25 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Sylvester Stallone - IGN (2023)

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With Bullet to the Head hitting screens this week, we celebrate the life of the Italian Stallion.

ByTom Hawker


Aug 16, 2021 11:56 pm


Jan 30, 2013 10:51 am

He beat the odds as Rocky, the Russkies as Rambo and the Nazis as Hatch. Now, after 40 years in the business, nearly $2 billion in box office, some all-time classics and enough turkeys to keep America well fed for a decade of Thanksgivings, he’s back again. Out on Friday, Bullet To The Head is the latest chapter of a rollercoaster career that’s seen Sly go from nobody to box-office no.1 to washed-up chump to comeback king. To celebrate the release of this old-school action flick - the review of which can be found here - the following are 25 trivial tidbits you might not have known about The Italian Stallion.

1. Born Lippy

Stallone was literally born looking tough – on 6 July 1946 – thanks to a rough-handed medical intern. The forceps used to drag ‘lil Sly kicking and screaming into the world directly by his tiny, baby face also severed the facial nerves in his eyelid and lips, ‘gifting’ him that soon-to-be famous sneer.

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2. Heroic Failures

The future star of Rocky, Rambo and Stop! Or My Mum Will Shoot always dreamt of being a hero. In fact, the young Stallone used to wear a superhero costume under his school uniform and even once attempted to fly out of his bedroom window, choosing to halt his inevitable plummet with an umbrella. He broke his collarbone, which was doubtless marginally less painful than the critical mauling that his actual superhero movie Judge Dredd received.

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3. Eat Lightnin', Crap Thunder

Bullied at school and besotted with muscly stars like Steve Reeve, the young Stallone decided to get into bodybuilding. Weights cost a lot of dough however, so Stallone had to go DIY, and by filching huge automobile parts out of the local junkyard to press and working out with cinderblocks attached to a pole he quickly built up those famous hurting bombs.

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4. Working Class Hero

But while Sly’s always liked to play up his rough 'n tough upbringing on the mean streets of Queens, the family Stallone’s sporting bag certainly wasn’t boxing. After Daddy Stallone made some bucks in the hair salon business, they opted for… polo, sport of royalty and billionaires.

5. Stay In School And Use Your Brain

Stallone wasn’t built for academia or, more accurately, academia wasn’t built for a young man with an occasional habit of fighting, lighting fires, firing arrows out of windows and stealing the nuns’ crucifixes. Expelled from 14 schools, Stallone’s mum Jackie somehow managed to book her errant son into a US college… in Switzerland.

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6. Bringing Down The House

The mountain air was the making of Sly – at the American College in Leysin he began acting. Stallone won great notices for his role as Biff in Death Of A Salesman. One night, rather than angrily throw the prop flowers as scripted, Stallone decided to throw the radio instead. It sailed through the fake wall, bringing down the set and revealing the stagehands quietly getting stoned behind it.

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7. Stallone: Lion Tamer

As he tried to launch his acting career, Stallone took a number of odd jobs to bring in the beer vouchers: he worked as a hairdresser, cleaned out the lion’s cages at Central Park Zoo (the big cat pissed on him) and ushered at the Walter Reade cinema chain – the latter gifting him the opportunity to scalp the best tickets on the side. His extra income ran out when he tried to flog hot tickets to one very cold customer: Walter Reade. Cue a P45.

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8. Tell Me About It, Stud

Sly’s first headline role wasn’t exactly a stand-up part, playing Stud in non-more-softcore skinflick The Party at Kitty and Stud’s, where the titular couple organise the world’s most-flaccid orgy, which culminates in the merry gang dancing in a circle naked while Stallone is reduced to gurning like he’s baked on disco biscuits. His ‘best supporting actor’ got badly reviewed too.

9. Rocky Dies?

Most of the Rocky movies underwent some hefty changes before they reached the ring. Early drafts of the original saw him throw the match in disgust; he’s planned to send the Italian Stallion to the Senate (Rocky II) and the morgue (Rocky V), and at one time even toyed with having the returning relic actually successfully sneak over the line for Rocky Balboa’s finale.

10. Cinderella Story

Having kicked the famous Ali/Wepner mis-match around in his head, Stallone cranked out his first Rocky script in a feverish three days, 20 hours, with wife Sasha typing up his scribbles. After a number of redrafts, producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff offered $350,000 for the property – but without Stallone as the star. Despite having a pregnant wife, a dog (Butkus) they couldn’t afford and just $100 left in the bank, Stallone still held firm, accepting a worse deal to ensure that he came attached with the script. Butkus got a supporting part too.

11. Cash In Hand

If Stallone took a pittance in order to star in Rocky, he was canny enough to take a percentage point on the profits. But when Sly complained in a magazine interview that United Artists hadn’t made good with the $2m they now owed him – and hinted at a lawsuit – a studio rep rolled-up in an armoured truck to the set of Stallone’s new film the following day and presented the money to him in notes.

12. Sly Meets The Real Apollo

Stallone got a big surprise at the 1976 Oscars, where he announced the Best Supporting Actress nominations. As he went into humble mode for the cameras, he didn’t notice someone sneaking up behind him. “You stole my script,” vamped the legendary Muhammad Ali, as he and Stallone began to mock spar, “All of that was me, I’m Apollo Creed!”

