Sly (2023) Movie Script

Do I have regrets?
Hell yeah, I have regrets.
But that also is what
motivates me to overcome the regrets.
To, like, fix it.
And I do that through painting,
or I do that through writing.
'Cause I can't fix it physically.
It's gone.
You know, that fucking thing called time.
Gone. You know, I look at...
Like, of you're ever on a train,
in every window...
...scenery is going by.
It's like a photo. Wham, wham, wham.
And you're never coming that way again.
And that's what your life is. Whoosh!
Snapping images seen whipping by.
And you can't... It's gone.
It's really easy
to become complacent.
I thought, "I gotta do something drastic."
Everything is getting
kind of mundane, repetitive.
I can feel myself
withering a little bit, drying up,
like an old fig that fell off a tree.
You know, you're drying up.
Jesus, what am I gonna be around for?
Another 20 years?
I don't wanna be complacent for 20 years.
So I said, "Well, you really
want to get the adrenals going?"
And that's why I gotta move east.
Nothing, I think, inspires you
than taking your house or your history,
balling it up. You know...
Who is this man, Sylvester Stallone?
Artist, writer, poet, performer,
enormous celebrity.
How does that happen?
Sly is a guy who always
will go down his own path.
And if that path doesn't exist,
he'll run the road himself.
He was a self-creator.
Ostensibly, he didn't
appear to be a great actor.
He didn't have obvious charisma.
But he invented something else.
An actor who writes and directs himself.
He's not the first person to do it,
but he was the first superstar to do it.
He really understood
what people wanted to see him do.
I was invested in the Stallone story
as if it were my story.
It was my daydream of...
of what could happen in a career.
There is no one that has
stepped into three franchises.
The genius behind that.
This was not an accident.
Can you show me some of those
cassettes that you found while packing up?
Yeah, I got some.
Let's see.
This is New York Times.
Could you do me a favor?
I start off by quoting
from your press release,
and then you pick up the story
where I leave off. Right? Okay.
"Sylvester Stallone was born in the tough
Hell's Kitchen section of New York
in the sweltering summer of 1946."
Holy shit.
I never, ever, ever thought
I would come back here.
I was born in Hell's Kitchen.
I was New York.
I haven't been here in 65 years.
You guys livin' here?
No, I'm 45th.
- Yeah?
- Yeah.
- I used to live here.
- You lived in this block here?
- Yeah, absolutely.
- What was the neighborhood like then?
- It was rough.
- Yeah?
Well, it was really
Hell's Kitchen back then. Yeah.
I remember, the window was always open.
So you learn a lot
about human nature,
and you're observing life.
You're watching a movie.
"Hey, when you coming over?"
"I'm coming over tomorrow."
"Shut your friggin' window."
It's back and forth.
I remember my father, like,
always wearing, like, an Italian T-shirt,
and, like, just... it looked like
something out of an Arthur Miller play.
View from the Bridge, it was...
That's my life.
My father came to New York.
That's where he met my mother.
He's a barber
transitioning into "cosmetology"
'cause there was
more money as a hairdresser.
Our father was also very self-conscious
because I don't think he was educated.
Any kind of slight or insult would, like...
He'd go off.
Our mother was pretty bad too.
She was pretty handy with
the old hairbrush and the shower brush.
She had long nails that'd never break.
She'd go, "Come here, you!"
My mother was a cigarette girl
at Billy Rose's Diamond Horseshoe.
That's primarily where
the money was coming from.
My father told me that...
she just was afraid to have a kid.
Even though she was nine months pregnant,
she kept riding around on the bus.
And she'd gone into labor.
Somebody smart enough
to get her off the bus,
they carry her into a charity ward.
And that's where I was
brought into the world,
via this accident,
which kind of paralyzed
all the nerves on the side of my mouth.
So I was born with this snarl.
She was quite eccentric, colorful,
very, very, very outspoken
and unpredictable.
I know I've got a certain kind of...
ferocity from my father, no question.
Our mother and father,
it was like clockwork.
I'd be up in bed, and you'd just
hear them screaming and yelling.
My father...
And I was petrified... 'cause, I mean,
I could just feel the reverberation.
I think they both were so self-absorbed
with their own stuff, my parents,
that they just pawned us off.
The majority of the time
I was living in a boarding house.
Basically 12 months a year,
never went home,
'cause they just didn't have time.
They were both working.
And people say, "Oh, you feel deprived
and you weren't nurtured."
I thought, "Yeah, that's true."
And maybe the nurturing comes from
the respect and love of strangers.
To feel embraced and loved
by an audience,
it's insatiable.
I wish I could get over it,
but... you can't.
I think movies for me and him
were total, absolutely escapism.
I would spend untold hours in theaters,
and I don't care what it was,
I'd sit there
and watch this thing five, six times
and then go home at four in the afternoon.
That's the life I wanted to lead.
That's the ideals. Grandeur.
That's hard work, and triumphs over evil.
I always had hero worship.
I wish I could be the guy
who saved the bus full of children.
That's who I want to be.
I want to be the guy who
saves people.
I would stay alone in my parents' room,
and they had a cheap Woolworth's
three-dollar, $2.99 mirror.
I would sit there
and do things all day in the mirror,
whether it be imitation...
While someone is singing, I'm lip-syncing.
Or go see a movie like Hercules,
and I'd come back
and try to imitate Steve Reeves.
The moment in Hercules Unchained,
when he steps up,
and he pulls the temples down,
and this... ridiculously handsome,
well-built, perfect male role model...
That did it.
I go, "There it is. That's the road."
'Cause I finally had
a role model that I idolized.
And my destiny to fulfill!
My father realized
he's not going to make it in New York,
so they took off to Maryland.
We came from broken marriage.
I mean, I came home from school
and no one was home.
My mother had taken off.
They went to court. It was terrible.
I went with my mother in Philadelphia,
and my brother stayed
with my father in Maryland.
Complete country and crickets,
pretty isolated,
and there were only horses.
I've been... For some reason,
I had an affinity with horses
since I was five or six years old.
Not good horses,
just horses my father would buy.
Twenty dollars, $25.
He didn't have much money, but somehow
he got involved with a polo team.
And everyone in polo had
beautiful horses, great trailers, ranches.
We had a... ...a dump.
The horses, most of 'em
had medical problems.
Some of 'em, if you pulled up
too quickly, they'd go blind.
So I started playing polo,
but sandlot kind of polo, like, low level.
But I learned. Anyway, I started
getting better and better and better.
And then when I was 13,
I was starting to get ranked.
I'm gonna get nationally ranked.
My father
wasn't liking that so much.
And in the middle of a game,
I was going for a nearside backhand,
and I didn't do anything wrong,
he goes,
"You're pulling too hard on the horse!"
I said, "I know what I'm doing."
He goes, "You don't!"
"You don't know what you're riding."
Screaming from the stands.
And finally I pulled the horse up
to get ready for another throw,
and he comes out of the stands,
grabs me by the throat,
throws me on the ground,
takes the horse, and walks off the field.
And I laid there and I went,
"I never want to see
a horse again in my whole life."
I was raised by a very...
physical father. You know? I mean...
So I was no stranger to serious pain.
And I think it just became,
"I'm not gonna break."
No matter what he did, you know?
I'm just not going to break.
I think my father was jealous.
My brother, he was a problem guy.
He was truant. He'd get in fights.
He wasn't a good student,
and he got thrown out of all his schools.
I went to 13 schools in 12 years.
They put me in a military school.
I don't think I was there for a month.
Well, he was kind of incorrigible.
He got in a lot of trouble.
He went to Devereux School,
which was kind of a school
for wayward kids, I guess.
And that's where he kind of
started getting the little bug for acting.
And then he went to college.
That's when he got serious
about the acting stuff.
There was an opportunity to audition...
I don't even know why, but I did.
...for Death of a Salesman.
And I got it.
