Sylvester Stalllone in Creed II, which also stars Michael B Jordan

Between a Rock and a Good Place

25th January 2019

They say true grit is as much about timing as it is strength, so with that in mind, Sylvester Stallone must be the toughest of them all. It’s perhaps a little early to talk about a final sojourn, but Sly is elegantly winding down his movie commitments by returning to the character who, arguably, kickstarted the whole thing – Rocky Balboa. Danny Bowman finds out more…

Unlike his most famous incarnation, Sylvester Stallone isn’t the sort of guy who panders to sentimentality – “I work, I earn money, I look after my family… that’s about it, really”. While Rocky Balboa was driven by the energy and emotions of who he was and what he represented, for the 72-year-old actor, matters are a little more stolid. “It’s not that I don’t care; I’m just too busy moving to the next thing to look back.”

But looking back he is, by reinventing Rocky in Creed II – a final fling with his most well-loved character before hanging up his boxing gloves and graciously accepting the status of modern-day movie icon. In the new movie – which also stars Michael B Jordan (pictured below) and Dolph Lundgren, Stallone is back not as a fighter, but a trainer, coaching young hopeful Adonis Creed, who takes on the son of his nemesis, Ivan Drago.

“It feels like the right time to move things on. The Creed story has reached a natural conclusion and it has been a real honour to pass this one down to a new fighter, a new warrior.”

Yet, the warrior status does not end there. While Rocky hangs up his gloves, Stallone’s other iconic character, freelance justice leveller Rambo, reappears for a fifth, final fight against the powers of evil.
It’s been quite a ride for the New York-born actor, director, screenwriter and producer. His debut came way back in 1969 when he appeared as a restaurant worker with Robert Redford and Camilla Spary in 1969’s Downhill Racer. Through Tango & Cash (below), Judge Dredd and into the likes of The Expendables, Stallone’s unmistakable presence has driven tens of millions of fans to the box office. “I think with me you always know what you are going to get,” he laughs. “I’m lucky that I have been able to make a career last out of playing – let’s be honest – very similar characters! Not everyone is so fortunate.”

In truth, Stallone does himself a disservice. The strong-arm tactical pursuit of movie-making he has mastered, certainly, but beneath the brawn there is a polished actor; typecast, perhaps, but determined, committed, and able to paint depth and mystery into whoever he embodies.

“There have been occasions in the past when I’ve tried different things, but you sometimes have to recognise what you’re good at and stick to that,” he says. “I have always been very philosophical about the roles I’ve taken, and beyond that the way I’ve lived my life, and that has always made me happy.”

Happiness extends to a dedicated daily gym workout – even as a septuagenarian – and to a mind routine that practises positive mental health, forgiveness, and even a touch of faith (he is now a practising Catholic, having lapsed for many years).

So when Rambo returns in the autumn, Stallone completes half a century in the camera lens. It’s evident that he remains as passionate now about his craft as he was in what many regard as his 1980s heyday, when the battle for muscle supremacy generally involved warring with Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I could have retired 30 years ago, never worked again and lived my life in the hills of LA, but this for me was never about money or even the showbiz or the fanfare,” he says. “Deep inside, it was the pleasure I took to do something original and entertaining.

Stallone acknowledges that a lot of making movies these days is wrapped in special effects and big productions, but, he says, “if you drill right down into the craft of it, it’s the simplest and most beautiful thing out there – it’s the human spirit showing its creativity and ingenuity.” And, he adds, “there are many out there who do all that much better than me, but to still have people who want to see me on that big screen… well, that’s wonderful.”

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