Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone, born July 6, 1946, is an American actor, screenwriter, producer, and director. He is well known for his Hollywood action roles, particularly boxer Rocky Balboa, the title character of the Rocky series' seven films from 1976 to 2015; soldier John Rambo from the four Rambo films, which ran from 1982 to 2008; and Barney Ross in the three The Expendables films from 2010 to 2014. He wrote or co-wrote most of the 14 films in all three franchises, and directed many of the films. | Sylvester Stallone, Italian, Rocky, Actor, Rambo, Producer, Writer, Director, Wealthy, Boxer, Sexy, Topless, Muscles, Old,

On another Rambo and guys like Jason Bourne

Aaron Stipkovich: What do you think about the current political situation in the US, and what do you think will happen this year?

Sylvester Stallone: Well, I think it can't get worse! It has to get better--there is no question about it. It's like, unfortunately, history has to repeat itself over and over. We had the same thing we're seeing today with Viet Nam. So change will be good. It's like cleaning the house and getting rid of the old ideas and coming up with new ones, so I think it will be a positive situation. Unfortunately, right now it's a painful situation and it could have been avoided with a little bit of intelligence. Also, in regards to Rambo, we had the same situation when Rambo II came out and it was the Reagan era, with many tensions and conflicts. It just seems the country [the USA] goes into a certain mood when you have a situation, and it lends itself to a film of this nature. It seems to come together and, aside from politics, which I'm not a genius about, it was inevitable, and it's going to be a new day soon. I just hope it's not too late to keep America being respected around the world--to get that respect back.

AS: What made you decide that particular war zone--Burma?

SS: Well, it's pretty much unknown and yet it's one of the most brutal situations in the world. The reason it's still unknown is that the Burmese are so rich that they spend millions of dollars with Washington lobbyists to keep all of this mess quiet. It reminded me of the subject of The Magnificent Seven. You have one little small area with peasants being overwhelmed by this brutal military force, which is only second to the Chinese, and the fact that they are holding out and they are picked out because they are Christians and Rambo is an atheist at this time, and he had lost most of his humanity. So I thought this could be a great setting for the new Rambo movie. Over all, rather than trying to do something about Iraq or Afghanistan, which I thought would have been an insult to the rightful men who are fighting--to think than a fictional character can come and change everything--I thought this would be more real. First I was going to do something about Mexico and all that situation at the border with rising crime and drug cartels. But I thought it was a different type of problem, this human trading. Also, I wanted to do something more spiritual and visually interesting. I really like the jungle.

AS: Did you do your own stunts, and how hard was it this time around?

SS: Pretty hard indeed! I did everything but one stunt--the one where I'm supposed to jump off the hill during the explosion when the big bomb goes off! I really thought the stunt guy was going to die! I felt bad. And we had to do it twice and it was very slippery. You will have to look at the making-of when the video comes out, because there were so many injuries during the shooting, like snake bites, cuts, and so on. But this made this movie such a great adventure because of all of these incidents. Everyone, at first, hated it and was scared. I said, "I know," but I said, "This is like a war and you're all going to be sad to go home. You're going to go home and look at your husband or your wife and kids and tell them, 'You have it so easy, you don't know.' So don't even complain to me again!"

AS: What was the most challenging aspect of doing this film?

SS: For sure it was the ongoing threat of the Burmese while we were shooting in Thailand. There were a lot of secret police over there, and they knew exactly what was going on. And especially all these people, and I won't mention names, doing drug dealings between the Burmese general and people on the other side of the river. It's really a bad and sad situation. So when you step into their territory, you show them a bad life. Life is very cheap over there. You get shot and nobody will ever find you. At first, I didn't worry about me but I really felt bad for the crew because I thought that's how it would start, with the intimidating of the crew. And they did intimidate them. For a while, we could not get any Burmese to work for us at all until one man stepped up and it opened the flood gate. All you see in the movie is authentic--it's real canons, real amputees who had lost their legs in land mine accidents... The man who started to show the other Burmese they had to do it was the one playing the villain in the movie, and actually, in real life, he is a rebel fighter. But by doing this film, his family was arrested and put in jail in Burma!

