Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I've always wondered why people have always hated on Sly Stallone. OK, I'm a tad biasRocky Balboaed since he was on every single one of my walls growing up. But, as a writer, he's given us two of the most mythic heroes in modern pop culture (all the while grossing about $4 billion for Hollywood). That's hard to do even once. Come to think of it, I'd like to think of him as John Wayne with a Fountain Pen.

This month, there is an extensive interview with Sly in GQ, entitled "Yo, America! It's Time to Respect Sylvester Stallone' and he chats about Rocky, Rambo and the (creative) path he's taken in Hollywood through the years.

Sly also chats about poetry and his love for Edgar Allen Poe and the film he's been trying to write and direct, based on the gothic writer's life.

Here are the juicy bits:

Are you still writing poetry?

I mostly write it to my wife. I have volumes of poetry. ...Dante's Inferno and John Milton? Give it up! Paradise Lost? The guy wrote it blind. Hello! After Poe? Come on.

Tell me about Edgar Allan Poe. You've been working on a Poe script forever. Why?

I was 21, and one day I went into the New York library and down into this cavernous space. The guard says, "It's a special writers section." I went in, and he says, "You might think this is interesting," and he pulled out a scroll by Poe. I started reading up on Poe and realized he is the epitome of the misunderstood artist. The more he remained true to himself, the worse it got. I went, "Wow." The other part that I related to—he was a young man who started with all this enthusiasm and originality, and in the end he was scorned for it. His dilemma was contemporary. He was hip well before his time.

So do you identify with him?

I do. I don't identify with his genius, because it's far beyond anything I could imagine. But it was like Rocky—he was just incredibly misunderstood. And eventually he gave up trying to find financial success and was just trying to find love. And I went, Jesus, what trauma! And I just related to all the pathos.

So you've written a script, right?

Yeah. I've written about ten scripts.
Do you think you'll ever do it?

I don't know if I could ever live up to the hype. Poe fanatics—I mean in an intellectual sense—they would tear me to pieces. My take is very simple: He's a misunderstood artist.
Are you a misunderstood artist?

Completely. Candidly? Yeah, and one of the reasons is, the subjects I've played, it's assumed that I am that person. And when I would try to be Sylvester Stallone, it threw people off. I was this enigma. A lot of actors were presented with wonderful projects, and they rose to the occasion. I had to write my own material. I didn't have a pedigree, like how De'Niro came through Brian De Palma. With me it was, "Who? Where'd he come from?" I was this outsider. And in some way I still sort of am. I live here, but I've never felt comfortable. I wish I were. Or they've never felt comfortable. I've never quite blended. I used to say to my wife, "I would love just to be able to act and have wonderful scripts and wonderful directors." It just has never been my lot in life. It's always been do-it-yourself.

If you could tell people in Hollywood something that they don't understand about you, what would you tell them?

God, that's a tough one. These people don't understand: I am this person. But as I get older, it's all about what you do that really tells the truth. Words? Anyone can produce words. But actions…they really do speak louder than words. So I guess I am what you see. The art, the movies, the ideology in the films that I'm involved in, is really who I am. That's my philosophy. Even though I wallow in pessimism, in the end I'm optimistic. So it's that ongoing battle.

You're a romantic.

Yeah! There you are! Totally! People think I'm foreboding and—what would you say?—a physical presence that's intimidating.

Yeah, and it's not true at all. That's the character I play. But yeah, I'm a hopeless romantic. It's impossible to do six Rockys without saying, That's pretty close to who he is. One of the toughest days of my life was that last day making Rocky Balboa. I said, "I'm never gonna find this friend again. It's like I am losing part of my soul. I'll never be able to voice myself the way I was able. 'Cause this guy was allowed to do that." I lost the greatest character I'll ever come close to.

Rocky will live forever, like the Little Tramp. Amazing.

It is. When people ask, "How did you do it?" I say, "It was one of those very rare occurrences." When Chaplin—you know the stories—when he was trying on different hats? And he found this one that was too big and his shoes were too large? That was genius. But he knew, subconsciously, that if you played this little guy who had all this heart but he looked like a fool? But inside, he was brave and heartfelt and ethical. That's why Chaplin never came close again. With Rocky, they didn't want me to wear a hat: "You look like a thug with a hat." I said, "But that's part of his armor…like the Little Tramp. That's his uniform. And everything that he wears speaks volumes." Chaplin got that, and I guess I borrowed that.\

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  1. Yeah, I don't get all the crapping on Sly either. Sure, he'll never win an Oscar but in the right role he's excellent. Rocky...a simple story that has become part of American culture. Rambo (the first movie) was really pretty good. I also thought he was brilliant in Cop Land. The part in Lords of Flatbush was like it was written for him.

    If he does this Poe project, though, I hope he doesn't take on the lead role...I just don't see that working.

