“No one likes to fail at anything, but I believe I’m a better person for it. I learned life’s lessons. You’re given certain gifts and that’s what you should try to be.”
Rocky Balboa and Rambo are the two personas you think of when you hear the name Sylvester Stallone. Sure, you’ve watched the movies countless times, so you know about those characters. But what do you know about the man behind the roles? Keep reading to find out!
42. Writing for a Fight
That first Rocky film? Stallone wrote that. In three days! He was inspired by the 1975 fight in Cleveland between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner. Not many people gave the film (which was shot in 28 days) a chance, but it won Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 1976, earned $225 million at the box office, and even scored some sequels.
41. Everything Happens for a Reason
It was a bit of a fluke that Rocky was made. Stallone had gone to an audition and mentioned that he was also a writer. The producers asked him if he had anything in the works, and Stallone said he did. He told them about Rocky and the producers were hooked!
40. Man of Bronze
There’s a giant, two-ton, 10-foot tall bronze statue of Rocky in Philadelphia that’s a major hit with tourists. But locals and art enthusiasts weren’t a fan with where it originally was put: at the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s steps. It got moved to the local sports arena, but ended up back at the museum, this time at the bottom of the steps.
39. First in Class
At the 81st annual Boxing Writers Association of America’s awards dinner in Las Vegas, Stallone received their first ever award for lifetime cinematic achievement in boxing.
38. Ring of Honor
He was also inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 2011 along with Mike Tyson. Some boxing enthusiasts weren’t exactly thrilled about this decision, as Stallone only played a boxer on the big screen and hasn’t actually fought in the ring himself.
37. Going Ringside
On his 36th birthday in 1982, he had the chance to be a manager for the boxing match between Lee Canalito and Curtis Whitner in New Jersey. His brother, Frank, was also involved during the match: he got to be a corner man for Canalito.
36. Paint Me Like One of Your French Girls
Stallone likes to paint oil paintings in his spare time, and Leonardo da Vinci is a personal hero of his. Two of his paintings have even earned $90,000. Another famous name he’s a fan of: Edgar Allan Poe.
35. Bye Bye, Sly
Stallone dabbled in the magazine business for a time–a very short time. Aptly named Sly and geared towards a more middle-aged market, the magazine was released in 2005 and had everything from health tips to celebrity interviews. Too bad it only lasted four issues, though.
34. Thanks, but No Thanks
Three years before the failed magazine, Stallone had taken a chance producing Father Lefty, a TV show he created. Although CBS did air the pilot, the show wasn’t picked up for any further episodes.
33. Bulk up Like Stallone
He really wanted to make a name for himself outside the acting world. In 2004, he released his own nutrition line called InStone. It had boosters for energy and testosterone and also had food like protein pudding and protein shakes. It seems like it also didn’t last–a quick Google search turns up very little chance to buy these products.
32. Three Musketeers
Along with fellow actors Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Stallone was a part-owner of restaurant chain Planet Hollywood. Oddly enough, Stallone turned down the lead role in Die Hard, which would go to Willis.
31. Turn Down for What
That wasn’t the only big role Stallone has turned down. He said no to Superman, which went to Christopher Reeve; the lead in Beverly Hills Cop, which went to Eddie Murphy; and Richard Gere lucked out when Stallone turned down Pretty Woman.
30. Darth, He is Not Your Son
Stallone tested for the Han Solo role in 1977’s Star Wars film but didn’t make the cut. He explains, “when I stood in front of George Lucas he didn’t look at me once. Well, obviously I’m not the right type… It all worked out for the best since I don’t look good in spandex holding a ray gun!”
29. Greasy Gere
One actor who he’s not exactly friends with: Richard Gere. There was an incident involving greasy chicken covered with mustard on the set of the movie they were filming, The Lords of Flatbush. After a warning from Stallone, Gere’s food dripped on Stallone’s leg and Stallone responded with an elbow to Gere’s head. “The director had to make a choice: one of us had to go, one of us had to stay. Richard was given his walking papers, and to this day, seriously dislikes me.”
28. Not Just a Tough Guy
In an effort to get away from his typical macho characters, he signed on for the 1997 film Cop Land to showcase some of his more serious acting abilities. Incredibly enough, he only earned $60,000 for his role.
