Sylvester Stallone will probably always be remembered for his two iconic roles as Rocky Balboa and John Rambo, but the man is much more talented than he often receives credit for. Michael Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone was born July 6th, 1946, a child of Italian and Russian Jewish/French descent, though he spent a lot of his youth in foster homes in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. Desperate after being evicted and homeless, Stallone’s first starring role came in the soft core pornography film The Party at Kitty and Stud’s (1970), which was later renamed Italian Stallion in order to capitalize on Stallone’s Rocky fame. He found smaller, often uncredited roles after that, including an appearance in Woody Allen’s Bananas (1971) and the thriller Klute (1971). His next starring role came a few years later in The Lords of Flatbush (1974). The following year, inspired by the Muhammad Ali–Chuck Wepner fight, Stallone would pen Rocky in under four days time.
Read more on Sylvester Stallone after the jump…
Now that he had his opus script in hand, Stallone made it a mission to sell Rocky with the stipulation that he would play the lead role, and in the end accepted less money in order to do so. Rocky was nominated for 10 Academy Awards – including two for Stallone himself (Lead Actor and Original Screenplay) - and would go on to win three, including being named the Best Picture of 1976. The Rocky franchise would eventually spawn five sequels, each one more dulling than the last, and other than Rocky V, all pulled in big numbers at the box office. After Rocky, Sly directed his first film, Paradise Alley (1978), a drama about a family of wrestlers. The following year he would write, direct and star in Rocky II.
His next successful franchise was launched in 1982 when Stallone gave one of his career-best performances playing a former Green Beret by the name of John Rambo in First Blood. Again, the Rambo series spawned three sequels that continued to decrease in critical acclaim with each new film.
He found his niche in action/dramas, and in 1989 played a widower truck driver in Over the Top, where he earns back the affections of his estranged son by competing in a nation-wide arm wrestling competition. Films like Cobra (1986), Tango and Cash (1989), and Cliffhanger (1993) did well both domestically and overseas, but in a way painted Stallone in a corner with roles that he became typecast for. When he played against type, the results were often disastrous. Films like Oscar (1991) and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992) drive this point home. He continued to be an enormous box office draw with movies like Demolition Man (1993) and Judge Dredd (1995). He did, however, achieve critical praise for his performance playing against type in the crime drama Cop Land (1997).
While the aught’s weren’t terrifically kind to Stallone’s career, he made a recent comeback by writing, directing, and starring in the gratuitous action flick The Expendables (2010), which did so well that we are due a sequel to the film later this summer.
My Circuit 3 for Sylvester Stallone:
- Rocky (1976)
- First Blood (1982)
- Cop Land (1997)
What are your Circuit 3? You can view Sly’s entire filmography here.