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The 20th & Final Round of the Stallone Questions - There Will Be A Rematch!

Hey folks, Harry here - As with many of you - I'm addicted to these columns - and I guarantee you we'll be doing something special with this series of articles. Stay tuned on that front. I took Question #200 - Here you go, round #20...

1. The question I want you to answer is one concerning Rocky IV, in which you fight a man who, purportedly, has a punch power equal to that of a blast from a shotgun. Many have viewed this film as anti-Russian cold war propaganda. Others (including myself) consider it to be anti cold war. On the one hand you have the Soviet machine who kills poor Apollo and is defeated by the American hero literally wrapped up in the stars and stripes. On the other hand, Rocky IV embraces the possibility of a positive relationship between the USSR and the US. This is evidenced by the Russian crowd cheering the man in the flag. Further, it is apparent that Drago, rather than being a Soviet machine, is a product of a political system forced into a position of antogonist against America. This is depicted nicely in the press conference scene in which the Soviet group are ridiculed by the press et al (Paulie). In the end Drago expresses his individuality, and therefore his liberation from the Soviet mindset. The message I infer from this is that people, be they Soviet or Capitalist, are invidividuals, and it is erroneous to attack any people based on the political system they just so happen to live under. Am I close to the mark? Or is Rocky IV genuinely an anti-Soviet movie? All the best, Rob. Leeds. UK
No, actually, I have always had tremendous respect for the resiliency and creative nature of the Russian people. Actually, one of the greatest directors and editors of all time, Sergei Eisenstein, created a scenario in his brilliant film, POTEMKIN, which has been revisited by countless directors; especially Brian De Palma in THE UNTOUCHABLES, with his death-ballet down the stone steps of some grand building… the exact location escapes me. But Russians are brilliant artists, whether it be in the creation of the original Faberge egg, to their monumental proletariat sculpture. Sorry for rambling, but without a doubt, I’m a fan of the people of Russia. Having been subjected to being crushed (under the lion’s paw) of Soviet dictatorship since before Peter the Great, their minds have been tampered with, and the political stance of the government is truly not what beats in the heart of the masses. To paraphrase an ancient Young Rascals lyric, “People just got to be free.” Any other lifestyle is devised and maintained from terror, so Drago had been raised with no sensitivity, no relationship with human instinct, but in the fight he truly re-found his basic moral compass and literally was reborn as a flesh and blood man who can respect the warrior spirit in another man. I’ve lived a long time, and the one thing I know about politics is that they really have very little to do with what people truly feel. I think if Drago and Rocky had actually fought in Massachusetts they might have eloped after the fight, but that’s a whole other story.
2. I am a huge fan and have been for as long as I can remember. My biggest question that I have for you is do you ever feel like "enough is enough" and if so, what do you do to cope with it? sshssh29
I think that every one of us has a saturation point, a level that can’t go any deeper into our souls. In other words, we are pushed to the brink, and we either divest ourselves of whatever is eating away at our brains or be doomed to self-destruct. I once had a line in a terrible movie – it didn’t start out to be terrible, but things happened along the way, and what starts out as a rosy-cheeked bundle of joy morphed into the Hunchback of Notre Dame. “Love doesn’t always make the world go ‘round; its problems, and the people who solve their problems, are the winners, so you either get rid of your problems, or eventually your problems will get rid of you.” But one of the main reasons I wanted to do ROCKY BALBOA was just that feeling… “Enough is enough.”
3. Hey Mr. Stallone, I can't believe in less than 24 hours I will have seen "Rocky Balboa." Thank you for taking the time to do this! As a child who grew up in the 1980's, one of my favorite TV stars was Mr. T, and amazingly, he still has something resembling a career even today. But let's face it, it was his appearance in Rocky III that launced his career. What was it like finding him? And how much of the role of Clubber Lang was what you had originally envisioned versus how much of it was Mr. T being Mr. T (because whether he's Clubber Lang or B.A. Baracus or Mr. T, he always seems like the same person). Thanks again! Ben Leach Mantua, NJ
He is the same person. He has the unique ability to go from great warmth to great rage in a matter of nanoseconds. The first time I laid eyes on him, 1977 or ’78, at a fight in New Orleans with Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks. Mr. T was Spinks’ bodyguard. Here was this hulking man with a Mohawk, a trillion feathers and chains hanging from his ears and neck, while garbed in a high-collared, long-tailed tuxedo. That image was burned into my brain. I hadn’t even thought about writing ROCKY III, but when the time came, I originally auditioned real fighters to play Clubber Lang. For example, hard-punching Earnie Shavers, who made me feel like I was in the ring with an angry Buick, and Joe Frazier, who gave me a four-stitch gash over my right eye within the first five seconds of the first round. So needless to say I went back to the drawing board, because I hadn’t developed a death wish that early on in my life. After a lot of reflection, I remembered that strange-looking man in New Orleans and said, “Why not?” Neither Rocky, nor America, had seen anything that unique before, and that’s the beginning of Mr. T’s career. P.S. I do read all of your talkbacks and thank you for your opinions on DEATH WISH. I think the majority of you are right, and I will not pursue the project any longer. Rest in Peace, Charlie….
