Filmography at a Glance
After his hardships in the early years of his acting career - including sleeping at a bus station for three weeks while on the verge of bankruptcy - Sylvester Stallone made his first successful film, “Rocky,” in 1976.
Prior to his incredible debut, Sylvester Stallone had played a few minor movie roles in the early 1970s, including in “Bananas” and “Klute” in 1971 and “The Prisoner of Second Avenue,” “Capone,” “Farewell My Lovely,” and “Death Race 2000” in 1975. Stallone also starred in “The Lords of Flatbush,” 1974 drama film about a New York street gang.
Stallone had many struggles as a child, but his ability to overcome them has certainly contributed to the convincing actor, prolific writer, and well-rounded director he is today. His mother had difficulty giving birth to him; the doctor was forced to perform an emergency operation. During the operation, the doctor accidentally cut a major nerve that caused the infant Sylvester’s facial paralysis. He cannot move his chin, lip, and some parts of his tongue. As he grew up, speaking became difficult, and he was often ridiculed as a teenager.
Stallone was born to Frank Stallone, a hairdresser and Italian immigrant, and Jackie Stallone, a half-Russian, half-French astrologer, dancer and wrestling promoter. He was baptized as a Catholic and enrolled in the Notre Dame Academy and Lincoln High School. He continued his studies at the Miami Dade College and, later on, at the University of Miami.
In 1970, the hardships of his early career were bad enough that he once accept a role in a soft-core pornography film, entitled “The Party at Kitty and Stud's.” The acting job earned him $200 for two days. At that time, he had been evicted from his apartment and had only $50 in his pocket. He once humorously recounted the incident, saying, “It was either do that movie or rob someone, because I was at the end – the very end – of my rope."
Although the film was created long before the “Rocky” movies, it was released years later in an attempt to profit from the success of “Rocky” with title changed from “The Party at Kitty and Stud's” to “Italian Stallion.”
More Movies and First Marriage
In 1970, Stallone also appeared in “No Place to Hide” (a.k.a. “Rebel”), a film about politically-motivated students who plan to bomb American company offices for conducting business with South American dictators. It was later re-edited in 1990 with new inspiration from Woody Allen's “What's Up, Tiger Lily?” With newly-shot footage, the film was redubbed and given a new title, “A Man Called… Rainbo.” The parody, which stars Stallone himself, received awards from the Chicago International Film Festival and Worldfest – Houston’s Silver.
In 1974, at the age of 28, Stallone married Sasha Czack, a German-American woman from Pennsylvania. They were married for over a decade, and divorced in 1985. They have two sons: Sage Moonblood, born in 1976 and passed away in 2012, and Seargeoh, born in 1979.
Muhammad Ali Inspires “Rocky”
After several years of minor movie roles, Stallone was launched into stardom in his first highly-successful movie, “Rocky,” in 1976. It is the classic story of the underdog, of working hard and overcoming adversity, which resonates timelessly with audiences of all ages.
It began when Stallone was watching the fight between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner, and the idea of a boxing film crossed his mind. He wrote the script in 20 hours - in three consecutive days - and sold the script with the intent to assume the lead role. Some productions only wanted the script, with another actor playing the lead, but Stallone would not settle for such deals. Finally, United Artists granted him a fair deal which allowed him both the lead role and, to an extent, creative control.
Rocky becomes a Blockbuster
“Rocky” was not only a blockbuster success, but also a critically-acclaimed; Stallone was nominated Best Actor by the Academy Awards, with “Rocky” winning Best Picture, Best Directing, and Best Editing and being nominated for Best Original Screenplay. The film received a total of 10 Academy Award nominations.
The success of “Rocky” prompted Stallone to develop sequels, and four were released by 1990: “Rocky II” in 1979, “Rocky III” in 1982, “Rocky IV” in 1985, and “Rocky V” in 1990. The final instalment, “Rocky Balboa,” was released in 2006.
