"We've created every kind of incredible action hero there is — there's nothing left to do," said Stallone of his Bullet to the Head character to MTV. "So we're trying to create flesh-and-blood heroes. They're flawed. They're the guys you grew up with."
Stallone has certainly had his fair share of playing tough guys, from average, working-class heroes, to futuristic super cops. While Bullet to the Head will show Stallone's latest offering to the action genre, you'll need only 8 hours to become an expert in Stallone's career and find out how the actor has remained an enduring action star for all these years.
(1976, 119 minutes)
"If that bell rings and I'm still standing, I'm gonna know for the first time in my life...I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood."
In 1975, Stallone had managed to score a few roles in movies like Death Race 2000 and Woody Allen's Bananas, but had his first child on the way and was about to grow broke. Stallone even had to sell his dog. "'It was either the dog or us," Stallone told EW in 2002. "Trust me, I thought it was over."
Based on the reviews he received from his role in 1974's The Lords of Flatbush, Stallone got a meeting with producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff (The Mechanic, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?), who revealed to Stallone that they wanted to make a boxing movie. So did Stallone. "He basically said, 'Look, I'll write the script for nothing for you, but there's one proviso: You've got to make sure that if you want to make it, I've got to star in it,'" said Winkler.
In order to get studio UA to approve of the then-unknown Stallone, the budget was kept down to a mere $1 million dollars. Rocky went on to make $225 million worldwide, and win the Academy Award for Best Picture, with Stallone earning nominations for his screenwriting and acting work. Stallone would continue to work on Rocky sequels for the next decade, starting with 1979's Rocky II, which Stallone wrote, directed and starred in.
(1993, 112 minutes)
"You're not gonna die."
While the 1980s would be mostly kind to Stallone as he continued to create Rocky sequels as well as Rambo sequels after the success of 1982's First Blood. However, the end of the decade wouldn't be so kind. After 1985's Rocky IV, one of the most successful of the Rocky sequels, Stallone would participate in a string of box office misfires including arm wrestling flick Over the Top, prison movie Lock Up and, worst of all, started off the 1990s with Rocky V, which was a critical and financial disappointment. Stallone tried to get his career on track through a few comedies — 1991's Oscar and 1992's Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot — neither of which got Stallone's career back on track.
And then, Cliffhanger arrived. Working with director Renny Harlin, who was riding a wave of success after helming Die Hard 2, Stallone played a mountain climber who is used by a group of thieves to retrieve three suitcases of money taken from the United States Treasury. The movie went on to make $255 million worldwide and a tidy profit, even after including an aerial stunt that paid stuntman Simon Crane $1 million dollars to perform, making it the costliest stunt ever.
The success of Cliffhanger was short-lived for Stallone, however. While Stallone's movies continued to do well overseas, several movies that followed Cliffhanger — 1995's Assassin and Judge Dredd and 1996's Daylight did poorly domestically.
(2008, 91 minutes)
"When war is in your blood, killing's as easy as breathing."
After posting only a few hits in the 1990s, Stallone tried to branch out as an actor, gaining 40 pounds to play New Jersey Sheriff Freddy Heflin in 1997's Cop Land, a role that gained him critical notices, but didn't become the hit the studio was hoping for. What followed was an 8 year period where Stallone struggled to find a decent project, which ended when Stallone decided to revisit his most iconic characters in 2006's Rocky Balboa and 2008's Rambo.
The fourth installment in the franchise, Rambo saw a more subdued Stallone continue the story of John Rambo, who was now living peacefully in Thailand until a group of missionaries is kidnapped by Burmese soldiers bent on keeping the local villages in fear. Stallone also wrote and directed the movie, which succeeded in being similar in tone to the original First Blood, yet even more violent than Rambo III. It also upset the Burmese regime that was depicted as the movie's antagonists. "I'm only hoping that the Burmese military, because they take such incredible offense to this, would call it lies and scurrilous propaganda," said Stallone in 2008. "Why don't you invite me over?
While the Burmese military weren't the only ones to object to Rambo, the movie, along with Rocky Balboa, served its intended purpose: to push Stallone into the spotlight again. To that end, Rambo was huge success, and helped Stallone move on to his next movie franchise.
(2010, 103 minutes)
"Give this job to my friend here, he love playing the jungle."
Rambo started Stallone's association with the Nu Image and Millennium Films production companies, who would help produce Stallone's latest franchise: The Expendables. Again writing, directing and starring, the movie put Stallone in partnership with several action movie star from yesteryear, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren, as well as Jason Statham, Bruce Willis and many others in a story that a group of mercenaries take down a ruthless Latin American dictator. The movie was a huge success, and The Expendables 2 followed two years later.
A third Expendables is currently in the works, the formula of The Expendables seems to be what Stallone will be using moving forward. Outside of Expendables 3, Stallone is also working with Schwarzenegger on the upcoming action-thriller The Tomb and will unite with Robert De Niro for the upcoming boxing comedy Grudge Match.