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The Underdog

Sylvester Stallone returns to the big screen in The Expendables, where the action hero fights against all odds to overcome the bad guys.
Marshall Fine
From the Print Edition:
Sylvester Stallone, July/August 2010

Sylvester Stallone aims a remote-control at the flatscreen TV in his Beverly Hills production office and an image pops up from a documentary about the making of his newest film, The Expendables.

It shows Stallone-still in remarkable shape at 63-being body-slammed into a brick wall in the catacombs of what is supposed to be the capital of a Latin American island republic. Stallone, a solidly built 5-foot-10 with what looks to be about 4 percent body fat, is the slammee-and the slammer is the massive "Stone Cold" Steve Austin of World Wrestling Entertainment fame, a daunting 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds of manhandling brutality.

A cloud of dust rises-and as it settles, Stallone calls cut, then says, "Shit," puts a hand to the back of his neck and walks off the set.

Back in his office, Stallone hits "pause" on the remote, then reaches into a drawer in his desk, rummages around in a file and comes up with an X-ray: his neck, with what looks like a small clothespin on one of the vertebrae.

"I've got a bolt in my neck where he cracked the vertebra," Stallone says. Then he flicks the DVD back into action: It's Stallone, looking at an MRI of his shoulder from the same hit, with a doctor telling him he needs surgery to correct the blown rotator cuff he also suffered.

"I knew it was really fucking bad," Stallone says, indicating the image on the TV screen. "The doctor wanted to fix my neck and my shoulder right then. But that would have meant closing down the movie."

Stallone eventually had a quartet of surgeries to repair the damage that comes from doing 90 percent of your own stunts-but not until after filming was complete. The Expendables, set to open in mid-August, never halted production for Stallone to have his injuries repaired.

"I just wanted to do something original, something physical, something that would keep me young in the brain-so I don't have to admit I can't do this anymore," Stallone says with a rueful smile.

Still, he has another message as well: I'm human. When Stallone escapes Austin's clutches and gets back to his own men, one of them asks, "Where have you been?"

"Getting my ass kicked," comes the reply, with an "At least I survived" shrug.

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Comments   1 comment(s)

stantine972 October 9, 2010 9:01pm ET

Mr Stallone, I have enjoyed you through your whole career and still look forward to your next project. Thank you. Keep the movies coming and thanks for actually smoking a cigar for the cover of "Cigar Aficionado" magazine. Cigar Aficionado, thank you for interviewing a cigar smoker.

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