The sequel was considered seven months before The Expendables (2010) was completed and released in theaters. The first movie's plot was revised during filming so that Dolph Lundgren's character, who was killed in the first draft, could be saved for the sequel.
Sylvester Stallone asked Chuck Norris to include a reference to The Chuck Norris facts (a popular internet meme) in the screenplay. Norris's wife Gena O'Kelly suggested him the one with the cobra. ("Chuck Norris was bitten by a cobra, and after five days of excruciating pain... the cobra died.")
Sylvester Stallone explained that his casting was looking particularly for actors who had not experienced recent hits: "I like using people that had a moment and then maybe have fallen on some hard times and give them another shot. I like those kinds of guys. Someone did it for me and I like to see if I can do it for them."
The film reveals that Gunnar Jensen earned an advanced degree in chemical engineering, then abandoned his science career to work as bouncer in order to impress a girl. Dolph Lundgren earned a chemistry degree from Washington State University in 1976, a chemical engineering degree from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm in the early 1980s, and a Master's Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Sydney in 1982. Lundgren walked away from a science career to work as bodyguard for his then-girlfriend Grace Jones. While stuck in the mine, Gunnar refers to himself as a "Fulbright Scholar," which Lundgren achieved in real life.
In the battle scene with all the Expendables and the Sangs there are many tongue-in-cheek references to the actors other films such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis saying "I'll be back" (many of Arnold Schwarzenegger); Arnold Schwarzenegger saying "Yippie-Kai-Yay" (in reference to Bruce Willis "Die Hard" series) and later asking "Who's next, Rambo?" (Stallone's film).
Some controversy arose online when rumors started spreading that this film might receive a PG-13 cut, as opposed to the Rated-R cut of the first The Expendables (2010). The name of Chuck Norris was most often associated with this story, that he was having problems with the extreme violence and basically refusing to take part in the movie unless it would be toned down.
In an interview with BBC Radio, Sylvester Stallone confirmed that he named Jean-Claude Van Damme's character 'Vilain' to make it similar to the name of 19th Century French poet Paul Verlaine. This was to set up an extremely obscure in-joke where the final showdown between Van Damme and Stallone, could be seen as a fight between Vilain/Verlaine and Rambo/Rimbaud. Arthur Rimbaud (pronounced Rambo) being another French poet with whom Verlaine had a tempestuous affair.
Sylvester Stallone's character is named Barney Ross in memory of decorated World War II hero and World Lightweight, Light Welterweight, and Welterweight Boxing Champion, Barney Ross (i.e. three-divisional champion).
The fountain pen that Barney Ross pulls out to write on the napkin is a Montegrappa Chaos limited edition pen that Sylvester Stallone, a long time Montegrappa aficionado, helped design. It includes a skull and other symbols inspired by The Expendables (2010).
Chuck Norris is the pop culture subject of countless larger than life "Chuck Norris facts" created by fans. The film's cast and crew jumped on the bandwagon when Norris arrived in Bulgaria, coining a new one: "Chuck Norris doesn't visit Bulgaria, Bulgaria visits Chuck Norris."
After the team kills a lone remaining gunman during the fight with the Sangs, Stallone says "Rest in pieces". This is a reference to Dolph Lundgren's line in the sci-fi movie I Come in Peace (1990), where, at the end, the villain says "I come in peace" and after blowing him away, Lundgren remarks "But you go in pieces".
One of two films released in 2012 starring both Jean Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren where Van Damme plays the villain. The other was Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning. Also the fourth movie starring Van Damme and Lundgren after Universal Soldier (1992), Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009) and Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (2012). And the only collaboration with the two action stars that is not a Universal Soldier film.
At the start of the film, Sylvester Stallone drives a 4x4 with a heavy metal plow on the rear. When he spins the vehicle and drives with the plow facing front, his 4x4 bears more than a passing resemblance to a vehicle from Judge Dredd, another Sylvester Stallone film.
Scott Adkins, who played Jean-Claude Van Damme's right hand man, played the main character in the movie Hard Target 2 (2016). It is the direct-to-video sequel of the film Hard Target (1993) where Van-Damme played the main character.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Near the end of the movie, Barney Ross says "That thing belongs in a museum." This was a famous line from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). Coincidentially, Harrison Ford, who played Indiana Jones, appeared as CIA Agent Drummer in Expendables 3 (2014), after Bruce Willis refused to return as Mr. Church. Harrison Ford, like Arnold and Sly, was offered to play John McClane in Die Hard but turned it down and the role then went to Bruce Willis.
The working storyline had Mickey Rourke from The Expendables (2010) returning as Tool and being killed off as the motivation for the team's subsequent actions. This was changed to Liam Hemsworth's character when Rourke abruptly left the production to pursue another project.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, in this film says "Yippie Kai Yay", (a reference to Bruce Willis's role in Die Hard (1988) as John McClane), after he says "I'll be back", when Bruce Willis steals his line. Arnold was considered for the role of John McClane in Die Hard along with Sylvester Stallone himself.
When Arnold Schwarzenegger 's character rescues the crew and the villagers from being trapped inside the mine, he uses a giant drill machine similar to the one that Benny the cab driver used to try to kill his character in Total Recall (1990).
The plane received as a "gift" at the end of the film is a soviet made utility/agriculltural Antonov AN-2 designed and manufactured by the Antonov Design Bureau since 1946. Various versions are still in use in the ex-U.S.S.R., and in the eastern bloc countries.