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Michael Sylvester “Sly” Gardenzio Stallone (/stəˈloʊn/; Italian: [stalˈloːne]; born July 6, 1946) is an American actor and filmmaker. He is well known for his Hollywood action roles, including boxer Rocky Balboa, the title character of the Rocky series’ seven films from 1976 to 2015; soldier John Rambo from the four Rambo films, released between 1982 and 2008; and Barney Ross in the three The Expendables films from 2010 to 2014. He wrote or co-wrote most of the 14 films in all three franchises, and directed many of the films.
Stallone’s film Rocky was inducted into the National Film Registry as well as having its film props placed in the Smithsonian Museum. Stallone’s use of the front entrance to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the Rocky series led the area to be nicknamed the Rocky Steps. Philadelphia has a statue of his Rocky character placed permanently near the museum. It was announced on December 7, 2010 that Stallone was voted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the non-participant category.
In 1977, Stallone was nominated for two Academy Awards for Rocky, Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor. He became the third man in history to receive these two nominations for the same film, after Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles. He received positive reviews, as well as his first Golden Globe Award win and a third Academy Award nomination, for reprising the role of Rocky Balboa in Ryan Coogler’s 2015 film Creed.
1 Early life
2 Hollywood career
2.1 1970–1971: The Party at Kitty and Stud’s and Score
2.2 1969–1975: Early film roles
2.3 1976: Success with Rocky
2.4 1978–2005: More Rocky, Rambo, and additional roles
2.5 2006–2008: Revisiting Rocky and Rambo
2.6 2010–present: The Expendables and Creed
3 Other film works
4 Soundtrack contributions
5 Boxing promoter
6 Personal life
6.2 Religious views
6.3 Political views
7 Awards and honors
8 Selected filmography
Stallone was born in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City, the elder son of Frank Stallone, Sr. (1919–2011), a hairdresser and beautician, and Jacqueline “Jackie” Stallone (née Labofish), an astrologer, former dancer, and promoter of women’s wrestling. Stallone’s father was born in Gioia del Colle, Apulia, Italy, and immigrated to the United States in the 1930s. Stallone’s mother is of half French (from Brittany) and half Ukrainian Jewish (from Soviet Union, Odessa) descent. His younger brother is actor and musician Frank Stallone.
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. As a result, the lower left side of his face is paralyzed – including parts of his lip, tongue, and chin – an accident which has given Stallone his snarling look and slightly slurred speech. Stallone was baptized Catholic. His father moved the family to Washington, D.C. in the early 1950s, where he opened a beauty school. His mother opened a women’s gymnasium called Barbella’s in 1954. He attended Notre Dame Academy and Lincoln High School in Philadelphia, and Charlotte Hall Military Academy, prior to attending Miami Dade College and the University of Miami.
1970–1971: The Party at Kitty and Stud’s and Score
Stallone had his first starring role in the soft core pornography feature film The Party at Kitty and Stud’s (1970). He was paid US$200 for two days’ work. Stallone later explained that he had done the film out of desperation after being evicted from his apartment and finding himself homeless for several days. He has also said that he slept three weeks in the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City prior to seeing a casting notice for the film. In the actor’s words, “it was either do that movie or rob someone, because I was at the end – the very end – of my rope”. The film was released several years later as Italian Stallion, in order to cash in on Stallone’s newfound fame (the new title was taken from Stallone’s nickname since Rocky and a line from the film).
Stallone at the Ken Norton / Duane Bobick boxing match in 1977
Stallone also starred in the erotic off-Broadway stage play Score which ran for 23 performances at the Martinique Theatre from October 28 to November 15, 1971 and was later made into the 1974 film Score by Radley Metzger.
1969–1975: Early film roles
While Stallone was in Switzerland, he played a restaurant patron, in a scene with Robert Redford and Camilla Sparv, in the sports drama, Downhill Racer (1969). In 1970, Stallone appeared in the film No Place to Hide, which was re-cut and retitled Rebel, the second version featuring Stallone as its star. After the style of Woody Allen’s What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, this film, in 1990, was re-edited from outtakes from the original movie and newly shot matching footage, then redubbed into an award-winning parody of itself titled A Man Called… Rainbo.
