Living (Sri Lanka)
It’s nice that perhaps in some way, I’ve inspired another generation to come through and be these types of characters on the big screen
Sylvester Stallone’s success seems perennial. He’s an actor whose work encompasses multiple generations, each of them left in awe at the combination of style and power this New York City born actor brings to the big screen.
His influence is such that every action man who has since assumed that muscle-bound, high-octane and fearsomely fanatical persona seems to be made in the mould of Stallone.
“It’s nice that perhaps in some way, I’ve inspired another generation to come through and be these types of characters on the big screen,” he says.
Stallone continues: “I think the image of the tough guy has evolved over time. These days, it’s seen more in the superhero genre. When I was getting started, they were all regular guys on the street with an axe to grind.”
“It’s interesting to see how this has evolved – though at the heart of it, it’s the same thing. You can have all the CGI and special effects in the world… but you still need a leading man who can look and act in a certain way. If you don’t have that, you have nothing,” he explains.
The 75-year-old actor had to work hard for his reputation. He has come a long way from his 1969 film debut in The Square Root, which is a story about partying and LSD in the 1960s.
It would be another seven years before he landed his first film in the successful Rocky franchise, for which he considers himself lucky.
In-between, teen gang film The Lords of Flatbush gave Stallone and Henry Winkler a breakthrough but both went in different directions in terms of genre. Winkler made his name as The Fonz in the television series Happy Days and Stallone moved to action flicks.
Rocky was greatly inspired by heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner and his fight against Muhammad Ali. The movie won an Oscar for Best Picture in 1976 as well as 10 Academy Award nominations. This established Sylvester and Rocky in Hollywood, and their rags to riches stories are correlated.
Stallone reminisces: “Rocky and Rambo made me very wealthy but my struggles before that were profound, and I always look back and am glad I had to fight for it from the very depths of being out there with virtually nothing.”
“I’ve always believed we have three or four crossroad moments in our life. I think back to my early days when I did some film projects that I wouldn’t have considered normally; but I was completely broke and needed a break. At the time, I was always cast as a mugger or thug but soon learnt that every movie I did presented an opportunity,” the Italian Stallion reminisces.
He asserts: “Not everyone is going to be a star but everyone wants the chance [to be one]. It’s the opportunity and then the lack of it that drives people crazy in any aspect of life. So I say, ‘let me run; and if I trip, I trip…’ But not to have an opportunity is the worst. So go out there and find it.”
That’s what Stallone did and after two decades of almost non-stop artistic discovery, he was cast alongside Ray Liotta and Robert De Niro in Cop Land. He gave what many audiences and critics feel is Stallone’s best performance although it was incredibly understated especially in comparison to his gung ho movies filled with empty gun shell casings.
In 2005, he hung up his gloves and returned as Rocky Balboa the boxing trainer to Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Creed. This saw him nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor .
Rocky and Rambo made me very wealthy but my struggles before that were profound, and I always look back and am glad I had to fight for it
And recently, over 40 years after author David Morrell’s book was adapted for the big screen, Stallone came back as one of the most well-known action heroes in movie history – John Rambo. In Rambo: Last Blood, he met his past head-on and reignited his merciless battle skills to take revenge in one final conquest.
Sylvester admits: “It’s a constant battle to stay relevant and successful. And let’s be clear, I’m not successful all the time; I do fail. But when it works, like with Rambo and Rocky, it works! I’m so glad to have had those guys in my life – so lucky. Sometimes, I don’t realise how much I miss them.”
Does he have a favourite? No, says Stallone but adds: “I love Rambo because his character has a lot in common with those people who unfortunately deal with isolation every day.”
He elaborates: “In contrast, Rocky is different with an optimistic view of the world and his own life. He quickly realises that he’s not special and life owes him nothing; but he tries as much as he can to make it better and be special.”
“It’s a common misconception that Rocky is a boxing movie but it’s not. It’s more of a movie that has boxing in it,” says Stallone.
I love Rambo because his character has a lot in common with those people who unfortunately deal with isolation every day