Cannes, France (CNN) -- Their stunt-laden movies have put them among the biggest names in Hollywood -- and this was a stunt made to match the world's most famous film festival.
A who's-who of action heroes stunned promenaders on the Croisette by arriving in Cannes on tanks! Sly, Arnie, Dolph - and then those other stars whose cause is helped by the addition of a surname -- Jason (Statham), Harrison (Ford), Mel (Gibson), Antonio (Banderas), Wesley (Snipes) and, er Kelsey (Grammar). The muscular military parade came to a halt outside the Carlton Hotel -- the grandest destination on Cannes' main boulevard -- where the assembled action force waved to hundreds of fans when they weren't posing for selfies.
The CNN team should have been 200 meters further west along the Croisette in the Palais de Festivals watching a screening of Tommy Lee Jones' much anticipated entry for the Palme D'Or, "The Homesman." But this was just too good to miss -- a cinematic guilty pleasure.
It took two rows of seats to accommodate the cast members, with Sly and Arnie back row, center stage with the newcomers arranged before them, including the only female member of the cast, Ronda Rouse. The quip-fest began and while Arnie, Sly and Mel couldn't resist a few jokey punches and strangleholds, the Expendables crew mostly contented themselves with trading punchlines instead.
Talking about the franchise Stallone said "we finally got it right on the third one -- kinda like marriage." Laughter accompanied his cheeky shrug. It continued when he was asked what makes the perfect action hero. "Well you have to be incredibly intelligent, handsome, sexy, good teeth, high IQ, a lot of hair."
But then, like an action hero suddenly remembering a fallen favorite comrade, he became suddenly wistful.
"You know I'm gonna tell you the truth, I think it's the hardest thing in the world to find an action person because its an indefinable thing. What makes an audience like a person? Because it's not about muscles, because a lot of good action guys are not very muscular, they're not particularly good looking. There's something almost intangible and I don't know what it is, but I know it's very rare because there's only been about 15 action heroes -- I mean real serious ones -- in history."
Although several of the action heroes he was talking about were there at the press conference, former "Frasier" star Kelsey Grammar admitted he wasn't one of them, as he acknowledged when answering a question directed to the newcomers. "I would like to thank you for characterizing me as one of the younger actors. I'm new to action films and I feel my star is just rising."
Antonio Banderas entered the fray, matching Stallone's earlier wistfulness and raising the stakes with an earnest, poignant account of his early Hollywood career typecast as the baddy with the foreign accent, until 1998's The "Mask of Zorro" changed all that and suddenly he was here among the good guys.
"For a Spanish person like me to be invited to be part of this movie, which is kind of a hall of fame for action heroes, means a lot to my community and to me personally."
By the time he'd finished he had transformed into the cute sad-eyed animated cat he personifies in 2011 animation "Puss in Boots" and the room was transfixed. But then the "elephant" in the room was spotted and cautiously approached. For men of a certain age, what precautions do you take to protect yourselves? Mock indignation ensued.
Once again it was Sergeant-Major Stallone who put himself in the line of fire: "Precautions! I wish. Precautions are not in the budget. Seriously, everyone gets hurt. I've had two back operations, neck fused and both shoulders done. We're talking about hands-on action going all the way back to 'Indiana Jones.' You didn't have CGI then you just did it. And we take pride in actually taking the bumps and bruises."
Mel Gibson concurred: "We have a battery of physicians like little elves who come in and fix us every night."
"Yeah we have a whole wing in the hospital" added Stallone. "The Mel Gibson wing."
Arnie joined the fun: "But I think that when you get older things do get easier. When Randy (Couture) picks me up and slams we into a wall it's a padded wall and when Sly was hitting me in the face he was taking it easy a little bit and when Harrison Ford was shooting me with a gun he didn't use live ammo."
"You're ruining the magic now!" chipped in Kelsey.
The theme continued. When will you know when you're too old to be an action hero?
Sly jumped straight in with an alertness which defied his years: "I think when you wake up in the morning and your a** falls off it's time to go. Let me tell you something -- we are children with arthritis -- we are young forever."