Sylvester Stallone is most known as Rocky or Rambo, but although he is praised by audiences and action-adventure film lovers for portraying these roles throughout his career, not many are aware that he is so much more than just a wrestling-character icon. He writes a lot of his screenplays and directs a lot of his films, being the one not to follow, but to create his own destiny.
Sylvester Enzio Stallone, as is his full name, was born in New York City. His father was Frank, a hairdresser and beautician, and his mother Jacqueline, described as an eccentric, since she worked as an astrologer, a dancer and a promoter of women’s wrestling. Stallone has a younger brother Frank, that is also an actor and a musician. They are of Italian, French and Russian Jewish descent. Stallone also has a half-sister from his mother’s second marriage, as his parents divorced when he was nine.
When Stallone’s mother was giving birth to him, there were complications, and his nerves were severed during the labour, causing paralysis in parts of his face like lip, tongue and chin, something that is not obvious but gives him his specific looks and a specific manner of speech.
When Stallone was four, he was signed into tap-dancing classes because he was flat-footed. Growing up, he didn’t enjoy going to school, and didn’t have good grades. He did go on to study at a military academy, and then attended Miami Dade College and the University of Miami, and was finally signed into a university in Switzerland. ‘I was an ambitious child and I tended to be scatterbrained. If I was at school and saw a bird outside the window, I wanted to follow it. I was adventurous’, he said about his childhood self. He was an energetic child, that got expelled from as many as fourteen schools because of his misbehavior.
When Stallone was living in Switzerland, he played an extra in a drama Downhill Racer. When he was twenty-four years old, and back home, he got his first film role, after a struggle to find any kind of work and even being homeless for a few days. It was in a soft core pornography film called The Party at Kitty and Stud’s. ‘It was either do that movie or rob someone’, he said. The film was later on released under a new title – Italian Stallion, to rub off of Stallone’s fame. Stallone then appeared in No Place to Hide that same year, then The Sidelong Glances of a Pigeon Kicker, Bananas by Woody Allen, Klute, The Prisoner of Second Avenue, The Lords of Flatbush, Farewell My Lovely, Capone and Death Race 2000. He also made appearances in TV series Police Story and Kojak.
In 1971, Stallone starred in an off-Broadway stage play Score, which was later on made into a movie.
In 1975, Stallone wrote a screenplay in three days, which will change his life forever. There are different stories on how he was inspired, but the point is, he was determined to make it into a movie, and to play the leading role himself. He sent it to numerous studios and finally, after a lot of negotiation, had a contract. The film was Rocky.
‘I grew up not very confident. I had tons of self-doubt and wasn’t physically strong either, so the world appeared to be an extremely large and intimidating sphere. All my life, I always thought that I was alone in these disturbing thoughts, but the older I grew, the more I realized the world is made up of victims, victims of harsh reality, victims of inequality. I thought the most tragic thing one could be confronted with is the prospect of loneliness, and, the second, the lack of opportunity to prove one’s self-worth. So Rocky was just a manifestation of all the underdogs who dream of one day having the opportunity to reach for the stars. They may not get there, but at least the opportunity to show what’s in a person’s heart is the main goal’, he said about the idea behind the film.
The film Rocky was nominated for as many as ten Academy Awards and won an Oscar for Best Picture, Best Directing and Best Film Editing. It was a complete game changer for Stallone, and his role in the film will remain to be one of the most important roles of his life, alongside the one of Rambo. In fact, more people will know his face as the one of Rocky or Rambo, rather than the actor Stallone.
In 1978, Stallone directed and starred in Paradise Alley, then appeared in F.I.S.T. In 1979, he wrote, directed and starred in Rocky II, almost repeating the success of the first film in the series. In 1981, he appeared in Escape to Victory, then Nighthawks. In 1982, he shot First Blood, where he played the famous character of John Rambo, a Vietnam veteran. The film was a huge success, and was made into more sequels: Rambo: First Blood Part II in 1985, then Rambo III in 1988 and finally Rambo in 2008. Rocky also got more of its sequels, and they were Rocky III in 1982 and Rocky IV in 1985.
Stallone continued to write and act. In 1984, he appeared in Rhinestone alongside Dolly Parton, and even performed a song for its soundtrack. In 1986, he did Cobra. In 1987, he appeared in Over the Top, and in 1989 in Tango & Cash.
In 1991, Stallone did the movie Oscar, then Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot in 1992, which he says is the worst movie he ever did. In 1993, he appeared in Cliffhanger, then Demolition Man. In 1994, it was The Specialist, then Judge Dredd and Assassins in 1995. In 1997, he appeared in Cop Land and in 1998 he gave his voice to a character in the animated film Antz.