AS: The movie looks amazing and the editing seemed very difficult...

SS: It was so difficult indeed. The editing took forever. Compared to Rocky, I thought this would be easy and it wasn't, because I wanted it to be brutal and real. When you see lots of these films, you don't even know how complicated they are to put together. A battlefield is a terrifying situation to look at, and I wanted to get all of it there. And it was very hard because of the timing of the editing, the choice of the music, and trying to figure out the female character and for her to realize that war is natural and peace is not. This woman has to listen to Rambo telling her, "You're not going to change anything, and men will be always in turmoil. This is never going to stop, no matter what you do. Don't think we can hold hands and it's going to be peaceful forever." She got to learn it the hard way. And, for example, the ending was very difficult to shoot. I shot it five different times. He waves, she waves, and I thought the right choice was just for Rambo to look at her and with his eyes tell her, "I told you so, go home."

AS: Wasn't the movie initially scheduled for Christmas?

SS: Yes, but it could not have happened for two reasons. First, it was such a crowed season with way too many movies in theaters. And you just could not get any theaters because they are booked way in advance. And second, I truly just finished the movie like ten days ago. It was that hard because of these special effects and to show the impact of war. It took longer than I thought. Now I have much more respect for all these people doing CGI work and special effects.

AS: How do you think this character has changed, and how did he change you, Sylvester Stallone?

SS: Well, he has become more cynical. I have myself become more cynical as I get older. You look around at what the truth is, and everything you were promised as a young person doesn't really come true. Rambo realizes that God has forsaken him. He feels that people have forsaken him, so he lives in exile and he wants to be left alone. But there is one ray of hope with these missionaries who believe that humanity can still rise to the top, that people can be good and have a good life. He doesn't really believe in this, but there is something about him that wants to protect this woman and this group. He wants to see them get out alive, but in doing that, he is given a purpose and he is reborn: "fighters fight." This is the last moment of battle before he wants to go home. This is why, at the beginning of the movie, you have: "Don't you want to know what's going on back at home?" and him to reply: "You need to have a good reason for that." At the end of this film, he has a good reason. There is nothing more that he can do. He confronted most of his demons, and now, in an ideal world, he wants to go back and build a life, even though there is no life to build because he is too old. Life has passed him by...

AS: Do you feel there is a parallel with your life?

SS: Oh yeah... The phenomenal thing that happened to me is that I was presented with two characters: one is the ultimate optimist, Rocky, and then you have Rambo, the ultimate pessimist--the dark side, the real killer side, the primitive side. It's a blessing, and at the same time you're going to always be remembered for them, no matter what you do. So I thought that I should be true to who I am and not try to prove that I'm some versatile creature, and everything else--do what you do well and do it honestly.

Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone, born July 6, 1946, is an American actor, screenwriter, producer, and director. He is well known for his Hollywood action roles, particularly boxer Rocky Balboa, the title character of the Rocky series' seven films from 1976 to 2015; soldier John Rambo from the four Rambo films, which ran from 1982 to 2008; and Barney Ross in the three The Expendables films from 2010 to 2014. He wrote or co-wrote most of the 14 films in all three franchises, and directed many of the films. |
AS: What has happened to Rambo over the last 20 years?

SS: Well, last time we saw him, he was in Afghanistan and he was disenchanted about America. He felt America was like a big parent that had no use for him, who just threw him away. America used him and told him "we don't need you anymore." He is this angry and disillusioned soul that believed in a cause and realized it's all been a waste of time. I had a big speech in the movie and I cut it. He was speaking about how war is natural and peace is not. How "war is the consequence of a bunch of men on top who start the war, but it's not really your war--it's old men starting the war, young men doing the war, and nobody wins--everybody in the middle dies, and you think that God is going to make all that go away, just go home."

