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This was the role that Jean-Claude Van Damme turned down in the first ‘The Expendables’

Van Damme turned down an offer made to him personally by Stallone to participate in the first ‘The Expendables’ and would have been one of the heroes of the movie.

jean claude van damme sylvester stallone los mercenarios

Jean-Claude Van Damme was one of the actors personally offered a role by Sylvester Stallone in The Expendables,’ the first installment of the action movie saga released in 2010. Unfortunately, Van Damme turned down the offer because he felt his character was flat and lacked development. The character he would have played was Gunner Jensen, a role that eventually went to Dolph Lundgren, JCVD’s “enemy” in ‘Universal Soldier’.

Van Damme would have been Gunner Jensen in ‘The Expendables’, but he turned the role down and Dolph Lundgren got it

The first ‘The Expendables’ film was born out of Sylvester Stallone’s desire to bring together many of the action movie stars of the 90s and 2000s in the same feature film. Actors such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Stallone himself, Bruce Willis, Jet Li or Jason Statham were among those chosen to participate in the project. But Stallone did not want to miss the opportunity to have Jean-Claude Van Damme, another important name in the genre during the 90s.

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As Van Damme himself confirmed in an interview with The Guardian in 2012, the “Rocky” actor spoke to him personally to offer him a role in this movie. His character was Gunner Jensen, but JCVD turned the offer down — though he later regretted it — because he found his character “flat and undeveloped.” Stallone even insinuated that Van Damme turned down the role because he had to lose a fight to Jet Li, which the Belgian later strongly denied.

Ironically, Jensen’s character is probably the one who develops the most in the first ‘The Expendables’. He begins the movie as part of the hero group, but due to his erratic attitude and substance abuse problem, Barney Ross (Stallone) decides to fire him. Consumed by resentment, Jensen decides to contact the villains to join their ranks and hunt down his former comrades. But a defeat at the hands of Yang (Li) and the intervention of Ross make him reconsider and rejoin the group of protagonists.

dolph lundgren los mercenarios
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dolph lundgren los mercenarios

After Van Damme turned down the role of Jensen, it went to Dolph Lundgren, who also had prominent roles in action movies like ‘Rocky IV’ (1985), also with Stallone, ‘Masters of the Universe’ (1987), ‘Red Scorpion’ (1988) or ‘Universal Soldier’ (1992). What is not known is whether Jensen’s story arc was a reference to Van Damme’s real life, as the Belgian had problems with substance abuse, something that he and other of his co-stars have acknowledged in projects where they have appeared together. It is also unknown what would have happened if he had accepted since it is not known if Stallone had Dolph Lundgren in mind for the project from the beginning.

During the red carpet of ‘The Expendables’, Stallone even called Van Damme and told him in a jovial tone, “I told you so!”, referring to the fact that by turning down the role of Jensen, he was missing a great opportunity, the Belgian agreed with and immediately expressed his regret.