Sylvester Stallone appears to be having one last hurrah in what is a surprisingly busy period of his career, with Rocky Balboa returning in ‘Creed II’ – albeit as a trainer rather than a fighter – and Rambo storming back for a fifth, final fight against the powers of evil in the autumn of 2019.
And yet, at 72, you’d feel he was entitled to sit back a little, despite the videos appearing on social media of him riding a horse, ranch-hand style. Next year marks half a century of film-making, dating right the way back to Sly’s debut, as a restaurant patron in a scene with Robert Redford and Camilla Spary in 1969’s ‘Downhill Racer’.
Across ‘Rocky’ and ‘Rambo’, via ‘Tango & Cash’, ‘Judge Dredd’ and ‘The Expendables’, right the way through into voiceover work for animated characters, there is one thing that has remained constant – Sly Stallone has never stopped looking for another opportunity. RSNG caught up with him to find out how he rides a horse like that, why it’s time for another Rambo movie, and what keeps him alive…
RSNG Why did you want to bring back Rambo now?
SYLVESTER STALLONE ‘There were enough people telling me that chapter was done, and yet I had never told myself that. It’s strange, when someone tells you something about yourself that they think they know, your immediate reaction is to rebel against it. In this case I couldn’t because I hadn’t made a Rambo movie in maybe 10 years, but it was always there in the back of my mind that I should want to prove people wrong, and this was surely the best way of all to do it.’
‘I think as you get older, though, you realise the biggest battle is often with yourself. It’s not something on a film set, it’s not from behind a computer screen when you’re arguing with someone on Twitter – it’s from within. And this is the result…’
‘If there is one character I feel like when I am on a horse, it’s Rambo’
RSNG Where did you learn to ride a horse like that?
SS ‘Well Stallone means ‘stallion’, you know that? This all came from my father. He was a poor immigrant to the US but his passion was horses, and his true love was polo. Obviously there has always been that connection but it is purely from my family, nothing to do with my choices.’
‘Growing up around horses felt very natural to me, and that psychology of being in a horse’s mind has been important to me at various points throughout my career. It is a wonderful juxtaposition to have something so powerful and yet so afraid, and yet we are all like that from time to time. If there is one character I feel like when I am on a horse, it is Rambo… even when I’m not being Rambo, haha!’
RSNG How did you find training for the role this time around – did you do anything differently?
SS ‘I box a lot in private, and for me a lot of being in shape and training is about staying competitive, no matter what I’m doing. I’ve always been competing against something or someone in my life, and that’s what keeps me alive.’
RSNG Like Arnold?
SS ‘That was a great era. He and I were really competitive, because we were in the same genre. With other actors around you it’s different – a different set of rules. Working with Robert De Niro was a really big experience for me, because I knew from day one I was going to have someone around who would bring out the best in me. I knew he going to try as hard as me and that's good; good actors have that, they don't want to be left out or fall behind or underplayed; nobody wants to be embarrassed.’
RSNG Does that extend to you doing all your own combat?
SS ‘Well, if I told you, you try to make it look real, you try to get it as close as possible, accidents happen and usually when you are dealing with almost professional athletes like in the other Rockys, you get really hurt; really hurt. In the past I’ve been in hospital for breaks and accidents – there was one time I was in there for, like, four days in intensive care, so on this I learned, there’s no reason you can't hit like that but there are accidents and he will clip me and clip me, and actually, the fall – you go down. You would be surprised how people get injured doing that, back pain, necks and legs, all the time.’
RSNG So is ageing a concern for you?
SS ‘Is that a concern? Of course, haha. It's a concern for everyone. Let me see, what is the number one thing that's right up there? Death is right at the top of the list!’
RSNG But did you ever feel old, like you are past 70 now and maybe you can't do this, you can't do that?
SS ‘Well, I'm probably not going to do any love stories. In your early career people get whiplash when you walk past. Now my favourite is, "My grandmother loves you!” haha, or “You are one of my father’s favourites,” and the guy standing there talking to you is 40 years old. Great. Thank you!’
‘Just let me run, and if I trip, I trip – but to not get an opportunity is the worst – so go out there and find it’
RSNG When it comes to getting into Rambo’s mindset what do you think of?
SS ‘Rambo epitomises in me the spirit that says, “It doesn’t matter how old we are or what we look like – we should go out and grab it.”
‘It’s interesting – I always believe we have three or four crossroad moments in our life. I think back to my early days and I did some film projects that I wouldn’t ever have even contemplated normally, but I was completely broke and needed a break. At the time I was always cast as a mugger or a thug, but I soon learnt that every movie I did presented an opportunity.’
‘Not everyone is not going to be a star, but everyone wants the chance. It's the opportunity, and then the lack of opportunity drives people crazy, in any aspect of life. So I say, just let me run, and if I trip, I trip – but to not get an opportunity is the worst. So go out there and find it.’
RSNG What’s with all the superhero movies these days? Do you think that things might go back to the ‘old school’ action movie approach at some point?
SS ‘No. You could never go back to the old way of life. You really think so? You would love to pull over to the side of the road to make a phone call? Can you imagine, haha? How tough life was… wow.’
‘This is all about technology. These films are coming out because we have the technology now, whereas in the past we never did. It’s romantic to think we might want to go back to more traditional work, but that’s just more expense and time, and for an inferior product; so why, really, would people want to do that? I must say I'm pretty good with technology, not too bad, ahead of most of my friends who are really in the dark ages, seriously. Really pathetic.’
RSNG Are you on social media?
SS ‘Not really. I am all over Facebook – there are about 50 Facebook pages that say they are me, but none of them are. With Twitter, I do tweet a couple of times to test people, like, “What would you think of this guy in the movie?” That kind of thing. But I don't hold conversations and I always get in trouble with it.’
RSNG How many more action movies do you think you’ll do?
SS ‘I’ve already said I’ll do no more… and here I am…’
WHAT NEXT? Watch Sly Stallone playing Rocky Bilboa in the trailer for Creed II.