I was on stage and I was feeling...
I wasn't feeling nervous at all.
I felt in control of the situation
because this comes naturally,
this comes easily to me.
There was a Harvard professor
in the audience who came up and said,
"You should think of this as... a career."
I go, "Come on." He goes, "Yeah."
"You should really study this.
You have something."
And that moment
changed the course of my life.
And I landed in New York
the day of Woodstock.
I said, "It's about time
for me to apply myself."
I didn't even know what kind of city
I was living in. I wasn't part of it.
Very much alone and very dedicated
to trying to find my way.
I've hustled on these streets.
I know how to survive on these streets.
I've slept in doorways and bus stops
and train stations and libraries.
I mean, freezing cold, I get it.
I would go to agencies.
I go to every one of these places.
"I'd like to be a client."
"We're not accepting anything."
I'd push the picture in,
and they'd push it out.
I tried out and they'd say,
"No, you slur."
"Your eyes droop.
You're this, you're that."
The best I would get
would be off-off Broadway
where you had to be half-naked.
That's the only kind of crap
I was getting. It was terrible.
They said, "It's just not gonna work.
Maybe you'll be an extra."
So I started to buy into that,
I'd go, "Hmm."
Because every time I was cast,
it was always for a thug.
- Watch it, will ya?
- Sorry, man, I didn't see ya!
They wouldn't give him leads.
Or he'd be doing stage work,
or he'd be the prop man,
but they never gave him respect.
I was so
self-consumed and insulated,
and John... he was the same way.
Sly started to write
because he couldn't get what he wanted,
so he'd create it himself.
And it wasn't anything like,
"You thought about it,
and you were gonna do it." Just do it!
I said this is no good.
I don't want to act anymore.
Maybe what I can do
is write all my frustrations
and make screenplays.
I got a job as an usher.
I could watch films all day long.
And I would take a little
inexpensive tape recorder,
record the soundtrack and the dialogue,
and go home
and try to replace the dialogue.
That's what I started to do.
I wrote and wrote for a couple years
until I had 15, 16 screenplays.
John and I, we were definitely
on a different wavelength,
wanting to write our own stuff,
wanting to produce our own stuff.
So every Friday, Saturday and Sunday
was spent with
a bottle of Boone's Farm wine.
Never went to a bar, a restaurant, a club.
That's when the writing really started.
We'd discuss aspirations, dreams,
but also movies.
We would break in, sneak in somehow,
to every movie in New York.
Never paid for a ticket, ever.
There was no possibility
in our minds for failure.
Like, "Oh, what if we don't make it?"
Never entered the conversation.
That's how driven and adamant
and committed to the concept...
"Yeah, there's got to be a place for us,
because we're so weird."
We have to fit in somewhere.
We had to do something.
We had to make our own fate.
That's why we said,
"We gotta do this movie called Horses."
A cowboy and an Indian
come up from their grave,
100 years after they were hung.
Got in a car, went to Maryland.
We rented guns.
When you see us, like,
shooting at the car, it's real ammo.
I said, "What am I, crazy?"
His father was reincarnated
as a sheriff who came to track us down.
Of course, my father's in the movie.
My father shoots them.
The part where he kills us,
he enjoyed this a little too much.
"I wanna shoot you, and then
I wanna come over and shoot you again."
I said, "Is this sort of personal now?
A little biblical?"
It's a silent movie. I said,
"Sly, why don't you have any sound?"
"Couldn't afford it."
So you thought you were
going to shop a silent movie in 1971?
Doesn't matter
if it hasn't been done before.
And he had, most importantly, a voice.
He wanted his voice to be heard.
In high school, I was considered
like a poster boy for how not to write.
"Sylvester, you like to come up and read?"
I go, "Nah. No, thanks!"
He goes, "Yes.
'Cause no one else wants to."
The rejection, that's my encouragement.
It's a challenge.
Are you going to accept
their evaluation of you
or are you going to evaluate yourself?
Sly always wanted to be an actor,
but he always had to write.
He wants to be an actor,
and he needs someone to give him a role.
He wasn't cast in things.
He invented parts for himself
because he was probably deemed uncastable.
I had given up on acting.
I was done.
But John Herzfeld
asked me to help him audition.
In the audience is a guy
who's monitoring the class
who was going to eventually
write and direct Lords of Flatbush.
That was the beginning.
It's a matter of just being
in the right place at the right time.
I first met Sly on The Lords of Flatbush.
We were kind of just a real odd...
A really odd couple.
He's Jewish, intellectual, Ivy League.
I'm... I am what I am.
And you couldn't get two people
more culturally opposite.
He took me to his walk-up apartment
off of Lexington Avenue
with his gigantic dog.
And he painted
the windows black so he could write.
I read the screenplay,
and it was pretty simplistic.
So I said,
"Let me be myself in this scene."
For example,
when I'm sitting behind the girl.
"Mr. Rosiello, what are you doing?"
"I don't know, I'm just sitting."
"I'm sliding up because the sun
is getting in my eye... my eye..."
"My eyes, I can't see."
And then she goes back to teaching.
A moment later, I slide close to the girl.
I got my arm around her.
She goes, "Mr. Rosiello!"
"I don't know what it is!
The sun keeps following me."
"I'm going here, I'm going there."
Just doing all this nonsense, winging it.
And I realized this is...
this is an opportunity
that they allowed me.
I'm going to say whatever I want
throughout the whole film.
Sly was always rewriting the script,
improving the scenes he was in.
Lords of Flatbush was really
the first time we got a sense
of Sylvester Stallone's voice
before Rocky.
The best scene in the movie, if not
one of the best scenes in '70's cinema,
as far as I'm concerned,
is the scene where he's persuaded
by his fiance, Maria Smith,
to buy an engagement ring that
this dumb lug obviously cannot afford.
The girl that just walked out of there,
if you ever show her a $1,600 ring again,
you know what's going to be
written on your tombstone? Huh?
You know what's going to be
written on your tombstone?
"I was dumb enough to show
Frannie Malincanico a $1,600 ring."
Stanley is an interesting character
in that movie,
but you don't necessarily like him.
He's just... He's such a lug.
But in that scene
he makes you fall in love with him
'cause you realize the extent
to how much he actually loves Frannie.
It's our first glimpse
of the musicality or the sound
of Sylvester Stallone's dialogue.
At that point, I knew forever
my fate was determined on the pen.
'Cause I knew I was so hard to cast.
I was always cast as a thug.
I go, "Okay, that's true. I am."
But I'm also nice.
I'm... I'm kind of a soft touch.
If you could put that together,
that would really be a great character.
And I didn't have that opportunity
until Rocky came around.
But the precursor was Stanley Rosiello
in The Lords of Flatbush,
where I saw there's a tough goon,
motorcycle jacket, greasy hair, cigarette,
but you really liked him.
One thing led to another.
If they hadn't offered me the part,
if I didn't get good reviews,
I never would've made enough,
made 1,300 bucks,
just enough to get a $40 car
and drive... 11 days to Hollywood.
The only one I knew in LA
was Henry Winkler,
who is now a big star as the Fonz.
My car breaks down on Hollywood and Vine.
Just boom, stops. Like, it was prophetic.
And the first phone call
I made was to Henry.
"Yeah, you gotta come pick me up."
"My car broke down."
"I'm here, right in the middle
of Sunset Boulevard."
I said, "I will be right there."
I went and got him
and this mountain of a dog.
All of his clothes in the car somehow,
sitting on suitcases.
He obviously couldn't take me
to his house. I got a dog, a wife.
He pointed me
in the direction of this motel,
and I ended up there
for, like, three nights.
And then I found some dump
way in the Valley,
one street away from Balboa Boulevard.
All right.
I had been introduced
to Gene Kirkwood, the executive producer.
And we had talked
and then I had given him the idea, Rocky,
and we developed it,
and lo and behold, it came out.
