Sylvester Stallone Nicole Venables The Expendables

"The Expendables" star Sylvester Stallone gets his mane styled by Nicole Venables. Photo courtesy of Nicole Venables

When celebrity hairstylist Nicole Venables isn't styling coiffs at her salon, the Ruby Begonia Hair Studio in Los Angeles, California, she's busy perfecting the rough-and-tumble strands of Sylvester Stallone.

In the midst of international press for "The Expendables," Venables (pictured left with Stallone) took a break to give our pals over at PopEater the inside scoop on what it took to style the signature, gritty looks for Stallone and his ensemble cast of bad boys for this summer's most star-studded thrill ride.

PopEater: Tell us how Sylvester Stallone achieved his look for "The Expendables."
Venbles: "The Expendables" was a total collaboration. Sly has a vision for every film, and this was no exception. He's really inclusive with his designers. Most of his department heads, from set designers to artillery experts, are chosen long-term veterans and trusted confidants. Sly, who co-wrote and directed the film, his costume designer Liz Wolfe, and I orchestrated the ultimate old-school, bad-ass version of himself for the character of Barney Ross -- decked out in vintage glory, ripped and tattooed to the gods.

PE: How long you have been Mr. Stallone's personal stylist?
V: I've been doing Sly's hair for over a decade. It's a thank-my-lucky-stars kind of a job. I'm a die-hard fan -- when I was 10, my bedroom was head-to-toe "Rocky." "Get Carter," "Driven," "Rocky Balboa" and "Rambo" showcase different looks I've created, from slick and sleek to vigilante legend.

PE: Give me the dirt and details -- any challenges creating the looks for such a hyper-stylized film?
V: We were shooting around the clock with three units, facing lots of blood, guts and gunpowder amid serious heat and humidity issues in Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans. Sly wanted to maintain his natural salt-and-pepper wave and fuzzy raw texture -- and just for the record, he doesn't wear wigs -- for his rogue assassin role. I created a loose look that worked while dodging bullets, bombs, punches and serious grappling. It worked 24/7, during the most intense car chases and even while suspended from a sea plane with 200-mph winds blowing and raging at him. His hair took a serious physical beating on this flick!



PE: How about the rundown on the all-star cast?
V: I was over-the-top excited to meet these guys. I knew their work and couldn't believe we'd all be together for four months as a family, raising hell. I was delirious because we were scheduled to shoot mostly nights and I knew the turnaround would be brutal. But the guys are true pros; they came pumped and ready to roll with Sly. As for their character looks, Sly wanted a greasy, drug-afflicted vibe for Dolph Lundgren. I installed extensions to add length and to grunge up the front of his hair, while makeup artist Scott Eddo sealed the look with a serious cheek scar. Sly even jumped in at one point and grabbed motorcycle grease from the garage floor to further dirty him up! Oh-so-truly-cool Mickey Rourke came to shoot already fully extended with his black and white striped bob, leather-vested ensemble and custom motorcycle complementing his fully tatted character, Tool. As for the rest of this motley, hunky crew -- sexy Brit Jason Statham, UFC Hall-of-Famer Randy Couture and "Mr. Muscles" Terry Crews -- they practically held me at gunpoint for a clipper-cut every third day of shooting.

PE: And the villains?
V: I gave Eric Roberts, who plays the role of ruthless boss James Monroe, a manicured, silver, slicked-back look to exhibit complete control. Amazingly, that "control" stayed in place throughout the whole film, even standing up against the forces of nature during the explosion-ridden pier scene. As for "Stone Cold" Steve Austin ... sometimes no hair is best hair.

PE: We have to ask -- what's it like working for an icon?
V: It's an honor and a privilege. Stallone's a super-maverick, down and dirty, hands-on action mogul. When directing, he usually has a serious vision dedicated to details, so creating his vision, to his liking, is the ultimate payoff. He shoots fast and guerilla style, on the run. His two directives are "Try harder!" and "No!" He's a perfectionist who pushes you beyond your limit, to the edge, because he pushes himself there every day, in every way.

PE: And what's next for you?
V: I can't wait for all the chaos in the sequel!

Meanwhile, see what celebrity hairstylist Ken Paves said was most likely done for Angelina Jolie's many hairstyles in "Salt."