‘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 Expendables 2′ is out in cinemas now. My other interviews for the film can be read here (more to come): Sylvester StalloneLiam Hemsworth and a joint Terry Crews and Randy Couture interview.

What was it about these characters in ‘The Expendables 2’ that made you want to jump on board and direct this film?

Simon West: I wanted to direct this film because I know how much people love these characters, and now they’re going to get to see more of them in even higher adrenaline situations, plus I loved the first film, ‘The Expendables.’ I think audiences connect with this group because they’re funny, they’re tough, they’re very good at what they do – and yet they aren’t super-human. They aren’t bullet-proof. They each have their flaws and each character is screwed up in their own little way. People root for them because they’re underdogs and we can all relate to that. I find a lot more colour in how Sylvester Stallone wrote these very human action characters than in a man who is indestructible. And I was inspired by how the “Expendables” characters follow the original action formula: real people, with lethal expertise, pushed into situations where they have to use it.

How was it for you directing another director, in Sylvester Stallone, who’s also a massive part of the production?

Simon West: On the first day of shooting ‘The Expendables 2,’ I said to Sly, “It’s very unusual for me to direct another director, especially one of this calibre who’s had so many big hits and has created so many iconic characters.“ I said, “I really want to take care of your franchise, because it’s your baby.” I thought of that every day, and it became my inspiration. I really wanted to protect and expand on what Sylvester Stallone had brought to life. And he was great, Sly’s great, he was helping with the dialogue – because he knows these characters inside and out. He’s a great resource for one-liners (laughs). And honestly, to start with, I was skeptical because of the fact that Sly’s a director and writer. But when I met with Sly, he reassured me and said, “I’m just going to act in this one, you’re the director.”

What do you think is the key ingredient in making a memorable “action hero”, someone that connects with the audience?

Simon West: I think a great action hero needs to be vulnerable. If they’re unbeatable, they’re hard to relate to – and that’s what is so great about all the “Expendables” characters. They’re always just on the ragged edge and they could fail at any time. I think the audience likes that, and that’s key to why they root for them. And with the character in ‘The Expendables’ and ‘The Expendables 2,’ I think people like them because it’s all real world, the action is very real, we don’t really rely on CGI. It’s a very classic kind of action. Everything is done in camera, obviously we have some enhancements, but most of what we do is real and it harkens back to the day when everything was done in front of a camera. In ‘The Expendables 2’ there’s real car crashes, there’s real fight scenes, and there was real mayhem (laughs). I think people appreciate that, that these guys are doing these things, it’s not fake, CGI action. And for me, I was compelled by these characters in the script, these intriguingly flawed, relatable men and women who might take on the most impossible odds in the course of the story, but know they are in no way invincible. They have to rely on sheer guts, skill and a refusal to quit.

As both an action director and a fan, what was the experience like filming these action icons all on the same day at certain times? And how was it filming in Bulgaria, it gives the film a unique look?

Simon West: Definitely. It was pretty amazing when I had all the big guys together. We looked down the call sheet of the names, and never before have they been all assembled in the same film – let alone in the same scene. I would pinch myself halfway through the day as I was directing Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone and Jean Claude Van-Damme all in the same scene, all fighting, shooting, whatever they were doing. It was an action guys dream come true, really. And shooting in Bulgaria, Bulgaria is a country that hasn’t really been shot very much so most of our locations will have never been seen before. As a result, I think ‘The Expendables 2′ has an incredible look, like you said, a unique look. There are so many different types of landscape and locations we were able to use. I think people will be surprised by what they see.