For decades, when I saw Sylvester Stallone on talk shows or clips of promotional interviews with him, I got the impression, without much thought, that he was a guy with a certain charismatic, innate intelligence. However, “Sly,” the infectious and captivating portrait of Stallone and his films that premiered today at the Toronto Film Festival, is based on an interview with Stallone that took place at his luxurious, art-filled, Mediterranean-style mansion in Beverly Hills (now sold on …) was led by Adele). And throughout the film he is so quiet but extremely eloquent, so open about the processes of filmmaking and his strengths (and weaknesses) as an actor, so wise about the meaning of his own fame, that I recognized it with a tinge of shame, a prejudice I have harbored for 47 years. Deep in my reptilian brain, I Despite it I think Sylvester Stallone is Rocky.
I think a lot of people do. On the face of it, this doesn’t seem like such a glaring error in judgment. We all fall into the trap of “believing” that certain actors are the characters they are playing. We think of Humphrey Bogart and imagine him as… Bogart. Sean Connery was indelible as James Bond because he was really good looking epoch James Bond. However, we live in a time of media overload where an actor like Stallone has had every opportunity to prove that he is not Rocky Balboa. His other iconic role, Vietnam kamikaze veteran John Rambo, couldn’t have been more different.
When I watched Sly, I noticed the following: Because Rocky became completely attached to Stallone and Stallone to Rocky. I love the original Rocky (who doesn’t?), but I’ve always thought of it as an “innocent” piece of corn between Brando and Capra: a crowd-pleaser that wasn’t necessarily a work of art. It won the Oscar for Best Picture and always stood in stark contrast to three other 1976 films: Taxi Driver, All the President’s Men and Network. She They were works of art. “Rocky” was an ingratiatingly manipulative neo-Old Hollywood pulp magic trick.
But now I realize that at the heart of this instinctive evaluation was my failure to recognize how much art, how much Performance I set out to create Rocky as a character.
Many actors have a sad story or a tough story. But Stallone’s, as he tells it in “Sly,” stands out from the crowd. He grew up with a tough Italian father who didn’t hesitate to beat him, who didn’t give him peace and who, in short, hated him. And what’s surprising and moving is that, at 77, Stallone has never gotten over it; It still burns him. This father became Rocky Balboa’s lowest stratum: the fact that Rocky worked for a loan shark and made a living breaking people’s guns.
Stallone, born in 1946, grew up in Hell’s Kitchen when it was actually called Hell’s Kitchen, started acting in college and came to Hollywood with no money but big plans. In New York he had done theater, made softcore porn (which is never mentioned in the documentary) and had been cast in small roles as thugs. Quentin Tarantino, interviewed in “Sly,” delivers a passionate and insightful testament to Stallone’s mystique, particularly when he enthuses about a scene from “The Lords of Flatbush” (1974), the 1950s greaser fable which featured Stallone in a supporting role alongside Henry Winkler.
But while it’s now taken for granted that Stallone was a born star, the industry didn’t think of him that way; He thought his appearance was fake. The spaniel’s drunken eyes that looked like they came from a Paul McCartney bully, the sneering grin that Stallone says was due to paralyzed nerves resulting from the damage he sustained during his birth in a community center had suffered, that breathy voice… it was… a little strange. That’s why he wrote “Rocky.” The role that Hollywood didn’t want to accept at the time was created.
The mythical story goes that Stallone wrote Rocky in two and a half days. Yes, but he had spent several years writing scripts, going to the movies and recording the dialogue, and coming home and studying it to complete his own dialogue so he could see how a film came together ; became his own Robert McKee. And those two and a half days were the first draft. He rewrote “Rocky” over and over again, and even though the film drew on many sources: it was “On the Waterfront,” it was “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” it was Stallone in De Niro’s leather jacket and fedora in “Mean Streets.” “. – Stallone pummeled them with his very own heartfelt 70s fairytale composition.
