hey, why didn’t [INSERT FAVORITE ACTOR'S NAME HERE] make this cut?” If you’ve got a favorite final film by an actor that was left out of the mix…hey, that’s what the Comments section is for. For now, though, sit back and enjoy…

1. Humphrey Bogart, “The Harder They Fall” (1956): Although many tend to think of his definitive work as having taken place in the 1940s simply by virtue of the fact that it’s when both “Casablanca” and “The Maltese Falcon” were released, Humphrey Bogart continued to offer exemplary performances throughout the ‘50s, receiving his Oscar for “The African Queen” (1951), a nomination for “The Caine Mutiny” (1954). By the mid-1950s, however, the actor’s health was failing, and he would soon be diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus…not that you’d know it from his work load: in 1955, he starred in “We’re No Angels,” “The Left Hand of God,” and “The Desperate Hours.”

Watching Bogie in his final film, “The Harder They Fall,” it’s easy to say that he looks tired and worn out, but it’s just as easy to attribute that to the character he’s playing. Eddie Willis (Bogart) is a former sports writer who’s struggling to make ends meet after his newspaper shuts down, and when he’s hired by Nick Benko (Rod Steiger), a boxing promoter known for his somewhat imprecise morality, to help promote his new fighter, a naïve Argentinean named Toro Moreno (Mike Lane), there’s little question that Eddie’s doing it for the money. Everybody knows that wrestling is fake, but you may be surprised to see the behind-the-scenes shenanigans that go on in boxing: Toro’s a pretty rotten boxer, but Eddie promotes the hell out of him while Nick and his cohorts fix the fights, enabling Toro to steadily work his way up the ranks. The ending is pretty heavy-handed, with the music soaring as Eddie sits down in front of his typewriter to hash out the boxing expose that will help to clear his conscience, but Bogart is fantastic throughout the film. Sadly, it’s out of print on DVD, but if you’ve never seen it before, you may find it worth the $14.99 it’ll cost you to download it from iTunes. Eight months after “The Harder They Fall” hit theaters, Bogart lost his own fight, falling victim to his cancer at the age of 57. – Will Harris

2. James Dean, “Giant” (1956): George Stevens’ massive adaptation of Edna Ferber’s sprawling novel about ranchers and oil millionaires in the first half of the 20th century remains an especially poignant farewell, indicating the versatile actor 24 year-old James Dean would have become had he not died in an auto wreck shortly before production was completed.

At first, Dean’s Jet Rink is in line with his other roles, a rebellious, troubled ranch hand who shyly flirts with beautiful Leslie Benedict (Elizabeth Taylor) and generally runs afoul of her cattleman husband, Bick Benedict, Jr. (Rock Hudson). As a couple of decades progress, however, Rink strikes it rich — richer than the Benedicts. Wearing a mustache and with his head partially shaved to suggest a receding hairline, Rink becomes a villain of sorts as he falls for the Benedicts’ beautiful college-age daughter (Carroll Baker) and his resentments against the clan congeal into alcoholic sentimentality, jealousy, and virulent racism. Not that he’s all bad or all sad. Speaking in a mumbly Texan patois reminiscent of Boomhauer from “King of the Hill,” Dean’s Rink is highly vulnerable but full of the impish humor Dean only hinted at in “Rebel Without a Cause.” Even if the part seems artificial compared to Dean’s other roles and even if director Stevens felt it was necessary to have a key speech posthumously looped by Dean’s friend, Nick Adams, “Giant” reminds us that Dean was a lot more than a pop-culture icon or a pretty-boy emoting-machine, he was an actor. – Bob Westal

3. Grace Kelly, “High Society” (1956): Like James Dean, Grace Kelly only had to make a few films to become an immortal. Fortunately, her career wasn’t ended by death but by her “fairy tale” marriage to Prince Rainier of Monaco — although she would eventually die as the result of a car accident a quarter century later.

A musical remake of the romantic comedy classic “The Philadelphia Story” with new songs by Cole Porter and co-starring Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, “High Society” was a box office success and, in theory, a perfect filmic swansong. The part of romantically confused heiress Tracey Lord fit Grace Kelly very nicely, and she had actually performed the part as her graduation performance from the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Nevertheless, she was stepping into enormous shoes — the part was written for and remains forever associated with Katherine Hepburn — but Kelly, still only 26 years old, seems to effortlessly make the part her own, adding an element of wholesome sensuality that Hepburn couldn’t quite match. She even sang nicely in a duet with Crosby of Porter’s “True Love.” For all of that, the musical comedy got mixed reviews. Director Charles Walters was not one of the greats of cinema and Sinatra and Crosby arguably had better chemistry with each other than they did with their absurdly beautiful lead. Maybe the fact that “High Society” was just okay made it easier for Kelly to attend to her royal duties and charity work and leave acting behind forever. – BW

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Snoop + LANDY Cognac = $WAGGER

Everybody loves Snoop Dogg…or if they don’t love him, they at least know who he is. (Seriously, how many other rappers have such instant name recognition?) As such, it should be no surprise that the folks at LANDY Cognac should want to get into bed with Snoop, so that he might assist them in promoting that which has been called “The New Generation of Cognac.”

“The partnership between LANDY and Snoop Dogg creates the perfect platform to launch LANDY’S affordable luxury product,” says Stephen Lewin, Senior Vice President, General Manager of the Spirits Division at W.J. Deutsch Spirits, LLC. “Snoop Dogg epitomizes confidence, innovation and is known to be the life of the party, making him the ideal choice to partner with LANDY Cognac – a brand that mirrors these characteristics. Snoop leads the hip, fashionable and smooth lifestyle that LANDY Cognac represents, and is sure to resonate with the strong urban following that LANDY is rapidly growing.”