And it was a series of circumstances
which are really, I guess, a bit unusual,
because I had a very limited track record.
- So it was...
- How about no track record?
...a benevolent and wonderful
chain of mistakes that came out.
Yeah, you know,
it's simplifying everything.
I was there for,
actually, an acting audition,
and things were going not too well.
And on the way out,
the door was just about closing,
I lean back in the door and I go,
"Oh, by the way, I write a little bit."
And he goes, "Really? Come back in."
I started writing,
and I started doing
something derivative of Mean Streets.
I want to do a collector. I want to do
that kind of gritty street thing.
And I'm knocking it out,
dog sitting there on the desk,
and I'm working, I'm smoking cigarettes,
and I'm pounding coffee away.
And it's coming together.
It's just... It's working.
But there is...
a... a thuggery about Rocky.
At the time, my friend, she was typing it,
she started crying.
She goes, "I hate Rocky.
I hate him. He's cruel."
"He... He hits people. He beats them up."
I said, "What if you stop short of it?
Like, maybe he almost did."
"He could have,
that's his job, but he doesn't?"
"That'd be nice."
I said, "What if he had
a girlfriend or something?"
"Yeah, that's nice."
So I go back.
Start writing that. "Girlfriend. Nice."
But he's not a fighter now.
He's just a guy. There's really no story.
He's just a guy, like, on the fringe,
a, um... a bum.
He's a bum!
And now I hearken back
to On the Waterfront. He's Terry Malloy.
Bang. Marty, movie, Mean Streets. Whoosh!
Boom. Mix it up.
And then throw your spin on it.
And then it all came together
once he became a fighter.
I had $106,
the rent was $300.
I had that kind of dilemma.
I could hear the wolf at the door.
I wrote it in three days.
Then, of course, I went back
and rewrote and rewrote and rewrote it.
I'm a big believer,
when I write, to not worry about
the flawed aspect of it.
I know that maybe 90% is worthless,
but the idea that you have
a beginning, middle, and an end
is very important to me.
Producers are going, "We'd like
to cast Ryan O'Neal. He likes to box."
"Or Burt Reynolds."
I go, "No, I'm writing it for me."
They liked the script,
but were so desperate not to have you,
that they kept offering increasingly large
sums of money to go away, didn't they?
You're right.
It went up to about $265,000.
- Not to appear in the film.
- Right, to stay away.
I knew that if I sold it,
even for $500,000,
I knew that after the money was gone
I would become very bitter
for having sold out.
What is healthier?
To live under the illusion
and still have a little glimmer of hope
that you could have been great,
or actually have
an opportunity to be great
and then you blow it,
and you realize you're a failure.
So I think that the easier route
is to live under the illusion and say,
"You know, if I'd had that chance,
I would have beaten all of them."
I walked into that trailer
for the first time
under the cold streets of Philadelphia
and I knew this was the moment of truth.
And they said, "Sylvester, are you ready?"
I said, "No."
"But Rocky is."
What happened was something extraordinary.
We knew this thing was taking place.
All the actors I wanted,
every one of them fell out,
and they were replaced
with perfect actors.
Apollo Creed? There's only
one guy in the world who could do that.
He had the voice, the size,
the thing, the arrogance.
We were gonna use Ken Norton,
but he fell out two nights before,
and I thought, "Oh, boy."
I really believe
in divine intervention.
Talia Shire was also a last-minute choice
because we couldn't find the right person.
She comes in,
and as soon as that door opened,
it was like this light. Wham.
And I walked up to her
and she had this blue-black hair
and these... these eyes looking like this.
I went, "I love this girl."
I love this character, this thing.
There's something here.
I'm not even going to question it.
You don't have to read.
You are it.
The same thing happened
all the way down the line.
Rocky is not
a fight story by any means.
It's a simple character study
of a man who...
A love story.
...who should be cynical.
- It's a love story.
- But he's incapable of it.
- Love story.
- He accepts life.
- Simply, that's his, uh, his lot in life.
- Say it.
One thing he wants more than anything else
is not to grow old alone.
Say it.
That young guy there
could not get to the place of love.
- He could not say it out loud.
- No.
Yeah, you're right.
I couldn't say it back then.
I'm sitting there waiting to do
a scene with Adrian on the ice.
"Guess what?
The 300 extras have been cut."
How many do I have? He goes, "None."
And how long do we have to shoot?
"Maybe two hours."
And I went, "Wow."
"This could be even better."
Rocky really observes, and he sees
things that other people don't see,
trying to bring her out.
He was exploring
vulnerability, nurturing,
So we have to begin a character here
to go there.
You know
how I got started in fighting?
- No.
- My old man.
He was never too smart. He says to me,
"You weren't born much of a brain,
so you better start using your body."
Right? So I become a fighter.
- You know what I mean?
- Yeah.
Why you... Why you laughing?
My mother, she said the opposite thing.
What'd she say?
What'd she say, the opposite?
She said, "You weren't born
with much of a body,
so you better develop your brain."
Did she say that?
Adrian was extraordinary.
He wrote that woman,
a woman who was oppressed and discarded.
He would lift Adrian
to a moment of freedom and beauty.
And love.
What Talia did... is elevate it
from a boxing film to a love story.
And her boyfriend happened to be a boxer.
He finally had something to fight for.
It wasn't money. It was pride.
"I want you to be proud."
I... I want you to say, "That's my man."
And that's why he said at the end,
"I don't wanna be
another bum from the neighborhood."
"I don't care if I get beaten to a pulp.
I want you to be proud."
That's all I want to do,
is go the distance.
That's what I liked about the character.
He just somehow always kept it inside.
He never shared his grief
or his disappointment with anyone,
just himself.
The only time he ever lets it out
is when Mickey leaves the apartment.
The scene, the way it was written,
I come out of that bathroom
and look pensively and then go after him.
I said, "John, please just do me a favor.
Keep the cameras running, the sound going,
and let's just see if Rocky
can sum up his life in two minutes."
First time we did this, and it was great,
John goes, "Oh, was that a take?"
I went, "Was that a take?"
"That was
an improvisation."
"And I can't do it again. It's an improv."
The energy is not there. You know, it's...
Okay, what did I do before?
Did I hit the door here?
I said, "Fuck it, I gotta
start from scratch. What did I do?"
And then I started
thinking about my father.
Listen to me. I want to be your manager.
So I had to throw out the best take...
But you can't buy
what I'm going to give you.
I mean, I've got pain
and I've got experience.
I got pain and I got experience too...
...and replace it
with something even more volatile,
my relationship with my father.
I needed your help about ten years ago.
Ten years ago, you never helped me none.
- You didn't care.
- Well, if you wanted help...
I say, if you wanted help,
why didn't you ask?
Why didn't you just ask me, kid?
Look, I asked,
but you never heard nothin'!
And when I wrote it,
it was just one line,
and I got there and went,
"I need to talk about me."
And I'm going to put it in Rocky's body.
So I was just turning 30, and I said,
"You come up here and you offer this?
Well, I'm past my prime. What prime?"
"I'm gonna sit there, get an opportunity,
I'm gonna fall on my face."
Like I thought the movie,
I was going to bomb.
"Why couldn't you have
been here when I needed you?"
If I can take my frustration and voice it,
I have a funny feeling
that there's millions of people
that have that same frustration,
that were passed over.
I'm gonna get that!
And you wanna be ringside to see it?
Do you? You wanna help me out?
Do you wanna see me get my...
I could never say that
to the man's face.
It would have been so disrespectful.
And you don't want a dialogue.
Everyone is going to assume
this old man is done.
And then, bang...
That door opens,
Bill Conti's cue comes in,
and there's hope.
There it is, there is
what everybody ever wanted
that was shunned or denied an opportunity.
"Come on. Come on back."
Oh my God.
This is the theater where Rocky premiered.
The same theater I ushered at.