13. Soccer Shocker

It’s fair to say that Stallone didn’t exactly get soccer before making Escape To Victory. Having needed a lot of convincing that it didn’t make sense for a goalie to score the winning goal, Stallone then figured that he wouldn’t need a stunt double or training for all those sissy ’keeper exploits. He duly dislocated a shoulder.

14. Creature Comforts

Stallone likes to give the audience what they want - a happy ending, whether that’s for Rocky or a rabbit; the original cut of Cliffhanger saw the tracer-wearing decoy rabbit lose a rather one-sided gun battle with the baddies. When test audiences blanched at this, Stallone forked out $100,000 of his own wedge to reshoot it.

15. Man Without Fear

The Italian Stallion believes in conquering your fears the very hard way. Having come to terms with his fear of heights by filming up the Dolomite mountains for Cliffhanger, Stallone decided to tackle his claustrophobia by shooting Daylight by and large in one small, enclosed tunnel set. Presumably, he shot Party at Kitty and Stud’s to cure him of his fear of singing ‘ring a roses’ in the altogether.

16. Pancaking It On

Stallone won the critical plaudits he’d craved his whole life when he starred over De Niro, Keitel and Liotta in James Mangold’s Cop Land. To play the gone-to-seed Sheriff Freddy Heflin, Sly whacked on 40 pounds, leading to high blood pressure and back troubles. His favoured method of weight gain? Giant pancakes from the local creperie. “These pancakes were so big,” he said, “You could put an axle in them and drive home.”

17. First Blood Of Many

Rambo III once held the dubious – or is that awesome? - distinction of Guinness World Record for the most violent movie, with a splendid 221 acts of violence and 108 deaths. Remarkably, 2008’s Rambo movie manages to out-slaughter its predecessor entirely, with 236 deaths – that’s two-and-a-half dead people every minute.

18. Strokes Of Genius?

What he does on screen is rarely called art – though Cobra has a certain Munch-like quality to it – but Stallone is actually a fine artist. And by ‘fine artist’ we mean that people have actually paid $50,000 for his expressionistic dawbings. We’ve seen them, and reckon Tango & Cash is better.

19. Statue Of Liberties

Another Stallone creation that’s outraged art lovers is the Rocky statue in Philadelphia. The two-ton, 10-foot bronze sculpture (by A Thomas Schomberg) was created as a prop for Rocky III and then generously donated to the city afterwards – only to spark outcry from the city’s art lovers. The furious debate over what to do with it has seen Rock move from his iconic position at the top of the museum steps to the local sport arena and then again to the bottom of the steps, where it currently stands tall and proud as one of Philly’s top tourist attractions.

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20. Comeback King

Shooting Rocky Balboa on a budget, Stallone effectively borrowed the genuine Taylor-Hopkins fight as the backdrop for his finale – borrowing both the real press conference sets and the crowd. When ‘Rocky’ made his entrance, Stallone was terrified that the paying pundits would resent his piggybacking the main event. Instead, they went berserk for Balboa, chanting Rocky’s name to the rafters.

21. Living In A Magazine

Hey, anything that Oprah can do… Stallone launched his own magazine cunningly entitled Sly, in 2005. Aimed at the lucrative over-40s market, Sly was full of health tips, celeb interviews and a heavy dose of its publisher-in-chief. It folded after four issues.

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22. Getting Blown A Raspberry

Stallone is one of the most award-laden stars of our lifetime. Sadly, most of those awards are Razzies. Sly is the most Golden Raspberry nominated star of all time, with 30 noms, winning 10 – including four worst actor awards and the specially created Worst Actor of the Century award.

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23. Stop! Or We’ll Make You Watch It Again…

What does Stallone rate as his worst movie? Well, he’s admitted that he’s not planning on rewatching Driven, Oscar or Rhinestone anytime soon, but bottom of the pile is Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. “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.”

24. “I Must Break You”

Sly might not be in danger of winning an Oscar but he certainly deserves a purple heart for his efforts… though he almost got a genuine one on the set of Rocky IV after Dolph Lundgren punched him in the chest so hard that Sly’s heart swelled, causing him to have to be flown to hospital for intensive care. Elsewhere, Stallone’s suffered from body shock (Rocky III), broken ribs (Rambo and Escape to Victory) and a broken neck (The Expendables). That’s a broken neck, people. And afterwards, he just went back to work.

25. A Boxing Great

Who’s the odd one out from Wladimir Klitschko, Manny Pacquiao, Oscar de la Hoya and Sylvester Stallone? Well, only one of them is a Boxing Hall Of Famer, and you’re already ahead of us as to which one it is. Stallone was inducted in 2011 for his contribution to boxing. “Sometimes I write things that may seem a little sentimental,” he said in his induction speech, quoting Rocky Balboa, “but I truly believe it’s not how hard you can hit — it’s how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” And if that weren't enough, he's also been inducted into the even more prestigious IGN Action Hero Hall of Fame...

Bullet to the Head is released on Friday.

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25 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Sylvester Stallone - IGN (10)


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