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  • Writer's pictureTierney Deanne


Updated: Dec 17, 2023

Sylvester Stallone is a household name. Whether you hear his name and think of Rocky, Rambo, Barney Ross from the Expendables, or the Tulsa King you know the face and voice of Sly. If it wasn’t for his drive and passion to break into the industry when everyone kept turning him down, we would have never known any of those characters. Director Thom Zimny puts Sylvester Stallone front and center in this documentary to tell his story.

The entire film flashes back and forth to current day where he is moving out of his home in California and headed east to Florida. We’re watching him start over and move to the next chapter of his life while he discusses all of the previous times that he has had to find a new beginning.

Born in Hell’s Kitchen, New York, in 1946. There was an accident during birth which caused half of Sylvester’s face to be paralyzed, this is the cause of the look and speech impediment that Sly will one day make famous. We see a deep look into what molded Sylvester Stallone as a child. Neither of his parents were very nurturing, they were hardly around. Sly contributes this to his deep desire for the love of an audience. Movies were always an escape for Sly and his younger brother Frank. Stallone found his role model in Steve Reeves’ Hercules, and that is when he knew that he always wanted to be the hero and save people.

When he was still young Sylvester’s parents split up. He and his father moved to Maryland while his brother Frank went with his mother to Philadelphia. Unlike New York, Maryland was full of wide-open spaces without much to do but ride horses. Sly enjoyed riding horses and would eventually take up polo. He became so good at it that he was nationally ranked at the age of 13. Stallone’s father, a man full of inordinate anger, became jealous of Sly’s success and sabotaged his own son’s talent. This amount of jealously would last a lifetime, trying to outdo his son in everything including writing a boxing movie he deemed better than Rocky after it became a box office hit. Sylvester, a successful adult at the age of 40, challenged his father to a polo match. During the game, Sylvester’s father Frank came up from behind and pushed Sly off of his horse where he was nearly trampled. This would be the official end of Sylvester’s polo career.

Sylvester Stallone was a troubled kid, moving around to 13 schools in 12 years. He was often in trouble, getting into fights, until he caught the acting bug. In college he would pursue acting, and was cast in the play Death of a Salesman. After performing a Harvard college professor told Stallone to think about a career in acting. Keen on the idea, Sly moved back to New York to find his way as an actor. Struggling to get any real headway in the industry, Sly was consistently turned down because of his looks and the slur given to him at birth. He did manage to get a couple of low-key roles playing thug type characters. One of these characters was Stanley Rosiello in The Lords of Flatbush. This film would be the first we see Sylvester Stallone in action, putting his own spin on a character. Sly wasn’t completely happy with the script he was given so he spent his time rewriting his lines to build a more relatable character. This would be a precursor to Rocky as it shows him give a goon a soft side. This is also the film that he would befriend Henry Winkler, who quite literally brought him into Hollywood after his car broke down.

Sylvester Stallone has proven time and time again that he is a self-creator. He continues to be involved in not just individual movies, but in franchises. And he isn’t just the star actor, but also the director, writer, and producer. It all started with Rocky because he couldn’t get the role he desired, so he created it for himself. After writing the movie, studios wanted to buy him out so that they could put another actor in as the main character, but Stallone stuck to his guns and never let that happen. This was his story, and he wasn’t going to let anyone else tell it. It paid off, becoming a huge box office hit, thrusting him into stardom.

After Rocky was such a huge success, Stallone found himself in a few flops. Sly decided to go back to what was successful and write a sequel, Rocky II. This time the director wouldn’t agree to the script so Stallone stepped in to his directorial debut. The film proved to be another huge success. Stallone would go on to rewrite the script for Rambo, inspired by the character in the novel who reminded him of his own father, a man broken after returning home from war.

Stallone has always been a physical actor, most famous for action roles, but more importantly he is emotional. That is what allows him to build characters that people will love, admire, and want to see more of. Twelve years after Rocky V, Sly wanted to continue the story. Everyone around him told him it’s over, that the story has already been told. Miraculously, Stallone would once again create a masterpiece about loss and what happens later in life once it beats you down.

Sylvester would carry his desire to be at the very least noticed by his father, and would always do everything to the extreme, he couldn’t slow down, he had to give everything his best. This would come at the detriment to his own health. Dolph Lundgren put Sly in intensive care after hitting him so hard in the chest, his heart swelled. That wasn’t the only time Sly was injured on set, he had a few more hospital visits during the filming of The Expendables. After spending so many years pushing himself so hard as a writer, director, actor, and producer, all he wishes for now is to be a family man. Something his own father couldn’t give him, but he still has time to give his own children. Sly made sure to bring his family along on his shoots, they were often on set. His eldest son, Sage, even starred alongside of him in Rocky V. Stallone wrote the part specifically for his son and added the real-life emotions of not always being there for him. Tragically, Sage passed away in 2012 due to a heart attack.

Sylvester Stallone is very adamant about HOPE. It is what got him into the industry that he always dreamed of being in. It is what keeps him going after all of these years. And he wishes to pass it along to viewers, which is why he never wants the hero to die in his movies. At least, not on screen. He always wants to keep some sort of “mystical quality” in his hero characters.

Whether you’re watching Sylvester Stallone in this documentary, interviews, movies, or his reality show The Family Stallone, his passion bleeds through.

Available on Netflix
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