The Internet is filled with Chuck Norris "facts" proclaiming the action star's legendary toughness, like "Chuck Norris had a staring contest with the sun - and won" or "There is no chin under Chuck Norris' beard, just another fist."
These might be exaggerations. But one fact is undeniable: In the action-star heaven of The Expendables 2, Norris is the one who tallies the biggest bad-guy body count when he takes out a mini-army single-handedly, saving his trapped co-stars.
"It's pretty cool," says Norris, 72. "I deserve the most kills. I'm the oldest guy out there. I'm 39 with 33 years of experience."
He's also Chuck Norris.
The Expendables 2 is the nation's No. 1 movie, earning $28.6 million on opening weekend, and features mega-watt stars like Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. But Norris' legend has its own spotlight because of the Internet hype that started about seven years ago as his film career was waning.
Norris' personal favorite: "They wanted to put Chuck Norris on Mt. Rushmore, but the granite wasn't tough enough for his beard."
With a buildup like that, Norris "demanded the ultimate entrance," says director Simon West.
"The worldwide phenomenon of these Chuck Norris jokes set him up as the ultimate hero," West says. "You couldn't meet him at a bar. It had to be on a battlefield with defeated bad guys all around him."
The Missing in Action star and karate champion is retired and lives on a working cattle ranch near College Station, Texas, where he trains his 11-year-old twins, Dakota and Danilee, in karate (naturally, they will soon be black belts). But he returned to star with his action pals, "many whom I've known for 30 years," he says.
West says it would have been "tragic" if Norris had declined the offer. "Not to be able to brag that I had Chuck Norris would have broken my heart."
Norris' arrival immediately caused ripples on the Bulgarian set last year. Martial arts star Scott Adkins found that his own full beard would have to go.
"When people saw it, it was like, 'I don't know if Chuck's going to be happy with that. He's the one with the beard,' " Adkins says, laughing. " 'The Beard' has got the beard."
Adkins switched to a goatee.
Naturally, Norris was asked to provide his own Chuck Norris tall tale for the script. "It was Sly who said that these 'facts' are everywhere, let's put one in a scene," says Norris, "After I gave it to him, he laughed and gave me a big bear hug."
The entry: Norris is bitten by a cobra and, after five agonizing days, the cobra dies.