The stars of new movie Expendables 2 talk about one-upmanship and being fighting fit.

For the ageing action stars blasting their way through Expendables 2, there were other more subtle fights going on during the making of the movie.

Sharing the limelight created an interesting dynamic, with the Bulgarian set wall-to-wall with 1980s and 1990s action stars including Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chuck Norris.

"Everyone's trying to stand in front of each other, so it's a bit of fighting for the camera," said Jason Statham.

For Van Damme - the Muscles from Brussels - it meant fighting his way to the front of the food line.


"We had a real problem. Lunchtime," he said. "There was not enough food, so we all ran to the caterer, because I don't want to be behind a guy like Terry Crews - he will take everything."

Aside from consuming copious calories, the healthy competition between these icons was inspirational to Crews, the 1.89m, 111kg former NFL player.

"You have to hold your own," he said. "With every line you had to have a comeback, with every punch you had to have a counter-punch and it just builds and it builds and it builds. That's what makes the movie great."

In this second instalment, revenge is the motivating force as the team exacts payback for the death of one of their own. Amid all the machismo and mayhem, mixed martial arts champion Randy Couture emerges as the toughest of the tough guys.

"He's the real deal," said Statham. "He could wipe the floor with almost anyone there and all at the same time."

Couture agreed with his co-star's evaluation.

"I mean if you really want to get down and scrap in a real sense, in a real fight, it's what I did for a long, long time," he said.

For Couture, pulling punches and mastering fight choreography was a steep learning curve.

"You have to realise very quickly you can't punch your stuntman in the face, that doesn't go over very well, let alone your fellow actors," he said.

"What about the Bulgarian stunt guy you threw to the ground and broke his ribs?" Lundgren pointed out good-naturedly.

"Randy learned some of it, but not all of it."

With the majority of the cast now pushing 50 to 70, their physicality was put to the test.

"If you had a dialogue scene in a restaurant you feel pretty good, but if you're fighting guys all day and walking up and down Bulgarian hills, you're a bit sore and that's just how it is," Lundgren said.

"I think by putting stress on your body as you get older by training and doing these films it actually makes you stronger in a way too, if you can avoid any serious injury."

Van Damme wasn't reticent about his abilities, however.

"It's the old guard, it's the real stuff," he said. "I'm not shy to say we can still kick ass at the age of 50, for real."

With Crank and Transporter to his credit, Statham is more relaxed about his training regime.

"When I go back to England at Christmas time, there is no training at all and that sort of washes into the New Year," he admitted.

"I think like anything you can't be constantly training. Well, some people do, but I'm not of that ilk. I like to be very strict and then I like to have a little breathing time and then I like to be strict. That suits me rather than something steady and in-between."

Often described as the action odd couple, Statham shares an easy on-screen banter with Stallone that's indicative of their friendship.

"I suppose so, yeah. He's very much a comical chap and I can remember meeting him for the first time," Statham said. "We had a bit of lunch and I never stopped laughing. It's just in his DNA to be funny."

The script, written by Stallone and Richard Wenk, is peppered with self-deprecating humour and nostalgic references to the cast's previous catchphrases, like, "I'll be back" and "Yippie ki-yay".

In a classic exchange, Stallone looks at an old plane and says, "That thing belongs in a museum."

Schwarzenegger looks at Willis and quips, "We all do."

- TimeOut / AAP