Stallone suffered an injury during the filming of Rocky IV which resulted in his four-day confinement in St. John’s Hospital. The injury was caused by a strong punch delivered by his fellow actor, Dolph Lundgren. In defence of Lundgren, Stallone told the press:
“I gave him orders to try to knock me out while the cameras were rolling. At one point, he hit me so hard on the top of the head I felt my spine compress, he then hit me with an almighty uppercut. That night my chest and heart started to swell, and I had to be helicopter–ambulanced from my hotel to a nearby emergency room.”
Before the release of Rocky II, Stallone starred in “Paradise Alley” in 1978, a film which also served as his directorial debut. Before “Rocky III” in 1981, he also starred in “Escape to Victory,” a sports drama film, and the acclaimed thriller, “Nighthawks.”
Another film franchise popularized by Stallone is “Rambo.” The first movie, “First Blood,” was released in 1982 and became a critically-acclaimed box-office hit. Two sequels then followed: “First Blood II” in 1985 and “Rambo III” in 1988.
Sylvester Stallone’s convincing portrayal in both the “Rocky” and “Rambo” films were borne out of 6 days of strict training per week. He also collaborated with Franco Columbu, a “Mr. Olympian,” to develop a body suitable for his roles in “Rocky II” and “Rambo II.”
Although he found most of his success in action films, Stallone has also acted in comedy. In 1984, he starred in “Rhinestone,” portraying an aspiring country singer alongside Dolly Parton. In 1987, he also portrayed a trucker in an action-drama film, “Over The Top.” These two films, both considered deviations from Stallone’s usual territory, were less successful in terms of reception and ticket sales.
First and Second Marriages
Stallone married Brigitte Nielsen in 1985, a year after divorcing his first wife, Sasha Czack. Nielsen and Stallone wed in Beverly Hills, California, but separated and filed for divorce after two years as a couple.
Before doing “Over the Top” in 1986, Stallone starred in “Cobra,” a film based loosely on the novel “Fair Game”. He partnered with Kurt Russell in the blockbuster film, “Tango and Cash,” in 1989.
Ups and Downs in Hollywood
After the success of “Tango and Cash,” Stallone released the 5th instalment of “Rocky,” which was considered both a commercial and critical failure. Added to that were two similarly-panned comedy films in two succeeding years: “Oscar” in 1991 and “Stop or My Mom Will Shoot” in 1992.
After disappointing performances, Stallone found further success with “Cliffhanger” in 1993 and a role alongside Wesley Snipes in “Demolition Man.” In 1994, he starred in “The Specialist” with Sharon Stone and James Woods; the film grossed about $170 million, and was Stallone’s second highest-grossing film in the 1990s.
In 1995, Stallone starred in the science fiction film “Judge Dredd,” based on the 2000 A.D. comic character of the same name. The film was a critical disappointment and gained little more than its original budget of $100 million. In the same year, he also appeared in the action thriller “Assassins” with Antonio Banderas and Julianne Moore.
In 1996 projects included the disaster film “Daylight” and a short film, “Your Studio and You,” which was commissioned by the Seagram Company in celebration of the company’s acquisitions of Universal Studios and MCA Corporation.
Marrying Jennifer Flavin
After two failed marriages, Stallone married Jennifer Flavin, a model and entrepreneur, in 1997. They first met in 1988, broke up six years later in 1994 and reconciled in 1995. The couple married twice: first in a civil ceremony at The Dorchester Hotel in London, and again in a chapel ceremony at Blenheim Palace in Oxford. Stallone and Flavin have three daughters, the oldest born in 1996 and the youngest in 2002. The couple currently resides in Los Angeles, California.
Sophia’s surgery and more films
Stallone’s faith grew deeper after his first daughter Sophia Rose (born in 1996) underwent open heart surgery at UCLA Medical Center. The experience reportedly led to the strengthening of Stallone’s faith and his becoming an active Catholic.
