‘The Expendables 2’ is the testosterone-filled, action-packed sequel to the 2010 worldwide box-office success ($274 million worldwide) ‘The Expendables.’ From Sylvester Stallone and a powerhouse line-up of the biggest action-adventure superstars from around the world comes the next chapter in ‘The Expendables’ saga. Reunited for what they think should be a quick, in-and-out mission, this tight-knit band of old-school mercenaries are about to find themselves at the brink of global disaster . . . and driven to extract their own brand of up-close and personal vengeance. ‘The Expendables 2′ stars Sylvester Stallone (Barney Ross), Jason Statham (Lee Christmas), Jet Li (Yin Yang), Dolph Lundgren (Gunner Jensen), Terry Crews (Hale Caesar), Randy Couture (Toll Road), Bruce Willis (Mr. Church) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Trench), with newest cast members Liam Hemsworth (Billy the Kid), Yu Nan (Maggie), Scott Adkins (Hector), and martial arts legends Chuck Norris (Booker) and Jean-Claude Van Damme (Jean Vilain). The film arrives in cinemas August 17th.

What do you think is the appeal to the audience about the “Expendables” characters? Your more relatable, real-deal, hard-boiled justice-seekers.

Sylvester Stallone: I think the characters appeal to the audience because they harken back to a time when our heroes were flesh and blood, they didn’t have an extraordinary abilities – other than the desire to survive and to be victorious, even at the cost of their own lives. There’s something that’s relatable about it because they are flesh and blood. What I like about the “Expendables”, especially in this story, is that these guys put their lives on the line for a cause. For ‘The Expendables 2,’ we’ve pulled together the most phenomenal action-adventure cast that I’ve ever been involved with. We are bringing back that old time rock ‘n roll, and giving audiences what that they haven’t seen for a while: visceral, true-to-life action.

I can imagine going into this sequel, a big part of your objective was raising the bar?

Sylvester Stallone: Yeah. I say a big part of it was putting together this group that had never been put together before. So there was a lot of octane, a lot of alpha-dogism on the same screen that hadn’t been seen for a while. Also, the guys were not new faces, they had built their own audiences over sometimes 20 or 30 years. You’ve got a story that follows the “Expendables” who put their lives on the line for a greater cause, and what takes place is a hellacious battle of good over evil – where we have the added ingredients of Arnold and Bruce Willis and Chuck Norris and all of these great characters coming together.

With these added ingredients, especially with Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger returning in the roles of Mr. Church and Trench in a more expanded capacity, I can imagine that not only being exciting for fans, but also exciting for yourself and the other guys on set?

Sylvester Stallone: Oh yeah. I’m so glad we got Bruce Willis as Mr. Church, because he’s the key to the beginning of the adventure. Mr. Church is an enigma. We don’t really know exactly what he does, but he’s in the thick of things and he’s extremely powerful and devious. And with Arnold Schwarzenegger, even though our two characters are somewhat archenemies, we’re also compatriots when the stakes are high enough. Trench comes through for us this time! Last time was just a cameo. Here, Arnold’s role is more fleshed out and this will be the first time that we really join together, which we haven’t done in our entire careers. It’ll be well worth the wait when people see it. Our styles are vastly different, which makes for a great contrast. Arnold has a different way of approaching a role. It’s certainly different than mine, but we arrive at the same destination, which is to entertain the audience (laughs).

You’ve also got Jean Claude Van-Damme on board as this ruthless villain. Action audiences have been waiting for a hand-to-hand battle between the two of you for decades…..

Sylvester Stallone: Oh man, people have never seen him like this before. Usually he plays heroes and I think people will be quite surprised by Vilain, who is hell-bent on destroying us despite the risk of self-destruction, he doesn’t care – he‘s fearless in that way. Eventually when Vilain and Barney meet one-on-one, it ends up being a hellacious battle until the very end. It’s kind of like a heavyweight championship fight that you never thought would happen (laughs). You bring two guys out of retirement and go, “Lets find out once and for all what we’re made of.

Bringing all of these action film legends together for ‘The Expendables 2,’ what was the atmosphere like on set?

Sylvester Stallone: Maybe it’s the beginning of a revival, but also, maybe it’s the end of an era. It makes it very special because it’s never happened before and we’ll never see it happen quite like this again. Everyone in this movie has had a very stellar career, and to get all of us together at one time is a minor miracle – it really is (laughs). Its never happened before and it will never happen again. This is going to be quite an experience for the audience and one that took years in the making. We finally got it on film and it’s something that hopefully people are going to appreciate for years to come. Pulling together this high-octane mix of alpha-dogs on the same set has never been done before. Nobody on set wanted to be outdone. So, when we were in our 12th hour of shooting for the day, and the time came, they were all bringing their A-games. It was pretty remarkable. We had a lot of fun.

What do you think is the key ingredient in making a memorable “action hero”?

Sylvester Stallone: It’s not muscles, it’s not incredible athletic ability. I think there is a reliability. I think it has to be something that the audience can relate to. Maybe an even imperfect quality that the audience goes, “I can accept this guy because he‘s flawed and he’s someone who’s touchable, approachable and real.” I really think what makes an action star is the audience’s desire to mentally shove the character forward. Someone who has hearts, guts, skill and a refusal to quit.

Look out for a more in-depth interview with Sylvester Stallone for ‘The Expendables 2’ closer to the films release date.