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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

(continued from page 7)

Being considered too old-it's like a knife in the heart for Stallone. Though he spends more time exercising his back than his biceps when he works out, Stallone is still an athletic performer, one who recognizes just how quickly his window into movies as an actor is closing.

"They always say an actor dies twice," he says. "Being one of the walking dead is the hardest. You're discarded as irrelevant; it's as if your work doesn't carry any more importance. So The Expendables will be a real litmus test. When they did testing, the young audience said they'd go see a film with these stars-even though the average age of the cast is 45.

"So you never know. I thought everyone my age would go see Rocky Balboa. But that wasn't the case; the average age of the audience was 24. That, to me, is mind-blowing. It's major. I guess the audience wanted to see a Rocky film on the big screen. And when they saw it, they liked it."

Stallone recognizes that people mistake him for his characters-whether they're fans or critics.

"The biggest misconception about me as an actor is that I'm very simplistic as an actor, that I don't put in the emotional research, that the characters seem kind of elementary," he says. "But, to have Rocky last for 32 years, which is something I'm very proud of, to keep an audience interested in that character for that long-that's not a simple thing. It's about being able to create different situations that are identifiable to the audience."

Of the six Rocky films, Stallone is fondest of the first and the last ones: "They're the most complete in the dramatic sense," he says. "It's odd to play the same character for 30 years, to watch this fellow move through his life. It's a real anomaly, a freak of cinematic nature."

Critics, however, haven't always been as charitable as his fans. Aside from sometimes punishing reviews and increasing jibes about his age, they also regularly haul out something Stallone said early in his career-that he wanted to direct and star in a biopic he'd written about Edgar Allen Poe-to use as Exhibit A of an artist's unchecked ego.

"That's been the big parody all these years," he says. "At this point, I don't know if I could come up with anything that can rival the hype it's already received. I do have a script that's gone through 20 mutations. Every few years I take it out and rework and update it.

"What fascinates me about Poe is that he was such an iconoclast. It's a story for every young man or woman who sees themselves as a bit outside of the box, or has been ostracized during their life as a oddball or too eccentric to be taken into the main vein. It didn't work for him either. His work was too hip for the room back then. But he developed the modern mystery story. He was also one of the great cryptologists; there were very few codes he couldn't crack. He was just an extraordinary guy."

Even if he does get the project off the ground, Stallone himself has no plans to play the role: "I did at one time. Thank God that never happened."

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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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