The world might find it hard to believe that a man who once struggled to find roles in movies, went on to become one of the most legendary actors in Hollywood. From bagging small roles to writing screenplays, Sylvester Stallone, considered the virile man of Hollywood, carved a place for himself in the world of showbiz. His most iconic roles to date are that off ‘Rocky Balboa’ and Vietnam War veteran, ‘John Rambo’. Some of his most recent commercial hits include his collaboration with the other big guns of the industry such as Jean-Claude Van Damme and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movies, ‘The Expendables’ and ‘The Expendables 2’. A multi-talented personality, Stallone is currently an actor, writer, director and producer and is best-known for his trademark garbled speech patterns and his lopsided smile. Aside from the ‘Rocky’ films, he starred in a number of other films which received critical acclaim but failed to receive the commercial success that ‘Rocky’ and ‘Rambo’ received. To break away from the stereotyped ‘tough’ roles, he rekindled the attention of his fans by starring in a number of films in other genres such as ‘Paradise Alley’ and ‘Zookeeper’, which, however, failed to hit the target.
While he waited for his acting career to take off, Stallone worked all sorts of jobs to make ends meet. He cleaned up the lions’ cages at the Central Park Zoo, ushered at a movie theater and even made an appearance in an adult film called The Party at Kitty and Stud’s (1970). A few uncredited parts in mainstream films, such as Woody Allen’s Bananas (1971) and Klute (1971), soon followed. He had a more substantial role playing a tough guy in the 1974 independent film The Lords of Flatbush with Henry Winkler and Perry King. Around this time, Stallone married Sasha Czack.
In addition to acting, Stallone had an interest in writing. He created a screenplay about a rough-and-tumble thug who struggles for a chance to make it as a professional boxer. According to several reports, Stallone refused to sell the script unless he was allowed to star in it. Despite having a pregnant wife and little money in the bank, he held out until he found two producers, Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff, willing to let him play the lead.
Released in 1976 and directed by John G. Avildsen, Rocky became a critical and commercial hit. The film went on to earn 10 Academy Award nominations, including nods for best actor, director and picture. Rocky faced stiff competition in the best picture category from such films as Taxi Driver, All the President’s Men and Network, but it proved to be the small film with a powerful punch and nabbed the coveted Oscar. The story of Rocky Balboa, the quintessential underdog, also struck a chord with moviegoers and earned the film more than $117 million at the box office.
To follow up on his breakthrough role, Stallone next starred as a labor organizer in F.I.S.T. (1978). He received some favorable reviews for his work, but the film failed to attract much of an audience. Returning to the film that made him famous, Stallone wrote, directed and starred in Rocky II (1979). He kept the franchise going a few years later with Rocky III (1982).
That same year, Stallone introduced a new character to moviegoers—John Rambo, a disenfranchised and troubled Vietnam vet—in First Blood (1982). Rambo ends up going to war with the police in a small town after being mistreated by authorities. Once again, Stallone struck box-office gold. He went behind the scenes for his next effort, Staying Alive (1983), which he wrote and directed. Although the film featured John Travolta reprising his breakout role from Saturday Night Fever (1977), it did not fare as well as the original.
Trying to branch out as an actor, Stallone starred opposite Dolly Parton in the comedy Rhinestone (1984). The film was a commercial and critical failure. Fans lined up more so to see Stallone taking up trademark roles in Rocky IV (1985), Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Rambo III (1988) and Rocky V (1990). He also starred in the comedy Oscar (1991) as well as the futuristic action flick Demolition Man (1993), which co-starred Wesley Snipes and Sandra Bullock.
Childhood & Early Life
Michael Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone was born on July 6, 1946 to Frank Stallone and Jacqueline Stallone in New York City. He is of Italian-Russian-French-Jewish descent.
He was born with the lower side of his face paralyzed as the obstetricians tried to use a pair of forceps to pull him out of his mother’s womb. This seriously severed a nerve that caused permanent deformity in the lower parts of his lip, tongue and chin.
After his parents divorced, he studied at the Notre Dame Academy and Lincoln High School in Philadelphia. He also studied at the Charlotte Hall Military Academy before he attended the University of Miami.
He played the titular character of ‘Rocky Balboa’ in the ‘Rocky’ series, which is considered one of his most legendary roles. The films were made from 1975 to 2006 and helped Stallone kick-start his career in Hollywood. The first ‘Rocky’ film became so popular that it spawned five other ‘Rocky’ films in the franchise. The film ‘Rocky’ also received 10 Oscar nominations and eventually won the award for ‘Best Picture’. It was after this movie that he gained a large cult following and the ‘action star’ status.
He was cast as ‘John Rambo’ in the Rambo saga. Although only four films have been made in the franchise, the representation of the character earned Stallone extensive acclaim and recognition. The character became so famous that it was nominated for American Film Institute’s list of ‘100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains’. The franchise also produced a number of video games, comics and television series’ based on the movie as well.
Awards & Achievements
In 1977, he won a David di Donatello Award for ‘Best Foreign Actor’ for ‘Rocky’.
In 1977, he won the KCFCC Award for ‘Best Actor’ for the film, ‘Rocky’.
In 1979, he won the ShoWest Convention Award for ‘Star of the Year’.
He earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in 1984.
In 1997, he was presented the Stockholm International Film Festival Award for ‘Best Actor’ for ‘Cop Land’.
In 2004, he won the Golden Camera Award for ‘Best International Actor’.
He was honored with the ‘Golden Eye for Lifetime Achievement Award’ at the Zurich Film Festival.
He was presented the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ at the Hollywood Film Festival in 2010.
Personal Life & Legacy
Sylvester Stallone has married three times. He married Sasha Czack in 1974 and had two sons with her. The couple divorced almost a decade later.
He then married Brigitte Nielsen on December 15, 1985 and divorced her two years later in 1987.
In 1997, he married Jennifer Flavin, with whom he has three daughters.
Due to the demanding nature of his roles, he is known to have suffered countless injuries throughout his career including a broken neck, which required him to get a metal plate inserted.