Mr. Sylvester Stallone
From Rocky to Rambo and back again
Aging--The Key to Everything
He is still getting Academy Award nominations as a senior citizen. The tough image this man presents contains an element of an intellectual few people suspected. That is, until he started writing screenplays.
In 2016, Mr. Stallone will turn 70, truly a tough psychological hurdle to clear for anyone, especially for a strong man bent on working and performing apparently for as long as God will have him on this earth.
The saga of Rocky Balboa is one of an aging fighter, a person who advises his son that what really matters is how hard you can get hit by adversity in life but still keep going. It's all about aging.
This was the matter with Rocky (Best Picture 1976) when an out-of-shape ex-fighter gets in shape by first running up the steps of the landmark buildings area of Philadelphia, steps now commemorated to Sylvester Stallone for his contribution to film and to humanity.
The movie was about aging, said Stallone, more than prizefighting.
For so many years that it seems embedded in society, Sylvester's films have been overwhelmingly popular. He is an actor who has become world famous.
But in the beginning, he was a serious writer. Because he loved acting and did well at it, his writing naturally took him in the direction of screenplays.
Back in high school, Stallone was a star on the football team and also an actor. His youthful peers when he was a teenager felt that Stallone was destined either for fame or for future tangles with the law due to his daring nature.
He started off his career near home, looking for jobs in New York as an actor and trying to get producers interested in his screenplays. He struggled like so many dreamers who try to make it in the fine arts. New York was and is tough. But Stallone was progressive and persistent.
Those qualities ultimately paid off enough to get him a little bank account and make possible the journey to Hollywood to look for recognition of talents he knew he had.
No one seemed interested in his screenplays back then, but he did land a job as an actor, in fact a star in a movie that became a minor hit. His costar in that movie was just as unknown a struggling hopeful as Sylvester was in those days.
The movie they made was called The Lords of Flatbush (1974) co-starring Henry Winkler (later known to TV viewers as Fonzie).
Hollywood at last
"They say it never rains in California," but for Stallone, Hollywood at first was just as cold and indifferent to someone new to the game as was New York.
But luck was with him once again. He never stopped writing his screenplays. One day, big producers offered Stallone significant money for one of his handwritten screenplays. It took him only 3 days to write it, but it was personally very important to him.
Despite the money he was offered for the script and the fact that he was down to about his last dollar for food and rent, Sylvester Stallone resisted the producers' attempts to take the screenplay and make it into a movie starring a known Hollywood actor.
They had several people in mind for the part, but that became irrelevant when Stallone surprised the producers by rejecting their money and refusing to give them permission to use the screenplay he'd written unless he himself would be the star of the film.
The screenplay he'd written was one inspired by prizefighter Muhammad Ali (known also as Cassius Clay). Sylvester Stallone's deep commitment to the story he'd written ultimately resulted in the producers' agreeing to let him play the part of the main character, Rocky.
Stallone as part of American contemporary culture
What made Stallone's films, especially Rocky, great was the fact that they weren't just action films. They were deeper than that. There was a love story angle. There was a man tempted to give up due to losing his strength and abilities that he once had in his youth. Above all, there was the drive and determination to keep going toward a goal despite setbacks.
The movie presented a situation that everyone identified with, either in a dramatic way or in a quieter and more common way. It was about courage, a subject that Sylvester Stallone knew well from first-hand experience as a struggling writer and actor.
After Rocky there followed various sequels. Sylvester Stallone became famous internationally. He was offered many acting roles and was respected for his writing ability.
Filmmakers around the world all know and admire him. But the Rambo movies that followed were more controversial because of the political feelings that conflicted with a confused public still reeling from the torment of the Vietnam War era.
Stallone did not create the character of Rambo. A Canadian writer wrote the screenplay. Some analysts feel that Rambo detracted from Stallone's image as the thoughtful, dedicated prizefighter, Rocky, who lived in a more civilized environment than the combat of war.
Today, many people think of Sylvester Stallone as being a violent character in an action movie involving guns and killing. His impressive physique and his background as a character in other movies, such as The Specialist, in which he made love with costar Sharon Stone, have made Sylvester even more controversial among people less liberal.
But despite the political and social controversy, Sylvester Stallone has survived as a highly respected person in Hollywood, one whose integrity and confidence has led him to success undeniably.
With becoming humility, Mr. Stallone in an interview once said, “I'm often asked whether Rocky is an extension of myself. But the truth is I wish I could be as noble as Rocky.”