He insisted on starring in the film and played trouble with the studio by refusing to sell the script for $350,000 unless he could also play Rocky. Of course he won. And in retrospect, it was the grumpy and stunted one expressionless The way he played Rocky was so indelible, so authentic… and so created. Stallone, as “Sly” makes clear, is a great conversationalist. His creation of Rocky, the inarticulate wanderer who can only fight but has a gentle soul, was an act of conventional, overt cinematic poetry. That’s why he seems so much himself in the role.
A film lover’s journey through Stallone’s career, “Sly” shows you how he continued to shape his on-screen image and the part of our blockbuster culture he created. After “Rocky,” his star went through turbulent waters. He played a Jimmy Hoffa-inspired character in the 1978 flop epic FIST, where he was subsequently martyred by the debut of a Hollywood screenwriter infinitely inferior to him; That would be Joe Eszterhas. That same year, Stallone directed and starred in “Paradise Alley,” which, like “Rocky,” was reduced to a piece of candy corn.
But then, against the ropes, he did something brave. He made “Rocky II” (1979), directed it himself and invented the culture of the franchise in one fell swoop. Apparently there have been sequels before (“Jaws II,” anyone?). However, no one pretended to do much more than just profit. By taking on a character so beloved, so Oscar-winning, so immediate classicc likes Rocky and says, “Hey, did you ever like that?” Let’s do that again. Because why not?” Stallone has single-handedly rewritten the rules of love in blockbuster films.
And since “Rocky II” was intended to seem like a pale echo of “Rocky,” which it was, Stallone completed the reinvention with “Rocky III,” outlining the franchise’s big final cultural rule. Namely: make it bigger. Put the sequel on steroids. It was an over-the-top movie idea, but the power of Rocky III is that Stallone’s commitment shined through the excess. It was his idea to cast Mr. T (and use “Eye of the Tiger”), and when they got to “Rocky IV,” Stallone was hospitalized for nine days for a fight scene with Dolph Lundgren. But by then he had already reinvented Hollywood.
Thom Zimny, the director of “Sly,” has primarily made films and videos about musicians (like Bruce Springsteen) and portrays Sylvester Stallone as another cult of personality. Speaking to the camera, Stallone tells great stories and makes his own journey compelling.
With “First Blood” (1982) he reinvented himself and redesigned the film in his own image. The original idea of John Rambo is that he was a psychotic warrior. Stallone was sympathetic and insisted on a more triumphant ending than written. Today, toward the end of the Depression, that ideology sounds staid and corrupt, just as Robert Altman turned it on its head in “The Player.” But the point is that Stallone changed the culture. After all, what was “Rocky” (a 1970s film in which Rocky loses the big fight but appears to have won) if not the first act of Reaganism? They were the unconscious roots of Morning in America, the revolution against the revolution. I’m not saying that Rocky was in any way a politically conservative film, but rather that it was culturally traditional in a way that showed people that they longed for a new (old) way.
“Sly” has a lot of fun tracing the parallel storylines and rivalry of Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the ’80s. The two attacked each other and worked to see who could flaunt the most perfect physique in comics. But as Arnold (interviewed here) testifies, they eventually became good friends. The film makes clear how the Herculean body fetishism of films like “Rambo: First Blood Part Two” goes hand in hand with the action. You could believe in the heroic deeds you have seen. However, it was a style of cinema that was destined to end up empty-handed. “Sly” chronicles Stallone’s attempt to reinvent himself as a serious actor in “Cop Land.” It was a transformation that didn’t go entirely well, although Stallone has a good story about encouraging an overly submissive Robert De Niro to become Bobby D. as his police chief.
In this review, it may sound like I gave too much leeway to many films that I had mixed feelings about at the time. In fact, I’ve always been a fan of Rambo, which I think has been underrated due to its right-wing politics. (It’s not that I liked the politics; I hated them. I just don’t think the politics made the film’s action any less brutally exciting.) But what entertained me about “Sly” and what I liked about it appreciated is that Stallone takes us deep into the workings of mainstream Hollywood with the agile directness of his explanations of why he did everything he did. The documentary shows us that no matter how you judge them, Stallone’s films were personal, even as they released (and sort of built) the dream factory of the blockbuster era. He poured out His wrath and His glory upon them. In the age of Netflix and Marvel, you can watch them and almost think, “They don’t make them like they used to.”