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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

(continued from page 9)

CA: And it was a script, not just a treatment?

Stallone: No, no--it was 96 pages. It was a script.

CA: Wow! You didn't sleep a whole lot in those days...

Stallone: No. But in the first version of Rocky, he had already retired. He was just a street thug. A collector. And we followed him through his trials and tribulations outside the ring. And then someone suggested, "Boy, what would it be if he were still fighting a little bit? He's kind of a bum but he's a club fighter." All right--I went back and added that and it automatically added another 15 pages or so. It became much more of a metaphor and it became much more relevant because I had been heavily influenced by the films Marty and Mean Streets. But taking Rocky back into the ring meant there was great opposition at first, because every boxing film had turned out to be a financial failure. And quite often boxing films were only done for one reason--to get around the morals code. You could see your favorite actor, whether it was Robert Taylor or James Cagney or Elvis Presley, basically in their underwear.

CA: Without a shirt on.

Stallone: Sweaty. You know--acting real physical. The stories themselves always got down and dirty, with bribes, taking falls. It was a very unsavory subject. I had never dealt in that. I just used boxing as a metaphor. So everyone said, "Fine, but Sylvester, no one knows who you are." I said, "Granted, I understand that." And they said, "Well, we'd like to buy the script." I thought about it. But I had this inkling, this certain kind of ethic where I've always believed in myself. I thought that perhaps this was the opportunity. You just know that there are about three or four times in your life when you are really at the crossroads. Quite often we're oblivious to it and it's too late. But this was so blatant, so obvious. They said they wanted Burt Reynolds or Robert Redford or Ryan O'Neal or Jimmy Caan, and every one of those individuals were at the apex of their career. And I certainly had no career whatsoever. And they offered $20,000; I said no. They said $100,000, which was a lot of money then, and remember I was completely broke. My car had cost $40.

CA: Were you living in L.A. at this point?

Stallone: I had just arrived in L.A. Then the price went up to $175,000. And it eventually went up to $360,000, which was close to a record in those days. It was close to a record.

CA: It was a lot of money in those days.

Stallone: Absolutely, unheard of. Like millions today. So I said, "No." I had kind of mastered the art of being poor. I had made poverty an art form. I had really figured it out. So I was willing to chance it and if necessary just be a writer if that was the case. This is where providence shines down on us sometimes. The producers, in some extraordinary act of generosity and entrepreneurial insanity, said, "OK, we'll give you a shot, but if it's not good after one week, you are going to be replaced." And they put up their house as a bond.

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