Sylvester Stallone is the epitome of the American dream. Once a homeless actor chasing aspirations of making it in the movies, the man they would later call “The Italian Stallion” forged his own path by writing one of the most iconic stories ever told on screen with Rocky. In a career that has spanned more than 50 years, the Rambo and Expendables star, now 77 years of age, is more visible than ever thanks to his hit television series Tulsa King, and the Family Stallone reality show. But, while many of us have grown up admiring the amiable action star and hoping to replicate his ripped physique in the gym, a new Netflix documentary, titled Sly, might be his most revealing work yet. M&F takes a look at seven takeaways that got us ever closer to understanding our hero.
Does Sylvester Stallone have facial paralysis?
As if being born into 1946’s rough Hells Kitchen neighborhood to two strict parents wasn’t difficult enough, Stallone’s very first moments on this earth would shape the rest of his life. His mother, Jackie Stallone was riding the bus when labor began and had to be carried into hospital. It was a traumatic birth for sure. “And that’s where I was brought into this world,” explains Stallone. “Via this accident, which kid of paralyzed all the nerves on the side of my mouth. So, I was born with this snarl.” It is of course, a face that would be placed on statues.
How did Sylvester Stallone got started in acting?
Sly’s brother, Frank Jr., shares that the future Over the Top star was a troubled student and often played truant. “I went to 13 schools in 12 years,” confirms Sylvester. “They put me in a military school. I don’t think I was there for a month.” The young upstart ended up in High School at Devereux Manor in Philadelphia, and fortunately it was there that he picked up an interest in acting. Sly opens up in the documentary, stating that a difficult relationship with both of his parents had left him craving the attention and adulation of an audience. As a kid, he had spent many hours in the cinema. It was there that he discovered Steve Reeves portrayal as Hercules, and knew that he wanted to build muscle and become a leading man.
While attending the American College of Switzerland on an athletics scholarship, Stallone really got serious about acting after successfully auditioning for the play Death of a Salesman. “(After the play) there was a Harvard professor in the audience who came up and said; “You should think of this as a career,” recalled Stallone. “And that moment changed the course of my life.”
What are some of Sylvester Stallone’s lesser-known talents?
Millions know Stallone for his on-screen talents, but far fewer will know him as a prolific painter, or will be aware that his love of horses is bitter-sweet. “For some reason, I had an affinity with horses since I was five or six years old,” says Stallone. His father, Frank Sr. would buy cheap horses for $25 since he had become involved in a polo team. This allowed the younger Stallone to become an adept polo player too, and he says he even became nationally ranked. Unfortunately, he would later be turned off the idea of playing because of his father’s constant criticism. It was a theme that repeated itself in adult life, as the two once again took up playing polo. In the documentary, Stallone Sr. can be seen dangerously knocking his son off of his horse, leading to the Rambo star once again vowing never to play polo. For movie fans, this little-known talent explains his superior equestrian skills in Rambo III, since he can be seen executing many of his own stunts on horseback in the 1988 film.
What was Sylvester Stallone’s most physically taxing film?
Suffering for his art, Sly buffs will know that he’s ended up in hospital on multiple occasions because he attempts most of his own stunts. While making Rocky IV (1985), Stallone found himself in the intensive care unit after some of Dolph “Ivan Drago” Lundgren’s punches were more fury than fiction. Still, that wasn’t his toughest test. When asked about the roughest movie of his career, Stallone points to the original Expendables movie (2010) as his most physically difficult challenge. “I think it’s clear that Sly drove it to the extreme,” says Arnold Schwarzeneggar of Stallone’s desire to undertake all the physicality himself during the shoot.
“It was hard on them, because I was so stressed and beat up,” says Stallone of his family while making the movie. During filming, Sly suffered with a fractured neck among many other ailments. “Truthfully, I never fully recovered from Expendables 1,” he says, explaining that the battles with onscreen rivals like ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin were so brutal that he’s never been the same since.
Did Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger really have a feud?
As Sylvester Stallone’s physique got bigger and more ripped with each passing Rocky and Rambo saga, the former seven-time Mr Olympia, Arnold Schwarzenegger, felt that Sly was becoming serious competition for the same action roles. While some observers felt that their rivalry had been simply orchestrated by PR companies looking for headlines, Schwarzenegger shed some light on the subject in this documentary. “Sly, all of a sudden with Rambo, he stepped into my arena,” says the Commando star. “All of a sudden he was ripped, and everyone was 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 who has more muscles, who has more muscle definition, who has less body fat? I mean, stupid stuff that we would be fighting over.” Fortunately, these days, both of these action heroes can laugh at the craziness of it all, and Arnie has a ton of admiration for his Expendables co-star. “There is no one that has stepped into three franchises,” says Schwarzenegger. “The genius behind that. This was not an accident.”
Was John Rambo supposed to have been killed off in First Blood?
While Rambo has become a franchise with 5 movies and counting, there may not have been a First Blood Part 2, had Sly not changed the ending of the original 1982 film. “At the very end, originally, the way it was in the script, I am shot by Colonel Trautman and I die in slow motion,” explains the iconic actor. “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. ne.’”
Instead, wanting to present a message of hope, Stallone was able to change the ending of Rambo: First Blood and have him arrested at the end. It was a script change that altered the course of cinema history.
Which film is Sylvester Stallone most proud of?
After Rocky V (1990) failed to repeat the box-office success of its predecessors, it would take sixteen years for Stallone to get a final chapter released with Rocky Balboa in 2006. w in his 60’s, studio execs and even Sly’s own family weren’t sure that he could put on the trunks and shake off the disappointment associated with Rocky V. But, while Rocky V has turned out to be a movie that has fared better with the passing of time, Rocky Balboa is a bona fide mater-piece, perfectly bookending the career of “The Italian Stallion.”
Sylvester Stallone says that Rocky VI (Rocky Balboa) is not just his proudest moment with the Rocky franchise, but also the proudest moment of his career. “That character had meant so much to myself and so many other people, and to leave it on that dour note just killed me,” he reflects. In the film, Stallone got himself into typically insane shape to prove that age should never make people irrelevant. Rock Balboa exceeded studio expectations and grossed more than three times the opening night estimate, raking in $2 million. It went on to gross more than $150 million at the box office. Yo, Adrian! You did it!
Watch Sylvester Stallone’s deeply personal documentary, Sly, streaming on Netflix now.