4. Dear Sly, Is there any chance of releasing a Rocky DVD box set in the future with "full treatment" given to Rocky's II - V, as recently given to the new Rocky Collector's Edition DVD (such as audio commentary by yourself and/or other cast members and vintage featurettes or new making-of documentaries)? Maybe to coincide with the release of ROCKY BALBOA on DVD, a la the Superman Ultimate Collection? I love the new Rocky Collectors Edition and it would be a dream come true to have all of them done the same way. Thank you, Ed Kizior Somonauk, IL
What a great idea. I think that would be outstanding, to truly dissect all the different moods and components that were part and parcel of the making of each of those films. I especially would like to dissect ROCKY V, and break it down scene-by-scene on why this film could never work; reconstruct it from A to Z. Then, with the addition of ROCKY BALBOA, MGM would most likely release it as the new ROCKY “Six-Pack”, or something incredibly lame like that. Lame… but effective. Thanks for the idea.
5. Yo Sly, Now that you confess to being a geek I just gotta know what you think of the new Rocky action figures and are you collecting them. Do you think you might secretly punch up the other fighters with your Rocky action figure. On a more serious note I’d love to know your views on using CGI in films as opposed to practical effects. Thanks for appreciating us geeks. That rocks. Go for it ! Paul Naylor Brisbane Australia
Fellow geek… I am very flattered by the new line of ROCKY toys, only because they indicate the character is still relevant, and yes, I am tempted to have surreptitious boxing matches with my other plastic foes, but refrain myself in the name of mental health. Now, as for CGI, I believe one of the talk backers hit it right on the head when you say, “Enough is enough.” What has happened is, we’ve taken a brilliant tool and abused it to the point that some directors are actually addicted to the process, and when that happens you get further away from actually being able to direct your actor to react to any reality. It’s like castor oil. One tablespoon can do you a world of good… a little too much and you get the runs.
6. Mr. Stallone, Rocky 1 & 2 were my favorites of the series and Rocky 3 was the most entertaining to me. I can't wait to see Rocky Balboa. My question requres a short set up: I visited the Grand Canyon in 1996 and signed up for a backpack trip to the bottom of the canyon (normally a day hike), camped out one night and then hiked back up the next day. The park ranger said that serious althletes (marathon runners) often do the trip down and back up in one day (not carrying any camping gear). This is no small feat. Although the trail is only four miles or so either direction, it is over a 1 mile drop elevation AND in DESERT conditions! Anyway the story the ranger tell's is that you visited the canyon and decided to try to do the one day challenge (you are obviously a very athletic person then and now). But because of the heat and as you have stated you are not a runner, you got severely dehydrated and couldn't compelete the journey down and up. Any truth to this or was the ranger just blowing smoke signals?? Thanks and best wishes for Rocky Balboa, Jerry Aguinaldo Mountain View, California
Oh, the ranger was blowing more than just smoke signs; he was blowing a volcano up your posterior. But I did do that in 1974 when I was coming across America, making my way to California in a $40 rust-on-rust 1964 Oldsmobile with Butkus hunkered down on the floorboards behind the driver’s seat, packed in ice. No joke, my dog was boiling to death, or so it seemed, and I pulled into an icehouse, removed the rear seat (which was virtually worthless), and filled the back portion of the car with what seemed like a miniature topographical map of Antarctica. Butkus enjoyed that, and we used that ice method until we eventually got through that heat belt and made our way to California.
7. I've recently been rewatching the Rocky films and was wondering why there was never a proper backstory given to the character. His ten years fighting (from 20-30) are mentioned and that he started boxing when he was 15, but in all five films we never hear much about the Balboa family -- which coming from the "Italian Stallion" seems a little strange. Was this a conscious effort on your part to place Rocky further into the mythological hero role or was it skipped over for other reasons? Is Rocky an orphan? Does he have a brother with a singing career? Finally, is any mention of the Balboa family made in the new film? If not, I smell prequel! And Sly, have I got a script for you. It's your next picture. And you can thank me at the Oscars. Len Sousa Tiverton, RI
By the way, while talking about my brother, I did have words with Norm McDonald on Saturday Night Live – “Sure, you can make fun of me, but lighten up on my brother. He doesn’t deserve insults, week in and week out, OK?” Norm McDonald, who was not very talkative, managed to nod his head and the running joke was killed then. I always saw Rocky being born on the night we first see him; he was not meant to have a back story- that could be handled in a few pieces of dialogue. I did not want to dwell on the past, because we had so much ground to cover for the future of the character. While you might say that that’s a cop-out, maybe, but I always imagined Rocky as really being a ward of the state, never knowing who his parents would be, a product of the streets - and Adrian would be his first journey into emotional attachment with anything on this planet. Also, starting on the face of Jesus and panning down to Rocky being pummeled was supposed to be an indication that the character was being chosen for a redemptive journey.