27. Politically Inclined
Stallone is a big supporter of the Republican Party, and even donated $15,000 to Schwarzenegger’s re-election campaign for Governor of California in 2006. In spite of that, he actually supported Democratic President Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial and even held a fundraiser for the Democrats at his home. “I’m not right wing, I’m not left wing,” he has said. “I love my country.”
26. Can’t Buy Him Guns
It seems almost contradictory considering there’s a lot of gun use in many of his films, but Stallone called for a ban on guns in the US in 1998 after one of his friends, actor Phil Hartman, was shot and killed.
25. Keeping the Faith
He’s had an on-again, off-again relationship with the Catholic Church. He was baptized and raised as a strict Catholic, but found himself turning away from the religion once his acting career took off. He rediscovered Catholicism in 1996 when one of his daughters was born, however, he described himself as spiritual in a 2010 interview with GQ magazine, adding that he wasn’t part of an organized church institution.
24. Man’s Best Friend
Things were pretty rough before Rocky. Stallone had to sell his dog, a bull mastiff, for $50 because he couldn’t afford to keep him. But, just a week later, he had made enough money from selling the Rocky script to buy his beloved pet back. That’s where things get really interesting. Stallone had sold his dog to a little person named Little Jimmy. When Stallone went to buy his dog back, Little Jimmy got a little angry, and even wanted to fight Stallone. “He wanted to fight me and said he was gonna kill me…I couldn’t fight him, they’d arrest me, so I offered to pay double.” Stallone had to offer $3,000 and a small role in the Rocky film, but he got his dog back.
23. Third Time’s the Charm
Some women still think he’s handsome–he’s been married three times! He married his current wife, Jennifer Flavin, back in 1997, but they had been dating for some years prior, and Stallone even broke up with her in an uncool way in 1994. He sent her a “Dear Jane” letter by FedEx! But just a year later they got back together. All’s well that ends well?
22. The Time Is Right
You’ve heard of “case of the angles”, but what about “case of time”? Stallone has a certain time of day when he thinks he looks his best. “I’d say between 3 pm and 8 pm I look great. After that it’s all downhill. Don’t photograph me in the morning or you’re gonna get Walter Brennan.”
21. “S” Marks the Name
He has five kids with two of his wives, and their names all start with the letter “S.” There’s Sage, Seargeoh, Sophia, Sistine, and Scarlet. His sons even had the chance to play his on-screen son in two different Rocky movies–Seargeoh in Rocky II in 1979 and Sage in Rocky V in 1990. Sadly, Sage passed away in 2012 in Los Angeles.
20. The Need for Love
Up until he was about five, Stallone spent a lot of time in the foster system. His parents fought a lot and ignored Stallone and his brother. He’s said that his attempts to get his many foster parents to show affection towards him was one reason he got into acting.
19. Failure to Launch
A young Sly thought himself a superhero, and, a la Clark Kent, he wore a superhero costume under his regular clothes. He tried jumping out a window once to test his flight skills, deciding to use an umbrella to help slow down his fall. It didn’t work, and he broke his collarbone as a result.
18. Tough Guy, Kind Heart
He may not be a superhero in the comic book sense of the word, but he did help raise funds and awareness for the city of Sderot in Israel in 2008. Along with Paula Abdul and Jon Voight, Stallone took part in a concert for the city, which had been hit with ongoing Kassam rockets–over 7,000 in a seven-year period.
17. The Old Case of Use What You’ve Got
He was bullied in school, so he decided he needed to bulk up. Because the weights were too expensive, he got a little creative with what he used: car parts from the junkyard. He also used cinderblocks attached to a pole to build his muscles.
16. Tearing It Up
Nowadays, Stallone’s body is built, let’s face it. In his prime, he claimed he could bench press upwards of 400lbs and squat 500lbs. However, in a bench-pressing contest, he tore one of his pectoral muscles and required over 160 stitches to fix it up. That’s why you’ll see one half of his chest has more veins than the other (if, you know, you notice these kinds of things).
15. Risky Business
During the filming of Rocky IV, Stallone wanted Dolph Lundgren to punch him as hard as he could–and he did. Stallone ended up in intensive care as a result. He also wound up with a broken neck during filming of The Expendables after shooting a scene with Steve Austin. That injury was fixed with a metal plate. Yikes! “I abused my body so much throughout my career that I am literally held together by glue,” he’s said. “The stuff I took thickens the bones and reinforces the tendons.”
