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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 10)

CA: And you were willing to take that deal: after a week if it's not working, then you're out of there?

Stallone: Yes. I was so broke at the time and so paranoid I wouldn't even get on an airplane. I took the train from L.A. to Philadelphia with my dog, who had a horrendous case of flatulence. He continued to fart with such lethal degree from coast to coast that finally when I got to Chicago I couldn't take any more and my wife said, "What are we going to do?" I went outside and got the dog and got him in a bear hug and tried to actually help him; but you understand, the dog, Butkus, the 125-pound bull mastiff, his anal muscles far exceeded the power of my entire body. So people were asking, "Why are you squeezing your dog?", this canine tube of toothpaste, and I said, "I'm trying to help him out." Anyway, he kept it in and we proceeded to Philadelphia--another day and a half--and I was dying, I was gassed to death. So finally we arrived in Philadelphia at the hotel and as we are stepping onto the front lawn at the hotel, he decided to relieve himself, and built what was probably the only American pyramid in the United States. It literally lifted him off the ground. You have never seen a dog unload like this. Sooo, this is my welcome. And I said, "If this is an omen, I'm dead. I'm truly dead."

Anyway, the first week I was on my good behavior and something happened. It is difficult to explain to people, but there is quite often a rapport between material, man and camera, and it cannot be choreographed. It works or it doesn't. And I'm very lucky. The movie was filmed in a very raw, rugged way and it just seemed to work. Even though the man was a loan shark, I didn't put offense into it. I didn't put it down in any preconceived notion of how to play the part--it just seemed to work. The character just had a comedic quality about him. Corny, in a way, and in his corniness, he lacked maliciousness. He wasn't really cut out for this. He was like Ferdinand the Bull. Anyway, the week passed and the film went on. It was done in 24 days. For under a million. Isn't that amazing? I am here today because of that gamble.

CA: You took another gamble in 1997: Copland. Taking on the role of a 40-pound-overweight suburban small-town cop was a risky departure. You've said many times in interviews that it was part of a design to shed some of the Rocky/Rambo images of the past 20 years. Have you accomplished your goal?

Stallone: I think so. Very much so. It was almost the exact same feeling that I had with Rocky, not the goals, but what was at stake--the prizes--were quite different. In Copland, there will be no financial remuneration. It was not about that at all. It was literally trying to be accepted in another genre where I feel more comfortable. I became an action actor by accident. I never learned a martial art. I was not raised in a boxing family. It was just something that I grew into or learned for a reason. So, it is not my normal sensibility. Copland or F.I.S.T. or Paradise Alley or even Rocky, these are all ensemble pieces. I wanted to get back, like the song, back to where you once belonged. Go on, Jojo. That's me--like the old Beatle song. So that was what was primarily at risk. I didn't realize that I was so indelibly marked as Rocky or Rambo. The reviews were really quite revealing in how much disdain many writers held for these two characters, especially Rambo. Copland was such a purging and a pleasure to actually let people vent. A lot of writers said, "Finally he is doing something that we can relate to that is not driven by musculature."

CA: Did you suspect that? Is that one of the things that you hoped that they would say?

Stallone: Yes. Very much so. There is maybe 20 percent of the world that wouldn't change. I didn't expect people, based on one film, to change 15 years of having a particular philosophy toward one actor. It is not fair to automatically assume that people will be that flexible in their judgment. But it was a beginning. When Janet Maslin made certain comments in The New York Times, I was so taken aback. I actually felt weak inside because everything was riding on it. Everything. If Copland had not worked, it would have been a devastating trip. Probably one that would have been irreparable.

CA: So, you felt you had put everything at stake?

Stallone: Everything at stake.

CA: At the Cannes Film Festival, you said that to some degree you really despised the last 10 years? Is that true?

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