8. Mr. Stallone: What an honor. Like you said, this is a window for you to see what most celebrities can't, and it's the same for us. I have a few questions regarding Over the Top. I chat on another site,, which is basically a nerd site for bodybuilers like myself. There is a member on there, Keith Jones, who was an arm wrestler and some kind of consultant/extra on the film. He has said that you took the idea of turning the cap backwards from his buddy. Is this true? Also, he said that most of the competitors in the film were real-life arm wrestlers. Did you actually arm wrestle any of them? Did John Grizzly really chew a cigar and down motor oil? Were you intimidated by any of those guys? Lastly, about Rocky, do you still keep in touch with Tommy Morrison? Is he doing well? Did you ever consider using any pros before then? Who else was considered for Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago? Sorry for all the questions. I'll probably never get the chance to meet you. I couldn't win your contest for Instone, so I gotta ask what I can while I can! Thanks for being my idol! Dan Brainerd, MN
I haven’t been in touch with Tommy Morrison in years, but I heard he’s married with kids and trying to revive his boxing career. Tommy Morrison was the hardest punching man in any of the ROCKY films by far. I’ll always have the image of him hitting the heavy bag and nearly folding it in half. Even his misses hurt. As for arm wrestling, the turning of the hat was borrowed from observing many arm wrestlers who would turn their hat around so the bill wouldn’t get in the way, and yes, many arm wrestlers (or, should I say, the eccentric ones) do insane things to psyche themselves up. I actually saw a gent break his own nose. Check, please. But make no mistake about it, these are unbelievably powerful guys, especially the legendary John Brzenk, who is so powerful he could literally rip your arm off and use it for a flyswatter, and there’s not a thing you could do about it except savor the visual.
9. Mr. Stallone, This Q & A session has been great, and I thank you for taking the time to do this. The one movie we really haven't heard enough about yet is Copland. This movie is without a doubt your best performance outside of the first Rocky. I was just hoping you could talk a little about the film. Looking back, do you feel the weight gain was as important to the role as you felt it was back then? Any memories about working with Liotta, Deniro & Keitel? Do you think the movie (and your performance) got the respect it deserved? Personally, I think the muted, Western-style shoot-out at the end of the movie is one of the best and most original sequences ever filmed. Thanks, Rudy Interlaken, NJ
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 ten minutes before them, but once the camera rolled, it all meshed together. Yes, gaining the weight was very important for me, to understand the somber nature of the character and change my body mechanics, so the poor, semi-deaf sheriff moved through this world with a sense of burden.
10. Sylvester Stallone, Harry Knowles here... I literally can not pick a last question. So instead, I want to leave the page to you here. You're answering this on the eve of your film's release. Tell us what's on your mind, you've gone through this process more times than I believe you'd care to recall - how important is the opening of this film to you. Is it about personal vindication, ego, silencing the naysayers or just doing the best you can do? Well - for all the readers, all the folks that sent in questions. Thank you. It has genuinely been a privilege to be the middle man between a "rock" and a "hard place". For Celeste and Sly... Sorry for the late nights and the mania of this Q&A, but I'm so glad that this Q&A came to pass - as I really do believe it's a model for how filmmakers that want to be honest and open with their audiences can attend and take part in a Global Q&A. Thank you all, Harry
First of all, this has been a real privilege - and I mean that - by allowing me into your world. It is one that has given me so much insight into what is true and what is false, what are the dreams and aspirations of some of you, who care so much for the greatest art form of all - the cinema. On the eve of ROCKY BALBOA - actually, it’s not the eve, it’s the morning of – I haven’t been able to sleep. Never has anything meant as much as fulfilling this journey, which has taken me many years to accomplish. Like many of us, we only learn through feeling our way through the dark, and real wisdom is accomplished at the unfortunate price of pain. I’ve learned a lot of lessons over the years, and that being said, I wanted to apply those insights into Rocky Balboa, a character that is as close to me as a child. But sometimes you have to let the thing you love the most go, and find its own place in life… and that place is with people such as yourself who understand what the journey is all about, and are compassionate enough to accept myself and my character with equal respect. This is an anguished time for me, because I know I’ve accomplished giving Rocky a fond farewell. Now my only dream to end this long journey is that people understand that this is about sharing a journey that all of us will eventually take, and therefore we have a common bond and, hopefully, a common belief that “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Thank you so much for your support, and I swear to you I will do this again. To Harry and all his insightful readers: may you all be the champions of your dreams, and “Keep Punching.” SLY

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