Sly on the intense gore of Rambo, working with Bruce and Arnold and being a prehistoric 80’s relic.
A few years back, movies like Rocky 6 and Rambo 4 would have been little more than a punch line. But for Sly, going more than a decade without a major box office hit was reason enough to go back to the drawing board.
“You have career peaks and valleys and you harken back to things that you’re sort of known for,” Sly told reelz.com during a recent interview. “Every actor would like to say that you’re Daniel Day-Lewis and have this incredible palette, but quite often you’re known for certain things. So I said, ‘If I could end my career on something, I’d like to finish up the loose end on Rambo.’ The last one [was in] Afghanistan and it didn’t work. And the last Rocky didn’t work, and so I wanted to focus on those two.”
To most everyone’s surprise, 2006’s Rocky Balboa opened to universally strong critical reviews, with many praising it as the best of the series since the first film.
Now Sly is bringing back his other R-named iconic character, John Rambo, in the fourth entry into the series that began with 1982’s excellent First Blood. This one is simply titled Rambo.
Entering the room of print press, Sly was all smiles, adorned in jeans and trademark skin-tight black tee, revealing an impressively chiseled physique for a man of any age.
Sitting at the table in front of us, he looked down at a sea of tape recorders and grinned: “Look at this. It’s like a pawn shop. I love it.”
Make fun of Rocky and Rambo sequels all you like, but Sly knows where the money and the interest lies.
The first question involves media comparisons between George W. Bush and Rambo.
“I know, stop,” Sly laughs. “I know we share a birthday, but… You’re leaving me open. I could just slam that home. What rhymes with Rambo? Dumbo? Nooo….” (Laughs)
If you’ve seen the trailers or read any advance reaction to the latest Rambo film, you’ve probably heard something about the excessive violence of it. Even the promotional wing behind the project, Lionsgate, has been pretty open about the intense nature of the brutality..
When asked about Rambo being one of the most violent movies in years, Stallone has a great response: “Not one of the most. The most. I worked very hard for this.” (Laughs)
“As fate would have it, the world has gone through this transition the last twenty years. Maybe ten years ago this wouldn’t have even been acceptable. But right now with this inundation of violence and this constant bombardment of CNN everyday, I think there’s a kind of frustration building up and it needs a release… It was just good timing.”
Counting the number of deaths in Rambo is a sheer impossibility; by the movie’s end, the body count puts that of the entire Saw series to shame. But besides just glorifying the gore, Stallone also hopes to spread a message about the genocide going on in Burma. The movie opens with a series of newsreel bites to bring audiences up to speed.
“I was dependent on the audience not knowing anything about Burma, even though two months ago they now learned about the genocides with the monks. I just wanted to bring them up to date, so there’s nothing more impressionable than when you actually see real newsreel footage that you’re not doing a film that’s fantasy. It’s for real. I thought it would add a little bit of gravitas to it and bring you up to speed…”
The first thing that came to mind after I saw Rambo was - How in the heck did this not get an NC-17??? “[The MPAA was] conflicted,” admits Sly. “But see, you’re dealing with a real subject. As we are speaking right now, people are dying and being tortured in the most brutal fashion you can imagine and this film will show that. If we’re going to do anything that actually uses this media besides entertaining, it’s to perhaps save a few lives and bring awareness to this. Please don’t water it down. Yes, babies are being decimated, women are being raped… All that happens all the time. Just let it flow. People can turn around. They have this option…”
Although the previous entries in the Rambo series have relied primarily on practical effects work, Rambo has a massive amount of computer-generated touches. For the violence he wanted to achieve, Stallone says there just wasn’t any other way: “When you’re hit flat out - and I don’t know if you’ve seen it on YouTube - but when you’re hit with a 50 caliber, you are literally emulsified. It’s not a like a little ‘Ouch, it hurt.’ You’re gone. When people go to see situations of great violence, it’s horrifying. They’re not slightly wounded… I wanted to show how brutal, so the CGI was necessary…”
I asked Sly whether this was the end of the Rambo franchise and he quickly responded with a “Yeah,” but then rescinded. “You know, I have a very, very bizarre idea. It’s probably so absurd, but… It’s got to formulate a little bit. If I told you I was going to make a movie about a 61-year-old boxer, you’d go, ‘Yeah’ but if you can find the right formula, almost anything is feasible. It’s just coming in there and making the audience go, ‘Okay, that’s possible.’ It’s weird, but Space Cowboys? Hello! It worked.”
It’s been a long time since Stallone’s ‘80’s heyday, but he’s realistic about that and doesn’t mind accepting his place in movie history. “It’s ying and yang. I think some up-and-coming actors will look at me as this archaic prehistoric creature that belonged to a certain bygone genre that no longer exists. Now we’ve become much more scientific, less personal. Most of my peers were very physical – Arnold and Bruce were very hands-on. I think most of [today’s actors] are very hands-off and they’re more intellectual…”
So what’s next for Sly? He hints at working with his fellow 80’s relics, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, which immediately calls the fanboys of the room to rapt attention. “I always talk to Arnold about it,” Sly says with a chuckle. ‘When are you going to get over this job? Let’s go back to having some fun!’ Every weekend, I ask him… I think that Bruce is a possibility.”
Rambo versus John McClane versus The Terminator? The ‘80’s movie nerd inside me quivers just thinking about it. We’ll have to wait and see…