Rio On Location: Parque Lage in 'The Expendables'


Photo by Fran Mateus

At the foot of the 'Christ the Redeemer' statue are some of the most relaxing green areas in the city, where the silence is only interrupted by the sound of birds, waterfalls and horses. One of these areas is called Parque Lage. Comprising a turn of the century mansion and a well-groomed garden, the public park has been home to a love story and used as a movie set in The Expendables (2010), directed by Sylvester Stallone, who also stars in the movie.

Photo: Lionsgate

In it, the park’s mansion becomes the home of the villain in the story, General Garza (David Zayas). Silvester Stallone plays the role of Barney Ross, the leader of a group of professionals specialized in gun-handling, who were hired to rid Garza and his moneyman, Monroe (Eric Roberts) from control of Vilena Island. On their first visit to the island, Ross and Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) are introduced to Sandra (Gisele Itiê), a local who helps them on their venture. Worried with the risks Sandra might be in, Ross invites her to abandon the place, but receives “no” as an answer. Soon, what was supposed to be just another job becomes a mission to free Sandra and her people from the cruelty of Garza and Munroe. The movie casted actors who starred in action movies in the 1980s and 1990s, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. Nostalgic movie-goers who missed seeing these men in action adored it – and The Expendables became a film series.

Photo by Fran Mateus

Parque Lage was initially a sugar cane mill, back when Brazil was still a colony; it went a long way until becoming Henrique Lage’s property, a Brazilian man married to an Italian opera singer, Gabriela Besanzoni. The enamored nobleman renovated the whole mansion to suit his lover’s taste. The couple was fascinated by the art world and they were great party enthusiasts. People say that even the actor Tyrone Power visited the place in 1938, during his stay in Rio.

The Parque Lage mansion is currently the Visual Arts School of Rio de Janeiro. It is open to the public on all week-days. The coffee house beside the pool is always filled with tourists and locals, while the park’s vegetation attracts families and art students searching for inspiration. (Rua Jardim Botânico, 414)

Extra: a walk in the Botanical Garden

Photo by Fran Mateus
If you continue down the street from the Parque Lage, heading towards the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, you’ll find the Jardim Botânico (Botanical Garden), considered by many to be one of the most beautiful in the world. This oasis of tranquility was founded in 1808 by the king of Portugal, Dom João VI, and became open to the public in 1822. In 1933, the beautiful 14-yard tall royal palm trees – they were planted by His Majesty himself and continue to reign over the garden – were introduced to moviegoers in Flying Down to Rio (1933).

Both Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein have visited the garden – the former was there in 1832 for his studies, and the latter declared during his visit in 1925, that the “the local vegetation and the Botanical Garden are better than the dream of the Arabian Nights”. The garden, classified as a UNESCO Biosphere reserve, encompasses a stunning orchidarium, a hummingbird garden and a central lake inhabited by a number of lily pads. (Rua Jardim Botânico, 920-1008)

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