Jonathan Crocker

Editorial Director | Film Journalist

Talking movies… Sly Stallone

Posted by Jonathan On August - 16 - 2010

1. The Party At Kitty And Stud’s

“I’d been bounced out of my apartment and had slept four nights in a row at the Port Authority bus terminal, trying to avoid the cops. I owned two shirts, three pairs of underwear, a pair of pants and a jacket – all of which I had on at the same time since I had no place to put them. I mean, I was desperate. I read in a trade paper about this film that was paying $100 a day – for a $100 a day I would wreak havoc. So I showed up and found myself literally standing in the valley of the skanks. There was no real sex involved, just bad imitations and the close proximity of skankalicious skin. After I made Rocky, someone tried to blackmail me with the tape, wanting a million dollars. I said, ‘For a million dollars I’ll remake the film.’ Actually, I hated the process so much that it is pretty obvious by my appendage, which is trying to retreat in my body, seeking safe haven…”

2. Rocky I-VI

“I started writing scripts right after Easy Rider. Before Rocky came along, I had probably written 10 or so. I pretty much barricaded myself in the room and started to pound away, thinking, “What would be an interesting vehicle if I had one shot to perform?” I was influenced by Mean Streets and Marty and I always had an affection for sports. Three and a half days later, I had a shabby 89 pages of a script called Rocky. Of this hand-written script, maybe only 10 percent was usable, but I enjoy rewriting. I know everyone assumes the original Rocky would be my favourite, but I have to say that Rocky Balboa was the most emotional and fulfilling journey of all the Rocky films. Maybe it’s because I learned to appreciate what is really valuable in life, which is the love of others and what is the most terrifying, which is the prospect of a life filled with loneliness.”

3. Nighthawks

“Nighthawks was a very difficult film to make namely because no one believed that urban terrorism would ever happen in New York, thus felt the story was far-fetched. It was a better film before the studio lost faith in it and cut it to pieces. What was in the missing scenes was extraordinary acting by Rutger Hauer and the finale was a blood-fest that rivalled the finale of Taxi Driver. But it was a blood-fest with a purpose. Rutger Hauer is a little demented, so he was fantastic work with. He took a lot of pain on that shoot, especially when a squid placed on his abdomen was flipped backwards and the explosive charge blew right into his flesh. Most guys would have gone to the hospital – he kept working, reeking blood and all. The stunts in the film were pretty extraordinary because they were invented along the way.”

4. Rambo I-IV

“Without a doubt, Rambo is a very, very difficult screenplay because I have to backtrack to a time when character was at the forefront over action. Rambo is the unwanted child of an insensitive military machine. He’s kinda like the Frankenstein monster who didn’t ask to be built and then is pursued to his demise by haunted memories. In James Cameron’s original draft, it took nearly 30-40 pages to have any action initiated and Rambo was partnered with a techie sidekick. So it was more than just politics that were put into the script. There was also a simpler story line. If James Cameron says anything more than that, then he realises he’s now doing the backstroke badly in a pool of lies. Finally, Joe Eszterhas wrote a script that was nearly 400 pages and was more of a novel than a shootable screenplay. A great deal of work was done by myself, along with Norman Jewison, to hammer it into shape. The fellow I really wanted to kill the most (while in character) was Harold Diamond, who was my stick-fighting opponent in Rambo III and truly a legitimate badass. That was, without exception, a brutal scene to shoot.”

5. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot

“The worst film I’ve ever made by far. Maybe one of the worst films in the entire solar system, including alien productions we’ve never seen. A flatworm could write a better script then Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. In some countries – China, I believe – running Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot once a week on government television has lowered the birth rate to zero. If they ran it twice a week, I believe in 20 years China would be extinct. The best part of the SNL show I did was when I tried to pull a couple of victims from a car, but they would rather die than be saved by the man who made Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Hey, if you don’t laugh at yourself, eventually other people will, and that’s not a good thing. There’s an old saying: ‘To those who think, life is a comedy, to those who feel, life is a tragedy.’”

6. Cliffhanger

“No matter how hard I tried I could not prepare myself mentally. Until we got to the mountains, I was so consumed with acrophobia, the height, I would have to psyche myself up every day. I’d take these long walks: ‘You’ve gotta get to the edge, you’ve gotta get to the edge. Do it. Forget who you are. Try to pretend you’re the character.’ Actually, the director’s cut was met with a lot of disapproval at the screening and received some alarmingly low scores – mainly because the stunts were absurdly overblown. For example, the average man can jump maybe 12ft across a gorge and the stunts had me leaping maybe 300ft or more. Situations like that had to be pared down and still were fairly extreme. So you’re probably better off with this regular cut. I hear they are going to remake it. You know you’ve been around when they start to remake your own movies when you’re still alive.”

7. Judge Dredd

“I think the biggest mistake I ever made was the sloppy handling of Judge Dredd. I think that could have been a fantastic, nihilistic interesting vision of the future – judge, jury and executioner. I think, from what I recall, the whole project was troubled from the beginning. The philosophy of the film was not set in stone. By that I mean, ‘Is this going to be a serious drama or with comic overtones like other science fiction films that were successful?’ So a lot of pieces just didn’t fit smoothly. It was sort of like a feathered fish. Some of the design work on it was fantastic and the sets were incredibly real, even standing two feet away, but there was just no communication. I knew we were in for a long shoot when, for no explainable reason, Danny Cannon, who’s rather diminutive, jumped down from his director’s chair and yelled to everyone within earshot, ‘FEAR me! Everyone should FEAR me!’ Then jumped back up to his chair as if nothing happened. The British crew was taking bets on his life expectancy.”

8. Cop Land

“The people I respect are the ones who take it on the chin every day, the ones who don’t have a lot of money or a lot of muscles or a lot of genetic gifts, but what they have is an abundance of heart. The only film in which I’ve portrayed a person like that is Cop Land. Cop Land was the first film where I completely dispersed with all tricks. That’s why I’m so proud of it and everyone who pushed me into it, because I never would have done it on my own. I loved doing Cop Land for the involvement of being surrounded by so many good actors who expected to annihilate ‘the action guy’ and leave me gasping for breath. Just the opposite occurred. I really enjoyed the ensemble work and knowing that everyone had each other’s back. Make no mistake about it, everyone’s ego arrived to the set 10 minutes before them, but once the camera rolled, it all meshed together. Yes, gaining the weight was very important for me, to understand the sombre nature of the character and change my body mechanics, so the poor, semi-deaf sheriff moved through this world with a sense of burden.”

9. The Expendables

“This is the hardest film I’ve ever worked on. Man, it was seven guys, kicking each other’s ass, one guy tougher than the next. No joke, our stunt guys were begging for mercy. You think I’m joking? We got extras in this movie that could conquer countries. Actually, my fight with Stone Cold Steve Austin was so vicious that I ended up getting a hairline fracture in my neck. I’m not joking. I had to have a very serious operation afterwards. I now have a metal plate in my neck. Let’s say we just dug up The Wild Bunch, gave them one more shot. These guys don’t fit in this kind of world; they are the Expendables, that is why they are called that. It’s an ‘80s movie with today’s technology. I just felt that if you are going to do a story about a mercenary, which is always a fascinating character, you try to put him in a situation where he can find certain redemption.”

Publication: Total Film.

Read more in the incredible Sly Stallone mega-interview at Ain’t It Cool News.

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Following a decade’s experience as a journalist, Jonathan currently specialises in brand storytelling, content, strategy and UX as Editorial Director of London creative agency Human After All. He continues to write about film and men’s lifestyle on a freelance basis.

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