The first review we got out of New York
by Vincent Canby was scathing,
so I didn't know what to expect.
We screen Rocky
five days before the release.
It was an afternoon matine.
I was sitting there with him,
and all of a sudden he's going, "Oh shit."
Twenty minutes into it,
the audience, three-quarters were gone.
And the studio heads are going...
And I'm getting lower in the seat.
I'm going, "Oh shit."
Talk about a crestfallen look.
He said, "Oh God."
He thought, "Man,
this is going to be a bomb."
So, when it did open,
my confidence was not soaring.
In here is where they had
the premiere of Rocky.
I remember I was standing across
the street over there in a trench coat.
My brother goes,
"This could be the best day
or the worst day of your life."
I go, "Yeah, this is it."
And if this didn't go,
there was no second chance.
When everyone's inside,
I go to the back, and I'm standing there.
It's almost like it's a still painting.
No one is moving.
Everyone is listening to every word.
Like, boom. Riveted.
When he knocks Apollo down,
whole theater went up,
and the producers all look,
and it's like, "Holy shit."
The audience is participating
like it's a real sporting event.
We blurred the lines.
You could hear the cheers from the inside
outside on the street from the theater.
We just assumed he would be a joke
out there fighting against Creed.
But when he knocks him on his back
in the first round,
that kind of excitement,
it was almost unheard of.
Nobody, nobody,
remembers that Rocky loses.
I mean, the movie is rigged
to make you feel like he's won.
It was one of the really
glorious moments of...
of an audience reacting
to the drama onscreen.
The movie opens up number one.
Everyone was talking about...
"This movie has heart."
"It is emotional. It made me cry."
"It made me inspired."
To see that fairy-tale story come to life,
it just turned the audience on.
Something happened, something magical.
It's the last picture
of him being unknown.
And there's never going to be
another private moment again.
And here comes Rocky himself,
Sylvester Stallone!
Literally, a complete
transformative moment in life,
but forever. Like, wham!
And the winner is...
The star of Rocky,
Sylvester "Sly" Stallone.
Please welcome Sylvester Stallone.
So he was hailed as an actor,
he was hailed as a writer,
he was hailed for just being a visionary
and all of this stuff,
and, bang, there he was.
From that point on,
he could do nothing wrong.
I'm torn apart sometimes thinking that...
what is it all about,
and is it really all worth it?
I go through a very gloomy period
that perhaps I'm deceiving myself.
I collect my thoughts and all I have to do
is look in the mirror.
I'm kind of like the living embodiment of
what happened to Rocky has happened to me.
Within a week,
they were saying things about me
that I know I could never live up to.
And then they were
saying things that... that were...
I guess... a little infuriating.
The first time I ever heard
anything about Rocky was a radio spot.
"Every once in a while,
a new actor emerges,
and he becomes one of the most talked
about sensations in the film business."
"That was Marlon Brando."
"That was Al Pacino.
That was Robert De Niro."
"And this year..."
"...the actor that everyone will be
talking about is Sylvester Stallone."
Who the fuck is Sylvester Stallone?
Then I finally see a TV spot.
Stanley from Lords of Flatbush
is Sylvester Stallone?!
He's the greatest actor to come out
since Robert De Niro and Marlon Brando?
Wow. Okay.
Fairly presumptuous of you
to expect to be able to star in it,
because your career up to then
had been small parts, right?
That's kind of you
to even say small.
But I felt that, jeez,
if I was going to go down,
at least into professional obscurity,
I wanted to at least have the opportunity
to say to myself, "Well, you tried."
If nothing else, I had a good home movie.
My parents would enjoy it.
Rocky comes out.
A few months later, Sly's dad calls me.
"John, can I come over and see you?"
He says, "I got a script."
"I got the real Rocky."
"What do you mean?"
"I wrote the real Rocky."
"You wrote a boxing movie?" "Yeah."
"Did you give it to Sly?"
"No, I want you to read it."
"Maybe you can make it."
"No, that's... Frank."
"Why don't you give it to Sly to read?
But I think that area has been done."
He was still competing with Sly.
He goes, "Hey, I'm writing
a script called Sonny."
Sly goes, "What's that about?"
"It's like Rocky, Sonny."
Sly goes, "You can't do that, Dad.
It's my creation."
I think my father was jealous.
I said, "What are you jealous of?"
"He worked his ass off.
You didn't help him. He did this."
Success can really
wreak havoc on a family.
Unbeknownst to me, my career was just
canceled overnight when Rocky came out.
All of a sudden, I became Rocky's brother.
It was hard on him.
My brother is very, very creative,
and he was
pretty traumatized by my success.
No one was expecting him
to be, like, an American icon.
Once you get to your dream,
you realize, this wasn't my dream.
My dream has not made...
It's not turned out the way I thought.
It comes also with, uh...
like, a storm front
that you're constantly battling
because you're disappointed.
You go, "Oh shit."
"I thought once I made it to the top
of the mountain, it was all blue skies."
It's not.
The air is thinner. It's precarious.
There's not many people up there.
It's pretty lonely.
So sometimes going to the mountain
is not as... all it's cracked up to be.
I think when Stallone
became famous with Rocky,
he wasn't expecting the downside
that can happen with celebrity.
From Hollywood,
it's the Dinah! show.
And he wasn't expecting people to say,
"Now you have to do it again,
now you have to prove it again."
And you're invited
along with Rocky himself,
Sylvester Stallone.
This is your second film
and everybody, all the world,
is waiting to see
what happens with Sylvester Stallone.
- Yeah.
- Was he, uh, a one-time shot?
Right after Rocky,
people had built me into something
perhaps bigger than
I should have been built into.
Right away, they were
beginning to question my ability.
I was looking at many scripts.
Nothing was interesting.
Then F.I.S.T. came along.
This would be a true departure from Rocky.
A film that deals with
the American labor movement,
the conception of
a very powerful trucking union.
It's a fantastic odyssey, I believe.
That area in the wake of Rocky
is him struggling to figure out
how to both maybe repeat that
and differentiate himself from it.
Stallone, at that time,
was such a huge star.
The first thing he wanted to do
was he wanted to rewrite the picture.
I think a lot of the problems
on the sets of some of his films
have to do with the fact
that he has a sense of,
like, what is working for a movie,
and is at odds with the people
who've been hired by the studios
to make these things.
A gigantic issue with Sly, he didn't want
to die at the end of the movie.
I think he did something very wrong.
He killed the hero off in the end
and let evil triumph,
which you can't do that.
That may happen in reality a lot,
but when people go in and pay good money,
they sometimes like
to see righteousness pay off.
To promote F.I.S.T.,
he does one of those Playboy interviews.
He pontificates that he doesn't think
it's possible for him ever to have a flop,
that that will actually never happen,
that it's not possible
for him to have a flop.
Despite its flaws,
I found a lot to admire in F.I.S.T.
But many critics didn't agree with me,
and their disagreement
was a personal insult for Sylvester.
When they start calling F.I.S.T.
J.U.N.K., I take that personally.
I gave up the best of myself
for that film.
I really worked hard.
And so for some men, in 500 words,
to completely discredit all that effort,
I would love to make an appointment
with them in any alley that they choose.
The success of Rocky
and the mistakes of F.I.S.T.
have combined to inspire
Sylvester Stallone to make his own movie.
All his own.
Writing, directing, and acting.
Originally, Paradise Alley
was like the father of Rocky.
I had written that in 1972.
And no one ever wanted to touch it.
A little too weird.
So I went out and I wrote Rocky.
Then the time came
when I wanted to do Paradise Alley
and it dealt with the ring again.
I thought, if I can make this
not as serious as Rocky,
but really kind of like a carnival...
The rain and the colors
and the characters,
a little bit more would transcend
your normal wrestling match.
Back then, I was a young guy
trying to make something
kind of clever and entertaining.
I didn't really do my research
and realize it was
such a niche kind of film.
This is not broad-based.