14. Can’t Cut This
How much money would it take for you to cut your hair for a commercial? Apparently, there was no amount of money that would make Stallone chop his locks back in 1988. He was offered four million dollars to do a beer commercial under the stipulation that he cut his hair, and then was offered another million after he declined. But still, he wouldn’t budge.
13. Owning Up
Stallone recently faced charges in Australia over importing human-growth hormones that were banned in that country. He hadn’t shown valid prescriptions for the 48 bottles of the HGH drug Jintropin. He pled guilty to the charges and ended up paying over $11,000 in fines and court costs.
12. Packing on the Pancakes
He clearly doesn’t hold anything back when he’s cast for a role. For his part in Cop Land, he had to put a good 40lbs of weight on him, which he accomplished through pancakes. “These pancakes were so big,” he said of the local restaurant, “you could put an axle in them and drive home.” The added weight also had its pitfalls: his blood pressure rose and he suffered from back issues.
11. Lion Pee and Scalping, Oh My!
Stallone did some odd jobs over the years just to get by. He worked at the Central Park Zoo where he cleaned out the lion’s cages–with one lion even peeing on him. He was also an usher at Walter Reade cinemas, where he was able to snag some tickets and sell them on the side. He even tried scalping tickets to the actual Walter Reade once, who, dare we say, was less than impressed.
10. Just a Quick Hello
Not exactly an odd job, but Stallone guest appeared on the Mexican Big Brother VIP 2 in 2003. He was in the country promoting his movie Spy Kids 3: Game Over and got the invite to appear, though just for a few minutes.
9. They Probably Should Have Talked About That First
Tyrone Stallone: Kind of just rolls off the tongue! Stallone’s mother, Jackie, was a big fan of film actor Tyrone Power and intended to name her son after him. After his birth, she discovered on the birth certificate that her husband had changed the name to Sylvester.
8. Safe to Say He Showed Them
School wasn’t exactly his thing. By the time he turned 13, he had already been kicked out of 14 schools for being antisocial and because of his violent behavior. He was voted most likely to end up in an electric chair at one point, too. His mom ended up shipping him off to school in Switzerland so that he could continue his education.
7. School of Life
In 1999, he reasoned that all of his life experiences and acting credits be put towards the credits he still needed to graduate college. The request was granted, and the president of the University of Miami gave Stallone his degree for Bachelor of Fine Arts.
Even Stallone has his fears, and he’s got to live them out on screen. His fear of heights caught up to him while filming Cliffhanger, where part of the shoot took place in the Dolomite mountains. He also had to address his claustrophobia for Daylight, where he did a lot of filming in a small and enclosed tunnel.
5. Stop! Don’t Watch That!
If you asked him, the actor would say his worst movie was Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Of it, he said “It’s one of the worst films in the entire solar system, including alien productions we’ve never seen…a flatworm could write a better script.” Kind of makes me want to go watch it now.
4. King of the Razzies
As of 2004, Stallone held quite the dubious honor–most nominations for Razzie Awards. He’s even won 10 times, including for Worst Actor, Worst Actor of the Decade, and Worst Actor of the Century. Harsh! He also has the longest unbroken streak of nominations, from 1985 to 1997.
3. Catch Him in His Birthday Suit
In 1970, six years before starring in Rocky, Stallone starred in a softcore porn called The Party at Kitty and Stud’s. He was 23 at the time and was paid $200 to bare it all as “The Italian Stallion.” After the release of Rocky, the adult film was renamed The Italian Stallion.
2. Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Stallone has said he really didn’t have a choice when it came to doing the erotic film. He was homeless at the time, sleeping at the New York City Port Authority bus terminal for three weeks. He saw the casting notice and went for it. “It was either do that movie or rob someone, because I was at the end–the very end–of my rope.”
1. Born This Way
The actor’s deep, slurring voice is highly recognizable, and there’s actually a medical reason behind it. The lower left side of his face was permanently paralyzed because of complications when he was born, which is also why he has an almost crooked smile. The doctor accidentally severed one of the nerves in his cheek with his forceps. “I’m not handsome in the classical sense,” he’s said. “The eyes droop, the mouth is crooked, the teeth aren’t straight, the voice sounds like a Mafioso pallbearer, but somehow it all works.”