Cannes Film Fest 2019: Stallone Honored, Discusses Rocky and Rambo

The 2019 Cannes Film Fest honored Hollywood star Sylvester Stallone, who conducted a masterclass, in which he looked back at his 43-year career and discussed how he never intended Rambo to get political.

Thousands queued outside the Salle Debussy to sit down with the star and gave him a raucous standing ovation as he strode to the stage in laid-back cowboy boots and flannel, where he greeted the crowd with a famous “Yo!”

Stallone: R Movies (Rocky and Rambo)

Stallone spent much of the hour-and-a-half-long talk discussing his “Rocky” and “Rambo” characters. He said that the Rambo character “was never meant to be a political statement, but it became one — it took on a life of its own.”

“I’m almost a political atheist. I’m not a political animal and I never wanted to be.  I just thought, this is an interesting story about alienation,” he recounted. “But oh my God, once President Reagan went, ‘I saw Rambo, and he’s a Republican!’” he riffed, dropping his mic and putting his hand to his head in faux disbelief, to roars of laughter.

The actor revisited how hard it was to make a name for himself at first as an unknown face who, thanks to an accident in his youth, actually had a hard time even speaking. “I knew it was bad when Arnold Schwarzenegger told me, ‘You have an accent.’ I go, ‘Excuse me? I have an accent?’” he laughed.

He hadn’t been the first choice for either Rocky or Rambo.  He said of the first, “They would’ve taken a kangaroo — anybody but me,” and of the latter, “I was the 11th choice.”

But he made the roles his own, reprising the former in eight films and the latter in four, with the fifth hitting theaters on September 20.

He’d received his fair share of flak for constantly making sequels, he admitted, but quipped: “Isn’t a famous TV show just sequels? You watch the same damn show for 10 years, but you should only make a good film once?”

Man Against Himself and the System

Stallone understands his typecasting as a certain kind of hero over the years. “You have a certain thing that you can do well. Dustin Hoffman’s not playing Rambo and I’m not playing Tootsie,” he ribbed. What he continues to love is mythology, and stories about “a man against himself and the system.”

“I just try to stay with that and perfect it, and not try to go outside my box too much, because there’s other people who can do those things better,” he said. “Every time I venture away from it, I end up in ‘Stop or My Mom Will Shoot,’ it’s horrible.”

The 1980s and 1990s were full of such flops about which he harbors “a lot of regrets.”  But it’s also something to look back and laugh on. “My daughters go, why did you make this s—? I go, ‘Come on, how do you think I paid for your school? Shut up.’”

Stallone delighted the audience by telling them he still lives with the two turtles from “Rocky,” who are now enormous and about 55 years old. “I think I should do another ‘Rocky’ and I join them in the bowl. Everyone’ll be dead except the turtles, my only friends,” he said.