In 2000, he appeared in Get Carter, then in Driven in 2001, Avenging Angelo and D-Tox in 2002. In 2003, he played a role in Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, had a small role in Taxi 3 and appeared in Shade. In 2005 he became the co-presenter of the NBC Reality boxing series The Contender and appeared in two episodes of the series Las Vegas.
In 2010, after working on new films for Rocky and Rambo, Stallone appeared in The Expendables, which he also directed and wrote the screenplay for. The movie was made up of stars that were once considered his action-movie rivals, like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. The movie was so successful, it got a sequel in 2012 called The Expendables 2, including the appearances of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris, as well as The Expendables 3 in 2014.
In 2013, Stallone played a role in Bullet to the Head, as well as in Escape Plan and Grudge Match. In 2015, he appeared as the character Rocky in a spin-off sequel Creed, earning him a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor and a third Academy Award nomination.
Currently, Stallone is working on numerous film projects to be released in the following two years.
Stallone has his own boxing promoting company called Tiger Eye Productions, having world champion boxers Sean O’Grady and Aaron Pryor as their members.
Sylvester Stallone is most known for his body image and portraying tough characters of Rocky and Rambo, even though he is much more than that. ‘I’m a very physical person. People don’t credit me with much of a brain, so why should I disillusion them?’, he jokes.
Besides numerous awards for his work, he also holds the record for being nominated for Razzie’s (The Golden Raspberry Award Foundation) thirty times, and winning ten of the nominations, along with a special Worst Actor of the Century award in 2000.
He doesn’t pretend that bodybuilding is easy. ‘I’m not a genetically superior person. I built my body.’ Stallone first began bodybuilding when he was in high school and he continues to work out to this day. ‘I never had extraordinary genes or great bone structure, and I’m still very thin. What I try to do is create a body that every man can look at and say – You know, with a certain amount of dedication I can achieve the same thing.- I try to keep it I the realm of athletic, rather than unapproachable.’ He also admits: ‘I abused my body so much throughout my career that I am literally held together by glue. The stuff I took thickens the bones and reinforces the tendons.’ In 2004, Stallone formed his own nutrition company InStone, producing protein pudding and similar boosters. In 2005, he published his book titled Sly Moves: My Proven Program to Lose Weight, Build Strength, Gain Will Power, and Live Your Dream. He also published his own magazine titled named Sly, coming out monthly. In 2006, he created a bottled water brand called Sly Water.
When it comes to politics, Stallone is a supporter of the Republican Party. He is also a strong advocate of the gun control, ever since his friend got shot. ‘Until America, door to door, takes every handgun, this is what you’re gonna have. It’s pathetic. It really is pathetic. It’s sad. We’re living in the Dark Ages over there. It has to be stopped, and someone really has to go on the line, a certain dauntless political figure, and say – it’s ending, it’s over, all bets are off. It’s not 200 years ago, we don’t need this any more, and the rest of the world doesn’t have it. Why should we?’
Stallone goes by the nickname Sly, more often than his real name. He lives in Beverly Hills in California and has a total of five children, two boys from his first marriage: Sage, that has unfortunately passed away in 2012, then Seargeoh, and three girls from his third marriage: Sophia, Sistine and Scarlet.
He’s been married three times. In 1974, he married the actress Sasha Czak. The couple was married for eleven years, then divorced on Valentine’s Day in 1985. Their younger son, Seargeoh,was diagnosed with autism.
The same year he got divorced, Stallone got married again, this time to a model Brigitte Nielsen. Their marriage lasted for two years and they didn’t have any children.
It took Stallone twelve years to decide to get married again, and his wife became Jennifer Flavin, a former model, with whom he has three daughters. ‘’I know I cannot hold on to them forever, but I will as long as I can. I pity the first boy to knock on the door for a date. I’m gonna buy ten more Rambo outfits just to make sure they’re too scared to put a foot wrong. They will probably all run a mile, which suits me just fine. I know I won’t be able to help myself playing the worried dad. My girls were born with the flirt gene. It’s very funny, but it also worries me about what a handful I will have in a few years time. I know it’s stupid – I just don’t want them to grow up. I love my family. I can’t imagine life without them all in the house’’, he says about his daughters. He also admits that it took him a while to understand that what’s most important in life is family – then comes everything else.
Stallone got into tattoos only recently, in his sixties. ‘’I have all kinds of chest injuries. I tore by vein during Rocky II and had 60 stitches. If you’ve seen Rocky Balboa, you’ll know how bad they look. It got worse and worse, and people were saying – ugh, has he got varicose veins? So I thought, fuck it, and covered them with a tattoo of my wife. Then the tattoo started to grow and it went to a skull and before I knew it, I was a mural.’’ He also oil paints in his spare time.
- Sly Moves by Sylvester Stallone
- The Official Rocky Scrapbook by Sylvester Stallone