Mel Gibson stars as ‘Conrad Stonebanks’ in THE EXPENDABLES 3.  ©Lionsgate. CR: Phil Bray.

Mel Gibson stars as ‘Conrad Stonebanks’ in THE EXPENDABLES 3. ©Lionsgate. CR: Phil Bray.

Front Row Features

HOLLYWOOD—One-time box-office golden boy Mel Gibson has been keeping a low profile for the past few years following a series of embarrassing incidents, including an anti-Semitic rant following a drunken driving arrest. But now the “Braveheart” actor emerges in the celebrity-filled action shoot-‘em-up “The Expendables 3,” playing a ruthless arms merchant who must be stopped by Sylvester Stallone’s Barney and his top-secret group of hardcore mercenaries.

The American-born, Australian-raised actor plays Conrad Stonebanks a former Expendables partner and co-founder, believed long dead. Following an explosive firefight, Stonebanks escapes and veteran Expendable Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) is nearly killed, forcing Barney (Stallone) to make a difficult decision. He retires the old crew in favor of a new group of young hotshots (played by “Legend of Hercules” star Kellan Lutz, MMA fighter Ronda Rousey, actor Glen Powell and boxer Victor Ortega.) The conflict turns personal when CIA official Max Drummer (Harrison Ford) dispatches the new team to bring Stonebanks to justice while the vengeful munitions smuggler sets a trap to destroy every one of the Expendables, including his former partner.

Gibson, 58, co-stars with fellow bad boy Wesley Snipes (who emerged from prison last year after serving three years for tax evasion) in the big-budget, all-star actioner. Dressed casually in a white shirt and jeans, Gibson spoke about joining the “Expendables” franchise, fighting “Rocky” star Stallone and what he plans to do next.

Q: What was your reaction when you first read the script?

Gibson: When I first read the script I thought, wow, it was very evolved. There were a lot of characters. I didn’t know how they were going to jam it all in, but somehow they managed to do it and everybody got a fair shake and there’s a lot of people here. So, hats off to Sly for enabling that to happen. I didn’t read it thinking I was the bad guy. In fact, I didn’t know I was the bad guy until I saw it last night. I thought Dolph Lundgren was the bad guy, so it’s a surprise to me. (jokingly) I’m kind of shocked and a little offended. I wanted to be the love interest, but there was no one to love, really.

Q: Did you stay on script or did you revise the dialogue for your character?

Gibson: I kind of worked on the script a little bit and I came in and hammered it out. I handed out the pages to Sly and Patrick (Hughes, the director) and they looked at it and went, “Yeah, it’s cool.” It was just a theme of somebody who was subcontracted by his government and then thrown under the bus, a real person.

Q: What was it like going mano-a-mano with Stallone in this? Did either of you actually hit the other by accident?

Gibson: It was like King Kong vs. Godzilla. (He chuckles.) No, there was no actual contact. It’s kind-of like movie sex; you don’t actually do it.

Q: If you could take one of characters you’ve played and make them an Expendable, which one would be the most fun to see join the group?

Gibson: Well, the obvious one is the crazy cop from “The Lethal Weapon” series, but I don’t know, maybe that wack job from “Conspiracy Theory.”

Q: As Stonebanks, you shoot up Terry Crew’s character Hale Caesar pretty badly. We hear there was some debate on whether he was going to live or die. Is that true?

Gibson: For the past year, he had been out in the script, so it was pretty edgy there for a while. I didn’t even know he was in trouble because I was just shooting at a mark. I didn’t know what I was doing. I found out I was shooting holes at him when I saw it.

Q: Do you have any plans to direct more movies?

Gibson: Oh yeah. I think the most fun you can have standing up is directing a film. It’s like my primary want. That’s my gift—direction. I’m going to pursue that. I’ve got a few irons in the fire. It doesn’t pay to talk too much about it because, industrial espionage is rife. The minute you say anything somebody swipes the idea. So it’s like, “That’s a good idea. We should do that.” It ends up on TV or something, but that’s ok too, I’ll direct TV. It’s great. TV is getting, like, amazing. I definitely have my sites set on that and will do.