One of Stallone’s very best performances may have been in the low-budget crime film “Cop Land,” which also co-starred Robert De Niro and Ray Liotta. His role earned him the Best Actor Award from the Stockholm International Film Festival.
In “Antz,” DreamWorks’s first computer-animated film project, Stallone voiced the soldier ant character “Weaver.” The film, released in 1998, was both a commercial and critical success.
From 2000 to 2002, Stallone appeared in a variety of both well- and poorly-received films, such as the 2000 remake of 1971 film “Get Carter” and “Driven” in 2001. He appeared in two films in 2002: “Avenging Angelo” and “D-Tox.”
In the 2003 movie “Spy Kids 3D: Game Over,” Stallone played the role of a villain: Sebastian the Toymaker. He also made a cameo in “Taxi 3” that same year.
In 2006, “Rocky Balboa,” the 6th instalment of Stallone’s greatest franchise, was released. With a budget of only $24 million, the film became a commercial and critical success, earning a gross income of over $200 million. He also released the 4th instalment of his second-most successful franchise, “Rambo” (the film was also named “Rambo”), in 2008.
Clothing Line and the Expendables
Two years after the release of “Rambo,” Stallone assembled a cast of action stars and began filming “The Expendables.” The movie was released in 2010 and was a commercial success from the start. A sequel, “The Expendables 2,” was released in August 2010.
In 2011, Stallone set out to launch a new line of men’s clothing inspired by both “Rocky” and “Rambo;” the design is heavily influenced by both characters he played. “Clothing is the first step to building a character. I hope that what worked for me will work for others,” he said.
Stallone also has a talent, although many may not know, for painting. He even had his own exhibit at Galerie Gmurzynska in St. Moritz, Switzerland, from February to March 2011. He also held an exhibit at the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. The hobby also helps Stallone cope with the pain brought on by the passing of his son and sister. He has said, “The paintings I’m doing right now aren’t too cheerful, but there’s something amazing about the process because what will come out of the canvas is so profound. It’s very therapeutic I tell you.”
Surviving The Expendables Accident and Sage’s Death
Stallone’s most serious injury came during the filming of the movie “The Expendables” in 2009. In a freak accident, a broken metal plate got stuck in his neck while he was filming with co-star and former professional wrestler Steve Austin.
Stallone has always been a successful actor in his own right, but never immune to problems and difficulties of all kinds. On July 13, 2012, his oldest of the five children, Sage Stallone, was found dead in his home in Los Angeles, California. According to the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office, Sage death was due to a heart attack caused by atherosclerotic coronary artery disease. Six weeks after his death, Stallone’s step-sister, Toni Ann Filiti, succumbed to lung cancer at 48 years old on August 26, 2012.
Through these hardships, he is still not ready to quit yet and has expressed desire to appear in future action films alongside stars of the genre. His present and future endeavours include films such as “The Tomb,” “Bullet To The Head,” “Reach Me,” and the newly-released “Grudge Match.”
The February 2012 event held in collaboration with the Canadian Diabetes Association was dubbed “An Evening with Sylvester Stallone.” The event, for which Stallone was responsible, generated a total of about $100,000. He is also a big supporter of the Paediatric Epilepsy Project, which works to improve the lives of children affected by epilepsy and conduct advanced, cutting-edge research to battle the disorder.
With the energy that Sylvester Stallone exerted and shown in his films, and the relentless determination behind both his most famous character and true self, he is truly an extraordinary man and an incredible inspiration to us all.
- Induction of Rocky into the National Film Registry
- Rocky was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won the Best Film Editing, Best Directing and Best Picture. Stallone was also nominated for Best Actor
- Created “Rambo” and “Rocky,” two widely-acclaimed film franchises
- Recipient of Best Actor Award from the Stockholm International Film Festival
- Co-presenter of the television of the reality-TV boxing series “The Contender”
- Directed Saturday Night Fever’s sequel, “Staying Alive”
- Earned a degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Miami
- Held an art exhibit at Galerie Gmurzynska in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia