After years of muscling his way across the screen, Sylvester Stallone seeks a different label: serious actor.
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CA: Versace, and now, [Rocky co-star] Burgess Meredith just died. Has that changed the way you look at life?
Stallone: Yes. I used to wake up quite often confused and dazed and a bit angered and petulant. Now, I'll lay in bed an extra 15 minutes going over all the wonderful assets of my life: good health, beautiful family, this and that and the fact that I'm given another day to pursue a goal, another day to venture forth. Not a day to wait until I die. Another day to beat death. To get one more thing done before time claims me. So when I turned 50, you start to realize, my God, I'm a third of the way gone. [Laughter] That's the optimist I'm talking about. But I try to fight all the sense of anger or competitiveness or envy or any of the kind of natural things that creep into the minds of anyone in a competitive field. Which is probably everybody, whether you're in the janitorial field or the space program. You're always competing. And that brings out the best and worst in people. So I try to focus. With my little quiver, I have only half or a third of the arrows left. Now I'm really taking aim at targets instead of flocking the world with arrows and hoping something sticks. Now I'm much more focused and investigative.
CA: Are those efforts all part of the transformation of Sylvester Stallone?
Stallone: Yes, it is. It's all part of it. I think there is no question that I have been a bit self-centered in living my life in the last 15 years. Now, there is this lead curtain lifted from in front of my eyes with the marriage and the birth of the child and I feel much more focused. I've burned all my bridges, so now it's like this brave new world and I feel much more energized. That's why I've waited all these years to do your magazine: save the best for last.
CA: Are you less of a workaholic, less of a perfectionist?
Stallone: Actually, I've become more of a perfectionist and more of a workaholic. I hadn't been. That's the big problem. No perfection. I was like a joyaholic.
CA: Does that perception of your past make you feel as if you have to polish your legacy more than what's already there?
Stallone: Yes, I do. I think that one's reputation cannot be buffed enough. It shows that you are making an effort and therefore providing an example that we're never going to rest on our laurels. What is resting on your laurels? It's like a donkey sitting on his haunches. What is that all about? I don't want to rest on my laurels because that means I've given up, raised the white flag and I've surrendered the fort. I'm not doing that. I think that life is a constant uphill grind. But if you have accepted that in a competitive way, it is fun. If you accept it as drudgery, it can be a nightmare.
I don't really know how to manage the art of eternal leisure. I wouldn't know what to do. OK, today, we do nothing. OK, folks. Line up and think of something to do. Nothing? OK. That's it. Today will be a nothing day. I don't know how to do that. But some people--and perhaps it's a gift--they can empty out all thoughts, all sense of competitiveness. All sense of lack of accomplishment. And play three rounds of golf a day and feel good about it. I tip my hat. It's not an easy thing to do. Maybe their goal in life is to do nothing. And they achieved it.
Unfortunately, some of us are strapped with this nagging fear of not doing enough. I don't know which is worse. They sleep great. I sleep a little worse than Bela Lagosi in Dracula. I'm up all night. I might as well have a part-time job as a vampire because I keep the same hours. It's horrible. It's like being guilty of something. And I don't know what I'm guilty of. It's a constant rumble. Brain chatter, I call it. There's a random word, it's bouncing off in garbled, lost language, sentences. And I say stop. Come on. And it just doesn't go away. And I think it all started in '75. Once I was put under a spotlight I never slept sound again.
CA: Is it like getting on a rocket ship?
Stallone: Yes. It really is. Some people--their nervous system is very fragile.
CA: How do you want to be remembered?
Stallone: I think I'd like to be remembered as someone who beat the odds through just plain determination. That I was just dogmatic about the whole thing, that I persevered. Because I think that being somewhat of a pest to life, constantly plaguing and pursuing, will bring results; if nothing else your voice will be heard because you have become such a pain in the ass. "Anything to get rid of him." It's that kind of thing. It's like that wonderful movie Rudy. You think of that five-foot-three guy. And I met him. He's the only person to be carried off the field at Notre Dame. And took a beating. Only because he was a pest in a positive sense. He pestered life until it gave in.