Stallone’s other first few film roles were minor, and included brief uncredited appearances in Pigeons (1970) as a party guest, Woody Allen’s Bananas (1971) as a subway thug, in the psychological thriller Klute (1971) as an extra dancing in a club, and in the Jack Lemmon film The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1975) as a youth. In the Lemmon film, Jack Lemmon’s character chases, tackles and mugs Stallone, thinking that Stallone’s character is a pickpocket. According to actor Elliott Gould, Stallone confessed to being in MASH (1970) as an extra. He had his second starring role in The Lords of Flatbush, in 1974. In 1975, he played supporting roles in Farewell, My Lovely; Capone; and Death Race 2000. He made guest appearances on the TV series Police Story and Kojak.
1976: Success with Rocky
Stallone at the premiere of the movie F.I.S.T., 1978
Sylvester Stallone in 1983
Stallone gained worldwide fame with his starring role in the smash hit Rocky (1976). On March 24, 1975, Stallone saw the Muhammad Ali–Chuck Wepner fight. That night Stallone went home, and after three days and 20 straight hours, he had written the script, but Stallone subsequently denied that Wepner provided any inspiration for it. Other possible inspirations for the film may have included Rocky Graziano’s autobiography Somebody Up There Likes Me, and the movie of the same name. Wepner filed a lawsuit which was eventually settled with Stallone for an undisclosed amount. Stallone attempted to sell the script to multiple studios, with the intention of playing the lead role himself. Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff became interested and offered Stallone US$350,000 for the rights, but had their own casting ideas for the lead role, including Robert Redford and Burt Reynolds. Stallone refused to sell unless he played the lead character and eventually, after a substantial budget cut to compromise, it was agreed he could be the star.
Rocky was nominated for ten Academy Awards, including Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay nominations for Stallone. The film went on to win the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Directing and Best Film Editing.
1978–2005: More Rocky, Rambo, and additional roles
Following the success of Rocky, Stallone made his directorial debut and starred in the 1978 film Paradise Alley, a family drama in which he played one of three brothers who enter the world of wrestling. That same year he starred in Norman Jewison’s F.I.S.T., a social drama in which he plays a warehouse worker, very loosely modeled on James Hoffa, who becomes involved in the labor union leadership. In 1979 he wrote, directed and starred in the sequel to his 1976 hit: Rocky II (replacing John G. Avildsen, who won an Academy Award for directing the first film), which also became a major success, grossing US$200 million.
Stallone in 1988
In 1981 he starred alongside Michael Caine in Escape to Victory, a sports drama in which he plays a prisoner of war involved in a Nazi propaganda soccer game. That same year he starred in the thriller Nighthawks, in which he plays a New York city cop who plays a cat and mouse game with a foreign terrorist, played by Rutger Hauer.
Stallone with Brigitte Nielsen, Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan at the White House, 1985
Stallone launched another major franchise success, starring as Vietnam veteran John Rambo, a former Green Beret, in the action-war film First Blood (1982). The first installment of Rambo was both a critical and box office success. Critics praised Stallone’s performance, saying he made Rambo seem human, as opposed to the way he is portrayed in the book of the same name. Three Rambo sequels, Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Rambo III (1988) and Rambo (2008), followed. He also continued his box office success with the Rocky franchise and wrote, directed, and starred in two more sequels to the series: Rocky III (1982) and Rocky IV (1985). Stallone has portrayed these two characters in a total of eleven films. In preparation for these roles, Stallone embarked upon a vigorous training regimen which often meant six days a week in the gym and further sit ups in the evenings. Stallone claims to have reduced his body fat percentage to his all-time low of 2.8% for Rocky III. Stallone met former Mr. Olympia Franco Columbu to develop the appearance for Rocky IV and Rambo II films, just as if he were preparing for the Mr. Olympia competition. That meant two workouts a day, six days a week.