But Rambo can't talk like that! I can talk like that, but not Rambo. So at the end, I went from that long speech to: "Go home!" Just "Go home!" These are the dilemmas I had to face. I put lots of philosophy about what's going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, about our senior citizens who are starting these wars but don't have to fight them. In the end, who wins? This one still has his house, his family, he is still a Congressman, and this family over there is destroyed. So Rambo has it--he is fed up with politics. So this is where he is at. He is a bitter individual. About the girl in this Rambo, well, it was more of a love story in the first draft and I just thought it's not right. I just thought instead that some people are born to be protective, and his job is just to shepard these people through this and get them out alive. And maybe in the end they understand how brutal this world is and it's not this idealistic thing that we can all join hands and be a united world. It's always going to be a conflict, and it does not go away. Peace is an accident. Again, war is natural. And it's sad, and you may not agree with me, but look at how much time it takes to make peace and how in one minute you can make war! Rambo is trying to tell how she is too unrealistic, it's going away...and Rambo learned that the hard way.

AS: Since the last Rambo, action heroes have changed...

SS: Yeah, now they can fly!

AS: Can you talk about this, how action heroes have changed? And how was it to return to the old school of Action movies? And do you have a count on the number of bodies Rambo is killing?

SS: Ahhhh! I did kill more in Rambo III! The body count...hmm...I tried to make this one "short and sweet." Just kidding. Just short and brutal, like these battles are. They don't go on forever. It's a massive explosion of violence and then it's over. Visually, the metaphor is there for you to get the story. As far as the "old school," well, we went as far as we could with the "old school" in the '80s, and then it became too big, and then everyone was in a tank top and it was me against 800 guys. Then you went into the CGI generation with superheroes flying. The generation of young men watching these movies changed--the young actor doing these heroes didn't want to do the action heroes the way we were doing them. They found their own niche, and now this is gone. You can't do more than what they have done with these $200M or $300,000,000 movies. So now the cycle for "old school movies" is back. It reminded me very much the late '60s when Coppola and Scorsese and De Palma, all said, "Let's go back to the old school thing," with a simple, straight-ahead story, and that what I think has happened. It's almost fresh to do this type of old school movie with Rambo. It's very simple to follow and it's plausible. Eighty percent of this movie could humanly be achieved to the contrary of other action movies with CGI and bigger effects.

AS: So John Rambo has his place in the world of Jason Bourne today?

SS: He'd murder him! Jason Bourne is for breakfast! Ha...I'm only kidding. I love Jason Bourne. This is a fantastic series, and Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon are fantastic. They have done an incredible job with this franchise. I thought it wouldn't work, but it gives you an idea of what can be done with real talents. You don't need gigantic muscles. It's fantastic stuff!

AS: But you would still have Jason for breakfast?

SS: No! Maybe the other guy--the one in The Transporter, that's it....

AS: How important was it for you to have Rambo go home at the end of the movie?

SS: Well, it's like...you never go home again. I thought, Rocky goes home. There is something people can relate to--you just want to go back to a simpler time. Rambo realizes it was a waste of time, and now he is trying to go back home. The full circle had to happen--he has forgiven America, he is at peace with America...and, for me, it was important

AS: How was this new Rambo put together? We understand it took forever...

SS: Yes, a long time. I think Miramax bought it way back, from Canal+ or from Carolco...and they wanted to make it where Washington, DC is attacked, like with space ships! But Rambo is a creature of "nature." He lives out there. The terrain is as important as the character, so it didn't work and they didn't talk to me for ten years. And then, after 9/11, I thought there was something interesting with Afghanistan and about missionaries and built a story around that, but it didn't get their approval, and so another two years passed. I know it takes forever. And then Avi Lerner from Nu Image bought it from them and asked me what I wanted to do, and this is when I thought about the border war in Mexico. But I thought, after all, it would meet some disapproval--that it was another type of conflict--and then Burma came to my mind. And I called Soldier of Fortune magazine and found something "romantic" and "mystical" with Burma. Something for boating, like in Apocalypse Now--not that Rambo is in that league, but the idea of the journey up the river... So it was worth the wait. So much worth it...

AS: How difficult is it to direct yourself as an actor?