It's kind of weird.
1946, odd music, odd this, odd that.
That I was setting myself up
for a disaster,
and disaster struck.
He wasn't expecting
F.I.S.T. to not do well,
and he wasn't expecting
the critics who championed Rocky
to turn viciously against Paradise Alley.
He didn't handle it well.
He started popping off,
challenging critics to fight.
Some days I wake up in the morning
and go, "I got this."
And other days I go, "I don't have it."
I don't feel it. It's not there.
I'm flying blind.
It's like going into a fight
and saying, "I don't know..."
I've just learned that that will pass.
Just hang in there.
Don't have your anxiety attacks.
Let that fear... That's all part of it.
That's what makes it interesting,
is you're afraid of it.
The success story
of the character, Rocky Balboa,
is strikingly similar to the success story
of the star, Sylvester Stallone.
And nowadays, Stallone is putting
the finishing touches on Rocky II
as writer, director, and star,
with no noticeable anxiety about
the perennial dangers of doing a sequel.
In fact, as usual,
Stallone is completely confident.
John Avildsen
wanted to go off Rocky.
He goes to the Playboy Mansion,
he gets drunk, he starts using drugs.
In other words, the downside of success.
This is not that guy.
This is the guy
who continues to just push and push
and takes everyone with him.
A really idealistic individual.
See, John Avildsen
didn't like the script for Rocky II,
so I ended up directing it.
- I don't know.
- How about a statement, Rocky?
I don't know. I'm at a loss for words.
- Rocky!
- Get back!
One of the things that made
Rocky I and Rocky II so powerful was
the way Stallone was able
to tell his story.
He is channeling his life story
into both Rocky and Apollo Creed.
Apollo Creed is stomping around his house
reading hate mail to his wife.
That's probably Sylvester Stallone
stomping around his mansion
reading Pauline Kael's
review for Paradise Alley.
He's putting under the microscope
the whole concept of celebrity,
to one degree or another.
The story is, in a sense,
better than the first one
because it deals with
much more identifiable subjects.
Rocky was a loner, now he has
a different kind of responsibility.
He has the kind of responsibility
and problems that everyone in the audience
who has been married or thinking
about getting married can identify with.
I mean,
nobody thinks of Rocky as family movies,
and yet, like, at their core is
this relationship between him and Adrian.
The tug-of-war between having
this relationship and building this family
and having this job that he has to do.
When did you get home?
I thought you were at work.
No, I... ain't at work no more.
I got, uh... I got canned today.
What happened?
Now, do you give up your destiny
for a "promise" that you made?
What are you gonna do?
I don't know.
I was, uh... thinking about fighting.
You can be whatever you wanna be.
You don't have to fight.
Well, you know, I am a fighter.
Not too good, but that's what I do.
Well, Rocky, you gave me your word
you wouldn't fight anymore.
You see him in the lowest point.
He's, like, in this
horrible little basement.
He's there under a light.
There's something about this guy who's...
He's destined to do something,
and he's being held back
for the wrong reasons.
When he finally says, "I never asked you
to stop being a woman,
please don't ask me
to stop being a man. I can't."
He says, I love this woman,
but she will not love what I will become
if I don't at least try.
Rocky II, that went
through the roof again.
Doubled the amount of money
the first one made, and it just went...
I mean, just bananas all over the world.
So people now were really hustling him.
Sly climbed the ladder, I would say,
very quickly in show business.
Very few actors have the discipline
to produce and to direct.
You have to think about it
24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Filmmaking is something
I understand and embrace.
But it comes at a great price.
When you're a truly absorbed filmmaker,
act, write, and direct,
and produce and all at one time,
there's no time for anything else.
Just pieces and bits
and scraps for family.
"What happened today?"
"Don't wanna talk about it."
That's reality. When you come home,
it's almost not reality.
It's a terrible conundrum.
When you're younger...
"Gotta fill the house with art."
"Gotta fill the house with children."
"Gotta fill..." Well, now it's full.
Children have moved on,
and you're left
with this big, hollow, kind of...
It's just, it doesn't serve you anymore
as a source of inspiration.
I wasn't moving 'cause...
"Oh wow, I want another beautiful view."
Anytime changing that paradigm,
which you become used to,
it's literally to jumpstart
that process again.
It's so hard to do a sequel.
It's harder and harder, each one.
It's always exhausting. People are
always in your ear all the time,
then you get the criticism.
And you say, "Is the pleasure
really gonna be worth the pain?"
Every film becomes more and more difficult
because you don't have
the freshness of a hungry artist.
Before Rocky III, I developed fear.
Maybe I'm not what I was.
Maybe it was luck.
There's no passion involved.
It's a good deal,
it's good money, it's good that.
You start getting protected.
The agencies... "keep this
and keep that and do this film."
"It's safe. It's safe. It's safe."
And after a while you realize,
"I'm doing nothing good
because I'm listening to other people."
You wake up after a few years
thinking you're a winner, but you're not.
And Rocky III was an example of that.
We got cars, we've got money!
We got everything but the truth.
What's the truth, damn it?
I'm afraid! All right?
You wanna hear me say it?
Wanna break me down? I'm afraid!
You'll never have a fighter ever say,
"I'm afraid. I'm a coward."
And then she turns it around.
"I'm afraid too.
Nothing wrong with being afraid."
And then out of that
could come courage.
Maybe the courage not to do
all those things everybody's telling...
the manager's telling you to do,
the people who are handling you.
Maybe courage is another thing.
What about going the distance?
I said, "Sly, get back,
start listening to yourself a little bit."
"Just trust your instincts."
Every decision I wanted to do,
like I wanted to use Mr. T,
I wanted Survivor
to do "Eye of the Tiger,"
I wanted Hulk Hogan,
and everything was met with,
"That's ridiculous, that's ridiculous."
I go, "I know. It is ridiculous."
But it's theatrical.
It's interesting. It's different.
I'm a grinder.
I just grind and grind, you know?
I just try to outwork myself,
outwork my insecurities.
I become indifferent
to, uh, the threat of failure
because I know that no matter what,
even if it's not a bona fide success,
it'll be good for you
to at least continue to push yourself.
90% of the journey is tumultuous and ugly.
But to get to those nuggets,
you have to go through it.
You may not get there,
but you can be better off
than doing nothing.
He keeps wanting to create.
He's never sitting back.
He doesn't want to say,
"I regret. I could have. I should have."
"Oh, only if I did."
He always knew where he wanted to be.
It's not like an accident.
Him becoming an action hero
was an accident.
The original Rambo was a homicidal maniac.
He was a vicious casualty from the war.
He came back broken.
There's nothing he could do to earn
his way back into America's good graces.
So I said, "If I'm gonna
get involved with this,
I want to rewrite the screenplay."
"And I want him to go right to the edge."
Bring a certain
kind of feral ferocity to it
that even shocks me.
When it's like, there's just
this contorted face and rage.
I don't have to look far
to figure out where that came from.
My father was Rambo, in reality.
Nothing was ever settled verbally.
It was usually a physical ultimatum.
The way you turn a fork.
If he's eating like this...
you know you're gonna get it.
You did not mess with this guy.
- That look, it was just...
- It was genetic. He'd go...
I saw an opportunity to do
what I consider, like,
the first pure action film.
That being that this thing
is completely done kinetically.
There's just... there's so much movement
that dialogue can't be handled
by the star.
It has to be handled
by Trautman and other people.
I mean, you are
really drawn into this loner,
solitary figure who feels abandoned.
Whatever he was acting was deep inside,
so much deeper than what's on the page.
He has a good way of writing dialogue
that's both witty and rhythmic,
but also seems a bit
like improvisation to some degree.
Sly has a unique gift
in the words he writes.
They're simple, they're true.
There's an intent behind
things he writes and says.
Started really reading up on vets
and their actual words,
situations, traumas.
