What The Hell Happened To Sylvester Stallone?
After knocking around Hollywood for a few years, Sylvester Stallone broke through in 1976 with one of the most beloved movies of the era. It went on to win some awards and make its title character an icon. Six years later, he would move into the role of another iconic character. Stallone rode both these characters to much box office success throughout the 80s. But when he tried to move beyond those franchises the results were either disastrous or ignored. At one point, he was on the verge of being exiled to direct to video territory and the only thing that saved him was to first bring back the two franchises for one more round, then start a whole new one.
What the hell happened to Sylvester Stallone?
As I researched this article I started to suspect that if Stallone could be compared to any other actor or director covered in the What The Hell Happened series it would be Eddie Murphy. The pattern is similar: Massive success followed by a downturn, comeback followed by another downturn. And so on.
Once I started to look closely I realized how accurate that comparison is.
Sylvester Stallone was born on July 6 1946 in New York City. His father was a hairdresser, a profession young Sly once considered (“Yo Adrian! Where’s the trimmer and shampoo?”). According to rumor, his father once told him that he wasn’t that smart and needed to rely on his physique and toughness as a way to succeed.
Here’s an interesting fact from Wikipedia:
Complications his mother suffered during labor forced her obstetricians to use two pairs of forceps during his birth; misuse of these accidentally severed a nerve and caused paralysis in parts of Stallone’s face
That explains his perpetual scowl and mush-mouthed dialogue delivery.
After graduating from high school, he attended College at Miami-Dade College and The University Of Miami before dropping out.
Stallone’s first acting role was in a 1970 porno movie called The Party At Kitty And Stud’s. Stallone played Stud. The film was later re-released under the title The Italian Stallion after the success of Rocky.
Note: The following trailer is not safe for work viewing.
I’ve never actually seen it. But considering that it was a porno film released in what was the golden age of porno films according to the brilliant film Boogie Nights, it might be worthwhile. Seeing as Mark Wahlberg was in Boogie Nights, it might be worthwhile to see Stallone with his own Funky Bunch that is.
In 1971, Stallone had a small, non-speaking role in Woody Allen’s revolutionary comedy, Bananas. Stallone played a thug on a subway. The entire scene is silent-movie style comedy.
In 1972, Stallone landed a lead role in a thriller called No Place To Hide. I had not heard of this film prior to researching this article and I doubt many readers have either. The only trailer I could find had no sound.
According to Wikipedia:
The film is about New York in the late 1960s; a politically motivated group of students plans bombings of company offices who do business with dictators in Central American countries. But when they contact a known terrorist and bombing specialist, the FBI gets on their track.
Next up for Stallone was 1974’s The Lords Of Flatbush. This film was a look back at Brooklyn Teenagers in 1959, a sort of harder, grittier American Graffiti if you will. Stallone co-starred with Perry King and the man we would soon know as Arthur “Fonz” Fonzarelli, aka Henry Winkler. Lords Of Flatbush also marked Stallone’s first go at screenwriting; reportedly he did a dialogue polish on it. In a fnal note of trivia, Richard Gere was originally also cast in the movie. But according to Wikipedia, after he nearly came to blows with Stallone, he was sent packing.
You can watch the whole movie here:
In 1975, Stallone would go on to play Frank Nitti in the Roger Corman produced Capone. This movie was of course about the real life Prohibition-era gangster. Having not seen it I can’t vouch for how Stallone’s Nitti stood up to the one in Brian De Palma’s 1987 classic The Untouchables.
Stallone would take on a couple more supporting roles in the Raymond Chandler adaptation Farewell My Lovely and the 1975 exploitation classic of sorts Death Race 2000.
Death Race 2000 was another Corman flick. The film’s dystopian future (set in the far-off year 2000, naturally) involves a murderous Transcontinental Road Race which is broadcast to entertain the masses. David Carradine starred as the lead racer, Frankenstein. Stallone played a gangster (sensing a theme here?) named “Machine Gun” Joe Viterbo. His car had a giant knife and mounted machine guns.
Despite negative reviews (Roger Ebert gave it zero out of four stars), Death Race 2000 was a hit at the box office. It has grown a cult following over the years. Eventually, even Ebert came to respect the movie calling it a “great tradition of summer drive-in movies.”
In 2008, Death Race 2000 was remade as Death Race starring Jason Statham. The remake was not well-received, but it did inspire two direct-to-video sequels.