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Stallone II

After years of muscling his way across the screen, Sylvester Stallone seeks a different label: serious actor.
Gordon Mott
From the Print Edition:
Sylvester Stallone, Mar/Apr 98

"I did ["Saturday Night Live"] because it will do more to change my image than anything else," Sylvester Stallone said after viewing his Sepetmber 27, 1997, TV appearance for the first time. "Millions of people watch this show. They'll think of me differently." Changing his public image is one of Stallone's top priorities. He no longer simply wants to be seen as Rambo, or remembered for his multiple Rocky movies. His decision to take on the part of the 40-pounds overweight Freddy Heflin in Copland last year wasn't about playing a character. It was a carefully chosen role aimed at transforming his image. He wants to shed the constraints of the sculpted, physical action heroes that he milked for 20 years. Instead, he wants to return to his roots as a serious actor. In truth, his Copland performance echoed his first major role in Rocky, the career-launching low-budget movie that turned Stallone's name into Hollywood gold.

Stallone doesn't regret the way Rocky took over his life. In fact, it's his favorite role. It doesn't hurt that it also gave him extraordinary wealth and freedom and a place in cinematic history for the successful marketing of the sequel genre. Yet there's a nostalgia that creeps into Stallone's voice today when he talks about his wishes to return to serious acting, to serious roles that don't depend on flexing his muscles and flying through the air with danger all around.

Regret is probably too strong a word for his assessment of some of the movies he has made since 1980. But there are some titles on the list that he's on record as despising in one form or another: Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, Judge Dredd, Assassins, Daylight and even the last in his Rocky series. His published comments on those films alone would fill a Worst Nightmares list for most any actor working today.

What seems evident is that Stallone has reached a point in his life where he is scrutinizing almost everything about his past, not just his choices of movies, but his personal life as well. Call it a mid-life course correction, or just the onset of a more mature wisdom. On "Larry King Live," for instance, Stallone recently said that he'd "made tremendous mistakes in my private life where I'm trying to rectify things."

In his Miami mansion, a glittering array of rooms filled with almost-over-the-top baroque treasures and priceless paintings, Stallone is quick to show off one tiny person who is helping mend the past: Sophia Rose, his 18-month-old daughter. Jennifer Flavin, whom Sylvester married last May in London, is also ever-present, being mom and lady of the manor, making sure everything is running right. Even the house, however, isn't safe from the scrutiny of what is right or not right about his life. The Miami digs went on the market last fall for $27 million. Stallone isn't saying where they'll move, but he admits to wanting more time in Los Angeles, while keeping a home "somewhere on the East Coast," probably somewhere less visible than Miami, but with plenty of golf courses to serve his obsession with the little white ball.

When all is said and done, the 51-year-old Stallone knows he will never be able to totally abandon the fighting-against-the-odds character of Rocky. In truth, the challenge to overcome the obstacles is what makes him tick. He often cites the profound feelings of inadequacy that he grew up with, and thus, the glorified hero and the accolades it provides is salve for the struggles of his earlier life. At the same time, Stallone sees himself as a consummate actor, a professional who take can take on any role, be it a serious drama or a comedy. He only wants to be able to assume all sides of his on-screen characters and to be offered serious roles that stretch him as an actor. But in the end, he yearns for a place in cinematic lore beyond Rocky and Rambo.

The desire is honest. You can hear it in his words and see it in his eyes. In his den, a dark, wood-paneled room filled with leather-bound books, leather chairs and rare Bedouin rifles hanging high on the walls, there is a small, homespun knit pillow inscribed with what truly must be Stallone's words to live by: "He lived life on his own terms. He fought his wars. He lost a few. But he never quit."

In a comprehensive interview late last year with Cigar Aficionado, Stallone discussed his life, from cigars to golf to new movies to another retelling of the Rocky legend.

Cigar Aficionado: There are humidors everywhere here. You clearly love cigars. Tell me what about them attracts you.

Stallone: I smoked cigarettes for many years, probably from the time I was about 12 years old. I remember up until the time I was doing Rocky I, I had a cigarette when I was in the ring. That's how bad the addiction was. Finally, I said, "This is only going to bring an early death." There also came a point when I thought that cigarettes looked somewhat silly on adults. Yet I have always been drawn to the idea of an oral fixation, and also feeling somewhat more relaxed with something smoking in my hand.

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