And I thought,
"Wow, if I could put a couple of beats
from about 20 different guys' lives,
jumble them up..."
Because Rambo hasn't spoken in years,
so he's not coming out fluid.
It's just this rush, this purging.
So I remember
I had heard stories about this guy,
about going into Saigon,
carrying a shoeshine box.
"Shine, please. Shine. Shine."
I said no. He kept asking, yeah.
And Joey said, "Yeah."
And I went to get a couple beers.
And the box was wired.
"I went to get a couple of beers.
The shine box was wired."
"The kid opened it. Joey..."
"It blew his body all over the place."
"And there he is laying there
going, 'Where are my legs?'"
My friend! It's all over me!
Got blood and everything.
I'm trying to hold him together.
I put him together,
his fucking insides keep coming out.
And nobody would help!
Nobody helped.
He's saying, "Please, I wanna go home..."
"Where the fuck are my legs?"
You can't make that shit up.
You cannot make that kind of writing up.
It took me a while
to really absorb all these stories
and put it in this kind of crazy monologue
that was not in the screenplay.
I had read David Morrell's original book.
The whole point of the book is
if you take this
super weapon killing machine,
when the war is over,
keeping that switch
turned off isn't so easy.
That entire concept is
thrown away in First Blood.
The changing of it
from Rambo murdering the posse
to wounding the posse was Stallone's idea.
At the very end, originally,
the way it was in the script,
I am shot by Colonel Trautman,
and I die in slow motion.
And I said to the director,
"This is not good."
I don't want everyone
who was a Vietnam vet
to see this film and then me shot,
and realize, "Oh, so there's
no hope for me at all. None."
And I left. And they were screaming
that if I don't come back,
it was a breach of contract.
They screen it in Las Vegas.
It tested so badly,
they put in the one that you see,
because at that time they were losing
20,000 vets to suicide a month.
I said, "I don't want
to be part of that. I don't."
And I'm not going to.
Around the mid '80s,
I started doing Rambo.
And this character
kind of started something.
First thing that
comes to mind is physicality.
I think the thing
that made Stallone a perfect '80s star
was that everything
about that decade was about excess.
But his body and the chaos it can make,
the carnage it can cause...
People loved watching him push himself.
Even when it was
almost self-parodying, people went
because he was
the ultra version of himself.
Arnold Schwarzenegger
was his only competition.
Sly, all of a sudden with Rambo,
he stepped into my arena.
All of a sudden he was ripped,
and everyone talking about his body.
And so that created
competition, of course.
At that point, we were like little kids.
Who uses bigger knives?
Who uses the biggest guns
and holds them in one arm and...
You know, like that.
And who has more muscles,
who has more muscle definition,
who has less body fat?
I mean, stupid stuff
that we would be fighting over.
Now we look back
and we laugh at the whole thing.
We learned the effect of having muscles.
The effect is that
people buy in twice as much.
This is what really gave
action movies a whole new boost.
A whole new push.
I was really committed
to making that genre
something that would be lucrative
and would travel
around the world, and it did.
There's something irresistible
about Sylvester Stallone.
From underdog to champion...
...and have earned Stallone both
worldwide fame and a personal fortune.
Stallone knows he got where he is
because he knows what it is to make a hit.
I always was trailing Sly.
I was always a step behind.
He was always making bigger grosses.
And then a year later,
I made the same grosses.
But by that time,
he made bigger grosses again.
This is how it went.
And he was up and up and up and up.
Sly now couldn't stop, really.
Not just actor or director,
but a force in Hollywood.
People are always telling me, your fans,
it's got to be
Rocky or it's got to be Rambo.
Now, is that a frustration
for you as an actor?
It's double-edged.
It's frustrating,
but being able to find not one,
but a couple characters
to be so identified,
so embraced,
that you realize
you've accomplished something,
that's kind of unusual.
I've always believed in sequels,
because I think quite often
this story can't be told in two hours.
Why not keep going on?
If the audience likes it, why not?
I tell people,
don't diminish sequels.
Because it's ten times harder
to come up with something
that can keep that interest
and heat and magic going.
So, and then,
in Rocky III and Rocky IV,
when the character becomes less
like the real story of Sylvester Stallone
and more like a comic book character.
And not only is he a comic book character,
he's seemingly fighting
comic book villains,
like as if torn from
the pages of Marvel Comics.
The absurdity of what the stakes are
in this movie sort of take over.
It's about giving the audience
the ultra Stallone experience
within the contained box
of the Rocky brand.
He's fighting,
he's directing, he's writing,
he's doing everything,
which is very hard to do
in a very physical movie.
Dolph Lundgren, he pulverized me.
Later that night,
my heart started to swell,
which happens when
the heart hits the chest.
And then my blood pressure went up to 260.
And they thought I was
going to be talking to angels.
Next thing I know,
I'm in intensive care
where I'm surrounded by nuns.
And I thought, "Okay, that's curtains."
Dolph Lundgren put me
in the hospital for nine days.
I basically summarized it in Rocky IV,
like when you're beaten to the ground
and you're praying someone
knocks you on the chin
so you just don't suffer anymore,
there's a small voice inside you
that says, "Give me one more round."
I push it. That's why
I've had five back operations.
I knew. You should know after the first
back operation not to do it again.
Probably end up with another one
'cause I know...
I say I'll never do that again, but I do.
I do. I don't know why, but I do.
I've always been thrown
in a world of turmoil
and kind of, like, a lot of physicality.
I guess you could call it violence.
My father was in the army,
and he was in the cavalry.
I don't know what army he was in,
but they had a cavalry in World War II
along the Mexican border.
So he learned to play
kinda like sandlot polo.
So I spent a great deal of time...
So I became a horseman
and I played for a while,
and it is a wicked game.
Sly became
an excellent polo player.
He could have been
like a six-, seven-goal player
if it wasn't for
my father browbeating him.
And that's why he quit polo.
I started playing again
when I was about 40.
So I said, "Okay, let me do it right."
Now I've made it, Dad,
I'm gonna field my father
a super team with ten-goal players,
and we'll play against each other
in the Wellington,
the number one field in the world.
Sly Stallone shows the world
how good he is with horse and mallet,
out to impress the polo elite.
So I'm out there, playing well.
My father, we're going neck and neck,
and I go out for a nearside.
My father
spears me in the back.
Hit me so hard,
I went down.
Entertainment Tonight is there.
The horse walked right over,
I don't know how it didn't kill me.
But I see myself getting up,
and the first thing was like...
And I think, "He just rode away."
Today has been maybe, probably,
the best thrill of my life.
Finally have gotten to play together
in a quality polo game
such as we had today.
If you notice, the first cheap shot,
and only cheap shot in the game,
was administered
from my father... to his son.
That was it.
I never played polo again
from that moment on.
I sold everything.
I sold every horse, the ranch, the truck,
and that was the end.
Basically, when we're born,
we're soft clay.
And a heavy-handed sculptor
starts to put dents in it,
and that's in our mold.
That's what we are.
And you just can't correct
those distortions.
And that's what develops personality.
Not a lot of people can overcome.
It takes work.
I think what he was going for
in Rocky V is he wants to make sure
that he never loses who he was,
where he came from.
He wanted to get back to his roots, but
I don't think he did it the way he hoped.
At that time,
with Rocky V, I thought,
if I lost everything,
could I actually go back
and start over again?
Not without someone helping me.
I realized I'm over.
That's why Tommy
is more important than my own family,
because he's gonna bring me glory again.
He was almost too personal.
His son, Sage, he put him in it.
He wrote him in it.
He wanted to give him this opportunity
that was so hard for Sly to get.
How did you write the scene
in the basement with your son?
He's saying, you're invested
in the boxing, but you're not seeing me.
Is that something
you drew upon from your own experience?
Unfortunately, yes.
You said I would be number one to you.
You said that and you lied.
You lied to me and you lied to Mom!
I never lied to you.