  2. Something I never knew about Mr. Sly. Great spotlight, Ant.

  3. Alan ... He's said he wouldn't play Poe. I heard all sorts of rumors. Everyone from Robert Downey, Jr. to John Cusack to Viggo Mortensen.

    And Yo! Alan ... he wrote part of that "Lords of Flatbush' dialogue so that's why it probably resonated...

  4. Ant ... I had 3 of the posters, honest -- my kids still laugh at the one where -- you know he's leaning on the upper doorway piece -- because I tucked it inside the upstairs linen closet (and say "YO" when I get new sheets)

    I love Sly - read F.I.S.T. and the Hell's Kitchen little known tome he did in his way back when. Man oh man you sliced out and dished up a cool interview. I read it to Matt over the phone and he was singin' your praises for holding it up for such good scrutiny.

    Guess it takes self-made talents to see so much in another. Laughin' at Alan hoping he doesn't try to Yo the Poe role, but I can see the sensitivity he'd put out on the tough sides of reality. Where's Laurita when we need to see her eyes shine.

    Great post good scribe who I respect. (Uh, 'yeah' - I 'did' do that dance first time I went to top of Philly steps - how ya gonna not? - Have YOU?) -- Oh, and I had two turtles once I named Cuff and Link - gosh, you're just bringin' out this other side o'me - you do know his brother was singin' on the streetcorner in the movie and his own dad rang the bell in the fightscenes?

    Cinematic Stallone trivia ala the BIJOU gal . . .

  5. I love Ole Sly.. and this was great.. I never knew the Rockster wrote poetry..I'm impressed..:-)

  6. typo on grate.. not great...

  7. Ah, Kate ... Love that you're a fan. And nah, I haven't run up those steps.

    I loved "Paradise Alley' as well... And yup, F.I.S.T. was the bomb!

  8. 'Paradise Alley' < yep, read the 'feel' he evoked in that one too. You sure sing the unsung about heroes swell.

  9. Never knew this stuff about Stallone, interesting. I can relate to having to live the role people lay out for you, and of course Poe was great. I hope Sly gets the respect he deserves, I'll check out the books you mentioned.

  10. Sly the poet and scriptwriter -- I have whole new respect for his biceps. Thanks for sharing this. Peace...

  11. I watch both the Rambo and Rocky series with my wife, every now and then. Pure poetry. "They drew first blood, not me."

  12. Bernard, every time I see a marathon on Spike TV or versus, I know I'm in for a loooooong day. Commercials and all.

  13. We've got both series on DVD. I highly recommend it. Life's too short to have your movie marathon times dictated by a TV station. And watching ads... don't get me started. Cya.

  14. I love Sly. I think a lot of people see Rocky (most without realizing he wrote it) and Rambo and think that's it. Big muscle guy. But there is depth there, lots of it.

    I would give my eye teeth to see a Poe film by Stallone.

  15. That was a tremendous interview and obviously it resonates with other basement dwellers. I happened to catch First Blood on TV just a few days ago and it was
    AWESOME. Just as good as I remembered. I'm glad you reminded us that he WROTE those characters. So easy to get mesmerized by those amazing muscles but his biggest muscle is between his ears.

  16. Rocky 1 was one of the very few movies I watched more than once. And that poster of him leaning on pipe (or whatever it was) fueled my fires for a long time. And Rocky running up the steps was so inspiring. I loved the feeling of triumph over odds.

    Maybe I'll go see his new movie after all. It looks like he's still got it.

  17. I think what got tiresome about the Rocky/Rambo movies was all of the sequels. Even if it's a good movie, you start getting up past II and you've lost me. I do give Stallone credit for writing those scripts though. He kind of comes across as a meathead but obviously he's got alot on the ball.

    Thanks for the heads-up on the interview Anthony.

  18. OMG! I LOVE Sly. Um, hello, he's hot! And a pretty great writer, very underestimated. I think it's the accent. But who cares? He rocks. My guess is that he laughs at his critics all the way to his bank. I know I would. ;)

    Sweet interview, Mr. Smooth! Thanks for the post. :)

  19. Stallone brought a little on himself with his recent comments about Brazil that brought the hammer of Twitter down on him. But I also think he pursues an earthy optimism that turns off super-cynics and ideliastic elitists alike. Plus he won for Rocky the year everybody was rooting for Taxi Driver (even though it's nowhere as good a movie as Rocky - I said it!)

  20. Harry...

    I will wholeheartedly say that the last and final film, "Rocky Balboa" has just as much heart as the first. Sly went back to the well ans there are some truly sad and heartbreaking moments in that film. A critical success, everyone was expecting it to be a joke. I really suggest it if you haven't seen it.

    Having Adrian die YEARS before the film even started was a frkkin' stroke of genius.

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