SS: Indeed, when you're directing yourself, you're always questioning yourself about your performance because you're always watching other people and it's hard to be sometimes in the moment and focused about your acting. You really don't know. There are moments in editing when I really thought I was horrible, and it's hard not to be too hard on yourself. But it's very "fatiguing." I wish I could direct something that's all taking place in one hotel room. This would be fun. But when you're out there and dealing with all these elements, it takes a toll. My wife came out to the set and, sure enough, she realized how cruel it was for me to shoot this movie, and for sure she had no fun. This is a horror shoot--either you're part of it and you will get it, but it's not for outsiders, for visitors. You're not going to belong and you will hate it. I love directing because if you can't communicate with yourself, well, what else is to be done?! So instead of going to some actor's trailer with an ego problem, I had some schizophrenic conversations with myself from time to time!

AS: At the end of Rambo III, one of his friends, Masoud, dies. Rambo IV could have been a revenge story, right?

SS: Indeed....hmm. At first, I thought we could have done a film about a Soviet Union Viet Nam, which this was with Afghanistan, and everything went okay until two weeks before the movie, when Nancy Reagan gives Gorbachev a kiss on the cheek and it's the attempt at reform and the "perestroika," and suddenly I'm the trouble maker... But in this movie, I really thought there was too much action and not enough thought. And this is the biggest problem in most action movies. You think more is better, but it's not true. Most of the time, you should reduce the amount of action to the profit of the story. This is what people expect the least--that you will have more "soul" in an action movie. Also, he didn't leave any message in Rambo III. There is nothing you could have taken with you as a message. This one, I felt something had to be said. This is the best movie I have ever done by far, and it meant the most to me by far.

AS: How do you think this Rambo compares to the other one? What's new with this one?

SS: Well, I could not find really anything new about it. Let's say that it's similar to the first one. The first one has a simplicity about it, and the camera is also very simple. This the only Rambo I looked at--not the other ones because they were too superhero-oriented with ?ber action and all. Most people like the first and the last one, like with the Rockys. So I learned from the simplicity of the first one and went with it.

Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone, born July 6, 1946, is an American actor, screenwriter, producer, and director. He is well known for his Hollywood action roles, particularly boxer Rocky Balboa, the title character of the Rocky series' seven films from 1976 to 2015; soldier John Rambo from the four Rambo films, which ran from 1982 to 2008; and Barney Ross in the three The Expendables films from 2010 to 2014. He wrote or co-wrote most of the 14 films in all three franchises, and directed many of the films. |
AS: How do you see your old buddy Arnold doing after his term as Governator ends? Will he end up in the White House?

SS: If we changed the Constitution, for sure! In any case, he has the talent and the taste. I see him every Saturday at Caf? Roma, in Beverly Hills for a cigar! Well, actually, smoking is now banned all over, so we have to hide in the back, in the alley, in a small cigar shop. For the last few years, he was teasing me about wanting to see a new Rambo and I was teasing him back saying he is jealous and that he is missing the business. It's funny because we used to be so competitive with each other in the '80s and now we are the best buddies in the world. Arnold is amazing. He had already three super star careers and he is not over at all yet. Sometimes I tell him to "Stop! Just relax and go fly a kite or something!" Arnold is amazing. I love him.

AS: What's your next movie?

SS: Well, I'd love to do a remake of an old action movie, like one of the Charles Bronson movies. I have a script for Death Wish, for example--make it more contemporary. Also, I optioned this book called The Lions' Game by Nelson DeMille, and it's about Al Qaeda. It's a "Jason Bourne"-type movie about the tracking of a terrorist across the country, and it's a brilliant book.

AS: You said earlier that you had wanted to do a more "spiritual" Rambo. Can you talk about this, and are you somebody spiritual?

SS: Yeah, the idea of taking what is a very simple story--man's brutality. What keeps a group going, when your family has been entirely killed--that's the spiritual aspect to the movie. That's the thing people underestimate--why indigenous groups rarely lose and because they have this faith. I thought bringing the missionaries with their faith also was a good idea, and to show that maybe God doesn't love everyone equally. You have to earn that--to earn God's love.

AS: Do you belong to any faith, any religion?

SS: Haa... [The publicist is intervening: "I have Arnold on the line... Thank you for coming."] ...Well, I belong to a "gym!"

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Updated Aug 12, 2017 1:40 PM EDT | More details


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