Tommy needed my help.
So did I.
I try to take
something that actually
is what I wish I had done in real life,
but I wasn't able to do that in reality.
And so, quite often,
I would do it theatrically,
If there's something
you want to pass on,
pass it on to your son, for God sakes!
Her speech, when I'm losing my son
and I'm having a nervous breakdown...
"I didn't want this. I just want us
to be back to where we started."
She tears me a new one.
"Save your son."
A lot of that is true.
You know, unfortunately,
you put things before your family,
and the repercussions are
quite radical and devastating.
I try to impart my beliefs,
my philosophies,
that all the grandeur, all the fanfare,
all the international acclaim,
means nothing
when you can't sleep at night,
when you have no one next to you,
when you don't have your flesh and blood.
Rocky V might have been just too personal.
It just didn't land
with the audience at all.
I used to tell people, I said,
"Don't ever watch the second half
of any biography about a star."
Because it's always,
"And here at the pinnacle,
and he had the world in his hand.
And then..."
"Well, stay tuned for the fall."
Sly! Sly!
If I knew I had to do
25 films my whole life, that's it,
you'd choose a lot different than this.
Now all of a sudden,
you're doing a farce.
That's like 180 degrees.
Farce. It's a dead art form.
Farce is not really comedy.
It's little...
It's so fast.
You just really step out of your box
and you do farce,
you're really asking for it.
You know what I mean?
If you're hungry,
you always try to expand.
It was natural for Sly to feel like,
"I want to get into comedies."
Which one took you furthest from...
- Who I am?
- Yeah.
Without a doubt. That. That.
Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.
There was a script
that was offered
to his agent and to my agent.
When I read the script, I said,
"This, I don't think I could sell,"
but I'm not gonna tell them I'm out of it.
And so they called right away, the studio.
They said, "Arnold wants the script."
So Sly was going so nuts
about the fact that I want to do it,
he then committed to the movie,
and then he did the movie.
And the rest is history.
He was making movies
that didn't make any sense for him
or didn't appear
to be making sense for him.
I mean, those are movies where he is
thoroughly Sylvester Stallone in them.
It's just that the environment
didn't seem right.
I can't really disassociate myself
from what I am, and I tried for a while.
Doing the comedies,
even though it was kind of an adventure,
it really was a wasted effort.
I could've done
much better things with my time.
I think people felt very disillusioned.
They said, "Look, why don't you do
maybe what you're meant to do?"
Going back to my roots, you might say.
Then I became considered
to be, like, monosyllabic.
And the less I did verbally
and the more I did physically
was the way I was known.
He really is just like
this hulking action figure
who really doesn't speak.
He's playing the lead in an action movie,
and this one is set in prison,
and another one, it's set on a train.
To the point where I said,
"Okay, action, action, action."
"What are you doing?"
His characters stopped
being less character
and more just the leading man.
And Cop Land brought us back to that.
I was not deriving
any pleasure anymore.
I felt that the challenges
were that of physical challenge,
and nothing to do with
any reliance upon character work,
where you are
totally dependent upon how you act.
And so I thought, you know,
I have to stop this.
I have to try to go back
to what I enjoy more,
and the premise is
interacting with other actors.
And then when Miramax came with Cop Land,
they said, "This is going to be difficult,
because you're going
to have to completely divest yourself
of what you've used
for the past ten years."
Which is, you have to gain 30 pounds.
You have to be
incredibly obsequious, fawning, shy.
Time for me to turn inside out.
To literally show what I have
inside on the outside.
So this is your chance
to be taken seriously as an actor?
Well, I would like to be able
to know that I had an opportunity
to work with great actors,
and see if I could hold my own.
- Excuse me.
- Moe, I apologize. He just walked in.
I'm sorry for rushing in like this.
When I do the scene with De Niro,
been waiting for this scene for 20 years.
Everyone's going, "Oh, this is gonna be
a bloodbath. This is gonna be terrible."
What is this? You came to me, to my...
And I'm doing my lines,
and I feel that Bobby
is not giving me enough "Bobby."
I really wanted him
to lay into me, the character.
I really want him
to hit me hard as I need to be hit
for me to feel as though I'm...
playing the character properly.
I need to walk
out of this room demolished.
I said, "I'm gonna go off the page.
I'm going to try to get under his skin."
So we're doing the scene,
and we get to the final line.
"I can't help you anymore."
Now, I know that he's thinking,
"Okay, that's a wrap."
I go, "Wait, whoa, wait a minute."
"You said if I needed help,
you would be here."
"I could come up here..."
He goes, "Hey, it's over.
Everything's over."
"No, but it's not over.
I did what you wanted me to do."
"I did exactly what you asked."
"Now you're saying
it doesn't matter anymore?"
"Just give me a chance.
Listen, hear me out."
He goes, "Shut... You deaf fuck!"
Listen to me, you deaf fuck.
I offered you a chance
when we could've done something.
I offered you a chance
to be a cop, and you blew it!
Fuck yeah! Thank you, Bobby.
But that bombed.
That didn't do well.
He's carrying the movie, but
through this physicality as a character.
Everybody else has the fireworks,
everybody else has big speeches.
It's all down to the minutiae of...
the ephemera of his characterization.
Something about
how restrained Stallone is being...
He is playing something deep in here.
I wish that James Mangold had
more faith in what Stallone was doing,
because that sadness
is there for a reason.
I think that the movie
kind of lets him down.
I don't think he got
the credit he deserved for that film.
That was frustrating to him.
I started to get
disenchanted with myself.
I go, "Well, maybe that's
a natural migration into obsolescence."
Maybe that's the journey. You know?
Everyone can't be, you know,
at the top of their game forever.
I realized that at that point,
it's important to stay in your own lane,
to become a specialist.
Like an artist.
You have that style, you're a Rothko,
and no one can do
Rothko better than Rothko.
Everyone goes,
"Oh, we can do the full spectrum."
"We can be anything." No, you can't.
You have certain manifest
weaknesses and great strengths.
And I said, focus on the strengths.
Don't sit there and try to do Shakespeare
when you look like me.
He has these two characters
he can always go back to,
to get whatever adoration
or sense of legitimacy
that he feels he's lost.
He can get that back
anytime he plays Rocky
and anytime he plays Rambo.
Those characters are
always going to be there for him.
And it's a place
he can always go back to to reset.
In a film like Rocky VI,
which, to me, is my proudest
accomplishment in my entire career,
because we're following Rocky V,
it's 19 years later.
Rocky has missed an entire generation
that's grown up, have no idea who he is.
That character had meant so much
to myself and so many other people,
and to leave it on that dour note
just killed me.
So I spent endless hours
writing, rewriting,
writing, writing, writing Rocky Balboa.
Producer goes, "Over our dead body.
Told you before, it'll never happen."
Heads of studios.
They rejected, rejected, rejected.
"Rocky's done and you're done."
I mean, it was brutal.
Nobody wanted to make it.
They laughed. You know?
Even my wife said, "Please don't."
But she didn't quite understand
what I was going for.
I wasn't doing a boxing movie.
I was doing a movie about
how to deal with moving on
when the things
you love the most have left you.
And I use it symbolically
with Adrian being gone,
that you had that horrible
feeling in your stomach
that your life has been so incomplete,
and you can't go on without...
You just never achieved
what you thought you should've achieved.
You never loved her enough.
You never gave people the respect,
you never said thank you.
You talked about
this stuff in the basement,
which is regret.
And I go, "Man, I have a lot of that."
And this is what the movie's about.
He's fighting to purge himself of pain,
of the past.
He says, quote, "I want to replace
old pain with new pain."
Meaning, I want to get hit.
And maybe I'll forget
about the stuff in the basement.
I was talking to my son
what the future was all about.
And I thought, life is undefeated.
You can't beat it.
You just have to go on the defense.
That inspired the line,
"No one punches harder than life."
