Inspiration can come from the unlikeliest of places. Consider this week’s “In the Biz.” As I was visiting one of a handful of my regular internet stops, I came across a Q & A with none other than Sylvester Stallone, the star and director of the upcoming film The Expendables. I’m a big fan of his, and not just because he’s an action icon. The man is brilliant. Don’t believe me? Listen to the director’s commentary included in the DVD to his latest Rocky film, Rocky Balboa. The man is passionate about filmmaking, and it goes without saying that we might just learn a thing or two from someone as passionate as him. So – on with the interview! I’ve taken some of his more pertinent responses and matched them with paraphrased questions, but the original interview in its entirety can be seen here. Enjoy!
We’ve grown up on the action movies of the 1980s, where lines are drawn; the characters are clearly developed as good or evil, and evil is always punished. You had a monumental hand in creating this genre. What do you think the appeal is of the action hero? How are action roles in THE EXPENDABLES adapted to the film audience of 2010 while still maintaining the essence of the 1980s?
Action films; past, present and future are really a device for maintaining modern mythology. In reality, evil quite often triumphs over good and its effects have devastating longevity. So I believe the action film supplies an outlet for optimism and the unwavering belief that heroes, under great physical threat, rise and vanquish the oppressors. I believe it’s a necessity that these sorts of modern day street fables continue to provide an example that perseverance and bravery prevail…
This next question is included because of Stallone’s stance on ‘haters.’ If you’ve read my last couple of posts, you know how I feel about that particular subject.
I have often wondered the following with respect to actors and more specifically actors that have reached the levels you have. Do you get excited about upcoming movies that you are not attached to in any way? Do you experience the same feelings of excitement and intrigue that we all [feel]… about upcoming projects from other directors/actors? I have often wondered…if being involved in the industry in some way diminishes this or takes away the magic of anticipating and seeing movies. If you do indeed have these feelings of excitement, what was the most recent movie you…followed in development and subsequently saw ?
When I hear of a new project, of course I’m curious to see first of all whose producing and what studio is involved because that usually sets a guideline for how strong its support will be i.e. how much money will be behind it. Next I look at who is directing, with a good director the interest begins to build because it’s really about an expression from an individual film to a personal statement that fans can see a lot of heart went into. So I take note and respect the effort that goes into every film.What I don’t think is beneficial if I may digress, is undo criticism of writers, actors, directors, who have performed to the best of their ability and garner an inordinate amount of hateful feelings or vindictive statements that serve no purpose other than to provide a platform for the hater. I’ve always felt that criticism is invaluable as long as the critic, after he has stated his case on why he dislikes a film, an actor or a director then gives constructive criticism on how he feels a performance or film can be made better.
I know what its like to feel anger or resentment towards my fellow artists, but one day I had an epiphany, that this had more to do with me than the subject so I turned it around to a code that works for me. I believe all people should really walk a mile in someone’s shoes as the cliché goes before they begin to throw stones because its such an incredible waste of time that can be used in a more constructive fashion. You know, it’s a simple rule I use when I look at another man’s painting and before I’m critical I say to myself ‘Can I do better?’ If someone gave you a camera or script could you do better? Or better yet, maybe you should try it on a smaller scale and see the effort that goes into filmmaking. Its laborious and sometimes soul searching. No one intends to make a bad film. There are so many circumstances that can make a film go off track, therefore I believe people should be given the benefit of the doubt as much as it may bother your sensibility, an example being you hate the director on principal because you think he is a lightweight. When films don’t work the artist feels worse than any hater could make him feel. Its something they have to live with. Enough said on that.
During the mid 90s all the way until the financial and critical successes of the latest [and presumably final] Rocky and Rambo films, you withstood a pretty fair degree of derision…Now that you’re [quite thankfully] back in the proverbial saddle, how does it feel to be “redeemed”? To what do you attribute this return to form, or do you feel that you remained consistent while the public’s fickle tastes returned to a more appreciative stance? And lastly, how did you endure those days when you weren’t on top?
Those days when I wasn’t on top felt like being in a valley; dark, cold, lonely and sometimes friendless. Even though I’ve been blessed with extraordinary success there was a regret, a feeling that I let people down, my family down and supporters down by not putting my best foot forward. I hadn’t adopted a sophisticated philosophy towards work. I wasn’t doing the best I could. I was distracted and when you’re distracted from achieving the best of your abilities you will tumble. Therefore I struggled for 7 years to have ROCKY BALBOA made because that was the final note I wanted to go out on. I wanted to do it with dignity. The philosophy I adopted at the beginning of that film I now approach every movie with, as though it were the last. And when you think that this could be your final statement, you pull everything you have inside and you play it out for the world to see. So when your lying on your deathbed you can say ‘I gave it all.’ Now that may come off as overly dramatic, but if you approach anything as though it’s going to be the final chapter, you really pour your heart into it.
I was wondering if you could somehow talk us through a little of the trails and tribulations of writing the first Rocky – was it as a short story first? Did you think about turning it into a novel? or did you go straight into it as a screenplay…how hard was it sitting there and trying to bang it out?
ROCKY was written without any notes or bullet points or treatment format. My style is to just bang it out knowing that 80 percent of it will be useless come the 2nd draft, but each good idea triggers 10 more, so script writing is an evolutionary process. Like a snake shedding his skin after each shedding the project gets stronger and more vital. That old saying is so true: Writers don’t write, they rewrite. I’ve never been hung up on perfection the first time around. I leave that to the geniuses. I’d rather write with fiery exuberance rather than cold logic. That can come later.
There you have it! I hope some of you found this as inspiring as I did. Thank you Aintitcoolnews for hosting the original interviews!