A report from An Evening With Sylvester Stallone

Feature Nicholas Higton 14 Jan 2014 - 06:37

Action star, writer and director Sylvester Stallone gave an evening of anecdotes at the London Palladium on Saturday. Here's what went on...

Sylvester Stallone was on fine form as he entertained a near capacity crowd at London’s famous Palladium theatre last Saturday night. The evening was compèred by an excellent Jonathan Ross (here far removed from his usual television interview persona), who talked with Mr Stallone over the remarkable highs and lows of his film career to date.

Stallone spoke about his way into the acting world, performing in Death Of A Salesman while teaching physical education at a boarding school in Switzerland. Sly even sang a short duet with Jonathon Ross from the main theme of Paradise Alley, written by brother Frank Stallone, and impressed the audience with a quotation from Shakespeare’s Comedy Of Errors.

Discussing one of his most famous characters portrayed on the screen, Vietnam veteran John Rambo, Sly revealed that Kirk Douglas was originally set to play Colonel Trautman in 1982's First Blood, but when arriving on set, Mr Douglas had re-written the part where he would kill Rambo at the end of the film. Stallone informed Douglas that they had to stick to the script as written, and Douglas departed the movie to be replaced by Richard Crenna, who would play Trautman in the next two Rambo pictures.

Discussing Rambo: First Blood Part II, Stallone felt the character became more of a superhero and admitted that he became very vain around this time too. Rambo III, Stallone said, was the biggest production he has ever been involved in. Rambo (2008) was Stallone’s attempt to show war at its most brutal, and the picture remains a personal favourite.

Speaking of 2008's Rambo, Jonathan Ross informed Stallone that the first time he watched the film was in the presence of directors Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron. He said that del Toro was into the film from the start, while at the end Cuaron became vocally keen that Rambo reap revenge on the film's evil colonel.

Discussing his most celebrated character, the Italian stallion Rocky Balboa, Sly talked of failing an audition for a different part offered by producers Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler. Stallone mentioned on his way out that he had written a script. Sly returned later to the audition with the script in hand, and both producers were interested enough in making the picture, but not in having Stallone in the part of Rocky.

Stallone discussed how he was offered $300,000 to sell the script, but despite living in poverty with his first wife Sasha Czack (Sly even had to sell his dog, Butkus) he refused, holding out to play the part himself - much to the chagrin of the producers, who stipulated that Stallone could be fired for any number of reasons during the opening weeks of production. But Stallone impressed in the role and the rest, as they say, is movie history.

Rocky II was first proposed as a much darker story than the resulting film - the producers were keen for Rocky Balboa to fall into drug addiction - but Stallone fought for his version of the story where a nobody becomes a somebody and is then quickly forgotten.

Rocky III was an exercise in showing how successful people surround themselves with agents and hangers on. Sly was keen to emphasise that Clubber Lang had to be a brutal opponent for Rocky to face so that at the end of the film. When he triumphs, we saw Rocky reach new heights.

Naturally, the opponent in Rocky IV had to be even stronger. Rocky V wasn't mentioned, which meant that we were spared any mention of Sage Stallone or Tommy Morrison’s tragic, recent deaths. But Rocky Balboa (2006) remains one of Sly’s favourite films, and he believes it works as a direct sequel to the original Rocky picture.

When asked whether he was returning to the role in the proposed Creed, Stallone confirmed this would be the case, and revealed that Rocky Balboa will be suffering from some form of advanced illness and would be evolving into the Mickey Goldmill character (immortalised by the late, great Burgess Meredith in Rocky, Rocky II, III and V), and thus able to pass on his fighting wisdom to the grandson of Apollo Creed.

In other anecdotes, Sly revealed his dream of making a biopic of macabre writer Edgar Allan Poe. Sadly, Sly doesn't see the project ever coming to the screen, as he believes that the most he could raise is £9m. Sly said he would love to guest star in a television series, but was not interested in becoming a permanent member of a show due to the industry standard 15-hour days. He revealed he would like to work again with Kelsey Grammer, who recently filmed a part in The Expendables 3.

Sly then engaged in a half hour Q&A with the audience. Many, it appeared, wanted the key to success in either acting or writing. Sly was keen to emphasise that he only began writing as he kept failing auditions and felt he needed to write a part for himself. Sly was also keen to highlight that the success of a great story is for the hero to face a villain who is twice as powerful and twice as intelligent, so the protagonist has hurdles to climb and the audience can share in their success.

Just before leaving the stage, Mr Stallone was inducted into the London Palladium Hall of Fame, while members of the audience, especially those who've been fans of Stallone from the beginning, were surely satisfied by the evening's entertainment.

Gone is the ego that grew in the wake of success after success. It's replaced by a man who is learned, humble and full of fascinating stories.

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I really don't want to see Rocky with an 'advanced illness'. Rocky Balboa was the perfect conclusion to the series, and a happy ending too.

Always liked Stallone and his films. I remember the days around the 80s/90s when he and his acting was v.unfairly scorned by sections of the media. But I remember thinking as I do now, that if ever you doubt his acting ability, just watch Rocky 1 and 2 or Copland. And his writing ability was pretty clear from Rocky itself.

Ditto.

Rocky Balboa, aptly against all the odds, was the perfect ending to the character. This isn't real-life; we don't need to see this character wither and die - he needs to have the bitter-sweet ending the sixth film gave him.

