Gather ’round young ones, listen to my tale of titans of old! Long before our action heroes were handsome men like Hemsworth or Evans, bodybuilders ruled the silver screen, like Dolph Lundgren and Carl Weathers and Jessie “The Body” Ventura. But none were greater than former Mr. Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Italian Stallion Sylvester Stallone. From their humble cinematic beginnings as Hercules in New York or Joe “Machine Gun” Viterbo in Death Race 2000, the two came to rule cinemas of the 1980s and 90s in action classics such as The Terminator and Rambo: First Blood Part II.
Throughout their careers, the pair had an epic rivalry, one that began with an argument at the 1977 Golden Globe awards and continued as the two battled for box office dominance. While Sly had the greater dramatic and creative chops, as demonstrated by his nuanced turns in the first Rambo and Rocky movies, Arnold tended to score bigger box office hits. That latter problem came to particularly gall Sly when Arnold won over audiences in comedies Twins and Kindergarten Cop, while Stallone’s forays into the genre, Rhinestone and Oscar, were critical and financial flops.
In 1994, Sly added to that list of unsuccessful comedies with Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, in which he starred as tough cop Joe Bomowski, whose life gets turned upside down after his mother Tutti (Golden Girls‘s Estelle Getty) comes to live with him. The ensuing comic high jinks were enough for the movie to make decent money, but only further solidified Sly’s reputation as a lesser comedy star than Arnold.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Stallone points his finger at a few different sources for the movie’s failure. Originally, “Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was supposed to be like Throw Momma From the Train with the mom as this really nasty piece of work,” Sly explained, referencing the 1987 comedy starring Billy Crystal and frequent Schwarzenegger comedy collaborator Danny DeVito. “Instead you hire the nicest woman in Hollywood, Estelle Getty, who you wish was your mother.” For Stallone, Getty’s energy threw off the tone of the movie, something that could not be overcome by director Roger Spottiswoode (who would later helm the Arnold sci-fi flop The 6th Day).
While Sly avoids naming specific people while venting his frustration, one unsurprising person does come up. “Also, I had heard Schwarzenegger was going to do that movie and I said, “I’m going to beat him to it’,” revealed Stallone. “I think he set me up.” And in an impressive act of due diligence, The Hollywood Reporter followed up to confirm Sly’s suspicion. “It’s 100 percent true,” Arnold wrote to the outlet. “In those days we did all kinds of crazy things to get ahead in our rivalry.”
Although THR did not get Sly’s response to the confirmation, the interview does end with Stallone’s thoughts on his rivalry with Arnold. “We start goofing around and being crazy – just laughing at the old times,” Stallone admitted. “I told him: ‘We are the last two tyrannosaurus’ … So we better enjoy each other.” As kind as that thought may be, Arnold has perhaps the wiser outlook when explaining that the rivalry is dead. “Thank God, because we sure don’t ever need another Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.”