Can I get an “aw, yeeeeeeeahhhhhhh“?

Mr. Dogg – who, we are led to understand, was already known to indulge in the beverage prior to striking this deal – will appear at select LANDY events and promotions, and will feature LANDY Cognac at numerous after-parties. We can only hope that he is able to find time in this busy schedule to chat with Bullz-Eye (rest assured that we have made our request), but in the meantime, you’ll want to see the photo that LANDY has released to promote the news of their new collaborator. Normally, we’d put this right out in the open, but we think you’ll agree it’s worth making the jump.

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A Chat with Jimmy and Eddie Russell, Wild Turkey’s father/son distilling team

Do you like bourbon? Sure, we all do!

Okay, maybe we don’t all like it. But if you are a bourbon aficionado, then you’re no doubt familiar with the work of the father and son team of Jimmy and Eddie Russell, even if you may not know it. Jimmy’s a master distiller at the Wild Turkey Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, and Eddie’s an associate distiller; together, the two of them created a tasty treat known as Russell’s Reserve, which was awarded a Gold Medal at the 2007 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Russell’s Reserve is described on the Wild Turkey website as having “a nose that is rich in vanilla, oak, toffee, and a touch of old leather,” a huge body, and a palate that is “very spicy, with notes of chili peppers, tamarind, almonds, and cumin.” How would I describe it? Hey, I’m no connoisseur, but I can at least confirm that it goes down smoooooooth.

With Father’s Day on the horizon, I decided it would be the perfect time to take the Russells up on their kind offer to chat about their work with Wild Turkey, the wonder that is Russell’s Reserve, and – to be holiday-specific – what it’s like for a dad to work with his kid every single day.

Jimmy Russell: Hello, Will! How are you?

Bullz-Eye: I’m good! How are you?

JR: Doin’ fine, thanks!

BE: Is Eddie there as well?

Eddie Russell: Yeah, Eddie’s here, too! (Laughs) How are you doing?

BE: Pretty good. Good to talk to you both…and I’ll tell you up front that I’m very much enjoying the bottle that was sent my way. (Laughs)

JR: Thank you! That’s what it for: to enjoy! (Laughs)

BE: Well, I know this is a multi-generational affair, but how did the Russell family first find its way into the bourbon business?

JR: I was born and raised in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, which was a small community when I was growing up, but there were four bourbon distilleries here, and you had families working all the distilleries. You wanted to get in the business. My grandfather and my father, me, and now my son, we’ve all been in the business.

ER: For me, it was a summer job 29 years ago, out of college. So it’s been a long summer for me. (Laughs)

BE: Growing up, did you both immediately have a taste for bourbon, or was it something you had to acquire?

ER: Well, for me, it was something that I basically always drank. I never was much of a beer drinker or anything like that. It was mostly bourbon.

JR: I’ve always been a bourbon drinker. I don’t care for beer or wine. It’s always been bourbon.

BE: I guess what I’m asking, really, if it was love at first sip or if you had any hesitancy.

JR: We can’t tell that! (Laughs)

ER: I don’t know if it was love at first taste, but it was definitely something I preferred over other alcoholic beverages.

BE: So what goes into the process of making Russell’s Reserve? Clearly, it’s a long one.

JR: Well, it’s one of those where, you know, we have to comply with federal government regulations about bourbon, which you probably already know: it has to be distilled, it has to be made with 51% corn, it has to be distilled under 160 proof, and it must be put in a new charred oak barrel at 125 proof or less. Here at the Wild Turkey distillery, we distill at low proofs and put it in the barrel and low proofs, because the higher you distill anything, the less flavor you have in it. With the Russell’s Reserve, it’s something that’s 10 years old, and…I’ll Eddie continue this. (Laughs)

ER: Russell’s is…we only have one recipe for our bourbon, so when it comes off the still, it could be the 101, Kentucky Spirit, Rare Breed. The difference between the Rare Breed and the Russell’s is that they’re hand-selected barrels, small batch. Where I’m normally dumping 50,000 gallons into a tank for the 101, we’re taking out 100 to 150 hand-selected barrels for the Russell’s Reserve. The 10 Year is just, for me, the top of the line as far as the number of years for it to age. You get all the good flavors, all the good taste, but it’s just such a mellow finish.

BE: Jimmy, I saw on the Wild Turkey website that they describe you as a goodwill ambassador for Kentucky’s most famous export.

JR: Yes, Eddie and I both do…well, we don’t do a whole lot of traveling, because we’ve got a job here at the plant every day, too, but we do travel all over the United States and all over the world promoting bourbon, but especially Wild Turkey Bourbon. You know, we’re known as the premium bourbon of the world. We’re huge in Australia and Japan.

BE: I take it that you’ve been able to travel to both of those countries, then?

JR: Yes, I have.

BE: What’s it like taking an American product over there? I have to figure that there’s a certain amount of national pride for their own beverages. Are they open to other countries’ wares?

JR: Well, in Japan, Wild Turkey is considered a prestige bourbon. It’s a bourbon that everybody wants, and a lot of the top executives own their own bottles in bars, with their name on a nametag hanging on the bottle. When you’re over visiting Japan, come and go have a drink out of my bottle! (Laughs) They consider it their own personal bottle, whether it’s 101 or Rare Breed or Russell’s Reserve. In Australia…well, they just love their bourbon, so they drink a lot of Wild Turkey! (Laughs)

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