Sounds like a rather lovely evening. I haven't seen a lot of interviews with Stallone, but the most recent one (on the Graham Norton show of all places) he came across as a thoroughly charming and erudite fella. As far removed from what you'd associate with his voice as you can imagine.

May I recommend tracking down a little film called Shade. Stallone is a card player and is just superb as a man with regrets - he's almost Brandoesque. I wish he would make more straight up dramas like this, he's clearly got the chops.

Can someone help me out here, as I can't remember where i heard this: I thought the story about Stallone being offered money for the script but not for the role of Rocky - and his subsequent determination to do both - was a myth created by the marketing execs because it matched the underdog story of Rocky perfectly. But he says in the article that it's true...?

Rocky Balboa was the perfect ending to the Rocky franchise. Why does Stallone want to go back again and play second banana to some unknown kid playing Apollo Creed's grandson? Leave it alone, Sly.

Lovely. Thanks for this. Sounds like a great night.

I was there and I can confirm that it was an FANTASTIC night. Sly was on top form and was entertaining throughout. A long time admirer of his work, I saw this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Sly up-close and personal. He certainly did not disappoint. Witty, charming, effusive and, more than anything, humble, he seemed to be completely at ease all evening. The Q&A session was excellent, apart from one chap who wanted Sly to shout something out, got his words mixed up and generally made a bit of a dick of himself. A cute 9yr old girl (who earned a round of applause when she was asked her age by J. Ross) asked him about his breakthrough in acting. All in all a great night, and would have been topped off by a signing session afterwards, but unfortunately it wasn't to be, as he was spotted by the waiting crowd outside the stage door after the show, speeding off in a blacked out limo. Mr Stallone, we salute you!

I believe so. He has always stated that he turned down many hundreds of thousands of dollars to sell the script, but he refused. He described it as a crossroads in his life, one of those moments where you have to make a massive decision. He said he could have taken the money and sold the script, but he would have always hated himself for selling out and not sticking with his gut instinct. He didn't sell and look where that has got him now!

"Gone is the ego that grew in the wake of success after success. It's
replaced by a man who is learned, humble and full of fascinating
stories"

See Willis? That's how an action movie star grows old gracefully.

Hi Tribue/Tim
Yes I agree as a massive Rocky fan myself I was also sad to hear the news on Saturday evening but whether we like it as fans or not, Sly has earnt the right to end the charachter (as he orignally wanted too in Rocky V on screen if that's what he wants to do.
To see Rocky on the big screen one more time is a dream for me personally and I will be taking my hankies!

Yes Bob, too true.
Their was no mention of Bruce at all in the whole evening.
Let's hope he comes around in time.

Hey Big_Sigh,
I wrote the article for DOG, Was it not a really special night?
I really wanted to capture the evening as best as I could for anyone not
blessed or lucky enough too attend. I could have written 2 articles with the amount of trivia Mr.Stallone divulged in the evening.
All credit to the promoters for this evening, Fingers crossed Big Arnie is next!

As Big_Sigh says Stuart it's a true story.
If you like Rocky then check out the DVD commentaries for the first and last films and you will find a wealth of Information straight from Mr/Stallone's mouth.

Nice shout Guy, SHADE never found a UK distributor and a lot of Sly fans will probably never have seen it before. A good supporting Cast too.
If you have never seen it, IMDB it and check it out...

An interesting stat i forgot to put in the article Salen is......
Only three men have been nominated for best actor and screen writer at the same ceremony in the history of the Oscars.
Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles and Sly Stallone

It was a great night Jonathon for us lucky enough to attend.
Sly treated all questions from the audience at the end with maximum respect.
He was also kind enough to divulge his trade secrets of writing screenplays.
I am a massive fan anyway but he really oozed class all night long.

Sly was pretty keen to emphasise on the evening, Rocky would be an 'Angel on the Shoulder' of the young junior Creed. Sly also said Rocky would become more like Mickey Goldmill.
As a Rocky fan I hope in the words of Part III that I got you curious...,

Hey Nick,
Great article! Yeah, it was a special evening, no doubt. I think Sly has done a fantastic job of reinventing himself after slipping into the background into the 90s. I could have listened to him all night long! It's a shame he didn't hold a 'meet n greet' session for those who had spent a considerable amount of money on tickets and extras (I travelled down from Aberdeen for the evening!), but I guess he would have been there all night long. Aye, Arnie would be a fabulous candidate for the next event, so we'll have to wait and see. I think DeNiro would be a good one too...

Thanks Big_Sigh for your kind comments, much appreciated.
I know just what you mean, I was in the queue to ask a question but sadly did not get the chance.
Maximum respect for coming all the way down from 'deen that is a real journey but I am sure it was worth it for a once in a lifetime experience to spend that time with Sly!

You are welcome CorkBlisters.I am glad you enjoyed it. All thanks to DOG for printing the article once again.

What was your question gonna be, just out of interest? I'd have asked him about his involvement with the choices for music for the original Rocky, specifically the iconic 'Gonna Fly Now' and also if he had plans of doing an autobiography at some point. There's several unofficial biographies out there, but I reckon he would write an absolute belter!

Both are very good questions, He could write an amazing biography!
I really wanted to know if their would be DVD commentaries for Rocky II - Rocky V to hear some background stories on each film.
Or it may have been asking Sly to recall the scene with Mickey in Rocky V and how that came about. Seeing Burgess Meredith back (although briefly) was a great moment in V.

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