Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Deadpool 2 star Terry Crews attributes his worldwide fame to 2010’s The Expendables — a blockbuster action movie that nearly never made it into theaters.
“The Expendables, the first movie, was supposed to be direct-to-video,” Crews told GQ.
You gotta understand where [writer-director Sylvester] Stallone was at the time. He was trying to get this thing done, they’re like, ‘Dude, you’re in your sixties. How you gonna do an action movie?’ All the studios turned it down. So Sly starts calling people. And he starts getting a buzz going. And this is also in the first days of getting viral energy in the internet. So what Sly started to do was tweet out, ‘How would you like to see me, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, in a movie together?’ And the internet went crazy.
And then he called me! Now listen, I was probably the fourth choice in the movie, to be honest. But I don’t care, fourth in the world is okay [laughs]. I got a call, and I met Sly in his office, and he was like, [imitating Stallone] ‘Hey, what’s up Terry, how you doing, man, what’s up? I need you for this movie, right, we gotta do this thing,’ and I’m thinking it’s an audition. He’s telling me, ‘We’re shooting in about three weeks, and be ready.’ I’m going like, ‘I got — I’m in the movie?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, you’re in the movie, what are you talking about? Get ready, about three weeks, get your bags packed!’
So there I am, I’m in Brazil, Jet Li comes in, Jason Statham comes in, Randy Couture, Dolph Lundgren, oh my God, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sly, and here I am, and it took over. I remember the summer it came out, it was so manly, people were like, ‘Be careful, you’re gonna get pregnant if you watch this movie’ [laughs]. It was like the manliest manly movie of all time.
Crews, then best-known for roles in comedies White Chicks and Everybody Hates Chris, admitted he was initially “very disappointed” on the Expendables set, saying his underutilization as beefy mercenary and heavy weapons specialist Hale Caesar left him with a poor attitude.
“I remember I didn’t feel like I was being used enough. I wanted to do more, and they were like ‘No, no, no.’ And I got a bad attitude. This is the moment in the road, the fork in the road, where I was, like, always giving all I had, showing up for free, no problem, into, ‘I want more money,’” Crews said.
“And then I remember sitting — I think it was some sort of quote I heard, it was something like, ‘There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.’ And all of a sudden, I said, ‘You know what, Terry, change.’ I’m telling you, man, this is what happened. It was literally in my room, I said, ‘Tomorrow, act like you’re getting $20 million dollars.’ I started to shift my attitude. When people’d go, ‘Hey Terry,’ I’d go, ‘Hey, how you doing, how are you, hello everybody, what do I need to say?’ And they would say one line, I’d go and say my line, and give my all, just like I did when I started out, just like on Training Day.”
Crew’s readjusted attitude lead to a climactic scene that sees Crews’ Caesar unleash fire on a slew of enemies, rescuing the entire Expendables crew.
“All of a sudden, Sly started to notice, and let me tell you something — he rewrote the script! In the original script, there was no tunnel scene. He rewrote the script. He said, ‘Terry, you’re gonna save my life,’” Crews said.
“And I remember coming through that tunnel with my big AA12 shotgun, and I end up saving the whole crew. It’s one of the iconic moments in the movie. Literally, when I watched it in the theater, guys were jumping up and [cheers]. He gave me a moment - I killed maybe 30 people at once [laughs], probably in the course of 10 seconds I kill like 45 people, and then I said the iconic line, ‘Remember this shit at Christmas!’ People were like [cheers wildly].”
The experience taught Crews a valuable lesson — and resulted in a return to the role in two sequels.
“All because I shifted my attitude. And I changed my trajectory. I think everything could have went wrong at that time in my life, that fork in the road, but it didn’t,” he said.
“Then I learned forever and ever, be the solution. Don’t be a problem on set, don’t be the issue. The job is hard enough, and you don’t need to be the one making things harder. And I knew that that was going to be my key, and it sure was. Expendables was a giant hit and it made me truly a worldwide star.”
In June, Crews said he won’t return for the in-the-works Expendables 4 because he didn’t comply with producer Avi Lerner’s instructions to drop a sexual assault case against William Morris Endeavor agent Adam Venit, who Crews says groped his genitals at an LA function in 2016.
During testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee late last month, Crews said Lerner contacted his manager and “asked the actor to drop his case against Adam Venit in order to appear in the fourth installment of the action film” (via Deadline).
Asked if he was set to appear in the fourth film, Crews said, “No. Simply because this same producer is under his own... investigation. Abusers protect abusers — and this is one thing I had to decide, whether I was going to draw the line on. Am I going to be a part of this or am I gonna take a stand, and there are projects I had to turn down.”
Last May, Lerner and Millennium Entertainment were sued by a former employee alleging a hostile work environment, gender discrimination, and sexual harassment.