Arnold Schwarzenegger is back -- in Bulgaria.
The action star and former governor of California, who championed filming in the state, is returning to Bulgaria to shoot the third installment in the "Expendables" franchise.
Lionsgate and Millennium Films said principal photography on "The Expendables 3" began Monday in Bulgaria, where the second movie about an elite group of mercenaries was also filmed.
The production will once again be based at Nu Boyana Studios in Sofia, taking advantage of Bulgaria's low-cost and non-union crews. The 75-acre former Communist-era film studio has become the go-to destination in Eastern Europe for Los Angeles-based filmmaker Avi Lerner since his company Nu Image acquired the complex in 2006.
Nu Image, a sister company of Millennium, has poured tens of millions of dollars into upgrades to the formerly state-owned studio, which has 13 sound stages, as well as a replica of several downtown Manhattan streets and a faux ancient Rome, complete with a coliseum.
"The Expendables 3" will feature Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews and Schwarzenegger returning to their roles in the first two films. Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford will join the all-star cast along with "Twilight" actor Kellan Lutz, MMA star Ronda Rousey and welterweight boxing champion Victor Ortiz.
Directed by Patrick Hughes ("Red Hill"), Lionsgate will release "The Expendables 3" in North America and in Britain on Aug. 15, 2014.
The first two installments of "The Expendables" have grossed nearly $600 million in combined global box office.
A Chinese stuntman was killed during the filming of "Expandables 2" in 2011, prompting a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by his family.
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