I have a habit of... adding words.
We're doing the scene,
I would get three-quarters
of the way through, and they'd go,
"Why did you add that word?
It was okay before."
This is the one take where it was
consistent all the way through.
It's simple.
The message is as plain as can be.
And it isn't, like, hysterical.
But you used to fit right here.
I'd hold you up and say to your mother,
"This kid's going to be
the best kid in the world."
"This kid's going to be somebody better
than anybody ever knew."
You see that he's talking from love.
He loves this kid.
The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows.
It's a very mean and nasty place.
And I don't care how tough you are,
it will beat you to your knees
and keep you there permanently
if you let it.
You, me, or nobody
is going to hit as hard as life.
But it ain't about how hard you hit.
It's about how hard you can get hit
and keep moving forward.
How much you can take
and keep moving forward.
I've always wanted to take Rocky I
and this one and put it together
and show how fast life goes by.
Life is addition up until age 40,
and after that it's subtraction.
Your children are moving out,
your friends are moving on,
some dying, job is gone.
It's loss.
There's a line in the movie that...
"I'm so glad he's born
because now I can live through your eyes."
That, I think, is what fathers
look to their children for.
It's an extension of...
It's a slice of immortality.
As long as he's alive,
your memory will always be alive.
That you did something right.
I mean, you hope for that.
You have a successful Rocky series
and you have a successful Rambo series,
but after all these successes,
at some point people say to you,
"Well, maybe you're
too old to play these parts."
And all of a sudden your agent says,
"Maybe we can't help you."
That fourth crossroad.
Okay, do I listen to them,
or how do you feel?
Do you feel still competitive?
Is there, as Rocky would say,
stuff in the basement?
And I go, "Yeah, but I just
have to do it age-appropriate."
That's when I came up
with The Expendables.
I went to this rock and roll revival.
I'm telling my wife,
"God, these guys are so great."
And my wife is looking at me.
I said, "It's gonna get better."
Out comes this guy, Dockers,
baggy-ass canvas-type pants
that he's been sitting on so long,
the back looks like a fucking accordion.
Holy shit, this is genius.
The place is sold out.
Everyone on stage is... done.
But the fact that thousands of people came
to see this collection of former greats,
I said, "There's gotta be something here."
I said, "Let me start doing that
with action guys."
And that... made it an event.
As opposed to,
"Stallone in The Expendable,
is the expendable."
No, he's part of this once-great group.
"Shit. Just out of morbid curiosity,
I've got to see this."
What a great concept,
to have all these action heroes
from the '80s, the '90s, 2000s,
everyone together, thrown into one pot.
There's something
about Stallone at this age,
accepting his experience,
that he's survived this long.
I mean, I don't know if he should... I mean,
should he still be alive? I don't know.
It's not uncommon
for an action hero
to get injured on the set.
But I think it is clear
that Sly drove it to the extreme.
I thought it was too much.
Having the family
there the whole time.
It was hard on them
because I was so stressed and beat up
and bronchitis and thrush
and fractured neck.
It was just on and on and on and on.
So, they were not enjoying this.
He's been working nights.
Hasn't slept at all.
Now he's gotta work all night again.
He's gotta just get home
and be operated on right away.
Truthfully, I never fully recovered
from Expendables 1.
It did such a number on my body,
I've never been the same.
And you go, "Was it really worth it?"
Are you doing this for people's approval?
Really? That's almost like a child needing
a pat on the head by their father.
That's constant encouragement.
But it's true.
This film has stayed with you
for a long time. Why is that?
This film here
reminds me of my father.
You never called me.
You never said my name.
I'd have walked, I'd have crawled.
I'd have done anything.
It's not my fault. I won't be blamed!
This is the most... extraordinary film
about zeroing in
on what's really at the core of need,
human need.
Love. Requited love.
You're not mine!
We're not connected!
I deny you!
None of you will get my kingdom.
I leave you nothing and I wish you plague!
May all your children breech and die!
When you've been rejected,
love is a powerful, powerful agent.
I wasn't given a shot, really.
In my childhood, everything was...
It was not good.
So in my world, the Stallone film world,
what wouldn't normally happen can happen.
That this loser fighter
is gonna become a winner.
I was blessed with an ability
to deflect this bitterness
into what I wish...
what I wish had happened.
I wish I had a father like Rocky.
You can sit there
and actually film yourself. Look at this.
- There you go.
- Isn't that amazing?
I said, "Dad's dying. He's going to die."
"And you haven't
talked to him in a long, long time."
So, love you.
You take care.
- Yes.
- And here's Frank.
I arranged for him to be with my father
a few weeks before he died.
Come here, son.
This is the best day of my life.
I love you, Daddy.
He's on his deathbed.
He goes, "You know, Sly."
I go, "Yeah, Dad?" He goes...
"You should learn
to love and forgive people."
I said, "Really?"
"That just come to you now
as the fucking angels
are about to whisper in your ear?"
He goes, "Yeah, you should learn..."
He starts laughing.
I said, "You bastard." What are you...
Now you're telling me to be kind?
Like, you just had an epiphany
on the way out?
He goes, "Yeah, I did."
"Just remember those words,
you little bastard."
I went, "Thank you."
My children...
Well, I get really emotional about it.
There's always that regret.
could have learned so much more
if I hadn't been so self-absorbed
and dealing with other people.
You think about
what you should have done at this age.
And now they're this age.
What did I mess up on?
I'm there making a stupid movie
instead of making their life.
They make me happy.
They make me really sad.
They bring me emotion.
I had to almost lose it
to respect it.
So the act of loving my children now,
actually taking such stock
and value of the time...
It's so... callous and brutal.
And it sneaks up on you, and you go,
"Okay, time to check out, Sly."
"Whoa! I was just born!"
"No. No."
Now it's a matter of,
I wanna be the juggler.
A really good juggler. You know, just...
family, life, children, wife, you know?
Art, just everything. Just... in balance.
There's an old saying that
the child becomes the father to the man.
And the children I create,
Rocky and Rambo,
have now become my father.
They're taking care of me.
The beauty of being able to play those two
is, literally, that's
the entire spectrum of life.
The disenfranchised,
the one that's just friendless and lonely,
and the one here that embraces everything,
loves humanity, and is loved by humanity.
And I relate so well to both of them.
I lived in a world of death.
I tried to come home.
Rambo has been mortally wounded,
and now he's returned home
to sit in his father's rocking chair.
He sees his life ebbing before him.
I started regretting the idea
that this is the way
this warrior goes out.
When they pull away,
the chair was still.
I had them start to CGI
that the chair was still rocking slightly.
So, he's still alive.
But the way I shot it, it wasn't.
And I so believe
that we don't see our heroes
die before our eyes.
That there's always
some mystical quality about them.
I realized with Rambo,
he'll never have home.
That's the tragedy of that character.
Without home,
without that family,
without the love of wife or children,
what's this?
These are just pictures,
film images
of something that never existed.
This is not life.
This is artwork.
This is configurations of imagination.
That's real.
That lives and breathes
and dies and bleeds.
And you better take care of that.
But if you have no guidance,
and you have to go through life
devalued every inch of the way,
that leaves a hole.
And that hole is never filled.
What I can do
is fill it through imagination.
I want to somehow show hope.
I'm in the hope business,
and I just hate sad endings. Sorry.
Shoot me.
Well, the moon is broken
And the sky is cracked
Come on up to the house
The only things that you can see
Is all that you lack
Come on up to the house
All your crying don't do no good
Come on up to the house
Come down off the cross
We can use the wood
You gotta come on up to the house
Come on up to the house
Come on up to the house
The world is not my home
I'm just a-passing through
You got to come on up to the house
Gotta come on up to the house
Gotta come on up to the house
The world is not my home
I'm just a-passing through
You gotta come on up to the house
Gotta come on up to the house
You gotta come on up to the house
Yeah, yeah, yeah