During this time period, Stallone cultivated a strong overseas following. He also attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, roles in different genres. In 1984 he co-wrote and starred alongside Dolly Parton in the comedy film Rhinestone where he played a wannabe country music singer. For the Rhinestone soundtrack, he performed a song. In 1987, he starred in the family drama Over the Top as a struggling trucker who tries to make amends with his estranged son. These films did not do well at the box office and were poorly received by critics. It was around 1985 that Stallone was signed to a remake of the 1939 James Cagney classic Angels With Dirty Faces. The film would form part of his multi-picture deal with Cannon Pictures and was to co-star Christopher Reeve and be directed by Menahem Golan. The re-making of such a beloved classic was met with disapproval by Variety and horror by top critic Roger Ebert. Cannon opted to make Cobra instead. Cobra (1986) and the buddy cop action film Tango & Cash (1989), the latter alongside Kurt Russell, did solid business domestically and blockbuster business overseas, grossing over US$100 million in foreign markets and over US$160 million worldwide.
Stallone at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival
The 1990s began with Stallone starring in the fifth installment of the Rocky franchise, Rocky V. This film brought back the original film’s director John G. Avildsen. It was considered a box office disappointment. He attempted the comedy genre, starring in two comedies during the early 1990s, the critical and commercial disasters Oscar (1991) and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992). In 1993, he made a comeback with the hit Cliffhanger, which was a success in the US, grossing US$84 million, but even more successful worldwide, grossing US$171 million. Later that year, he starred with Wesley Snipes in the futuristic action film Demolition Man, which grossed over US$158 million worldwide. His string of hits continued with 1994’s The Specialist (over US$170 million worldwide gross). In 1995, he played the futuristic character Judge Dredd (from the British comic book 2000 AD) in the eponymous film Judge Dredd. His overseas box office appeal saved the domestic box office disappointment of Judge Dredd, which cost almost US$100 million and barely made its budget back, with a worldwide tally of US$113 million. He also appeared in the thriller Assassins (1995) with Julianne Moore and Antonio Banderas. In 1996, he starred in the disaster film Daylight.
That same year, Stallone, along with an all-star cast of celebrities, appeared in the Trey Parker and Matt Stone short comedy film “Your Studio and You” commissioned by the Seagram Company for a party celebrating their acquisition of Universal Studios and the MCA Corporation. Stallone speaks in his Rocky Balboa voice with subtitles translating what he is saying. At one point, Stallone starts yelling about how can they use his Balboa character, that he left it in the past; the narrator calms him with a wine cooler and calling him “brainiac.” In response, Stallone says, “Thank you very much.” He then looks at the wine cooler and exclaims, “Stupid cheap studio!”
Following his breakthrough performance in Rocky, critic Roger Ebert had stated that Stallone could become the next Marlon Brando, though he barely recaptured the critical acclaim achieved with Rocky. Stallone did go on to receive acclaim for his role in the crime drama Cop Land (1997), in which he starred alongside Robert De Niro and Ray Liotta. His performance led him to win the Stockholm International Film Festival Best Actor Award. In 1998, he did voice-over work for the computer-animated film Antz, which was a big hit domestically.
In 2000, Stallone starred in the thriller Get Carter – a remake of the 1971 British Michael Caine film of the same name—but the film was poorly received by both critics and audiences. Stallone’s career declined considerably after his subsequent films Driven (2001), Avenging Angelo (2002) and D-Tox (2002) also underachieved expectations to do well at the box office and were poorly received by critics.
In 2003, he played a villainous role in the third installment of the Spy Kids trilogy Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over which was a huge box office success (almost US$200 million worldwide). Stallone also had a cameo appearance in the 2003 French film Taxi 3 as a passenger.
Following several poorly reviewed box office flops, Stallone started to regain prominence for his supporting role in the neo-noir crime drama Shade (2003) which was only released in a limited fashion but was praised by critics. He was also attached to star and direct a film tentatively titled Rampart Scandal, which was to be about the murder of rappers Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. and the surrounding Los Angeles Police Department corruption scandal. It was later titled Notorious but was shelved.
In 2005, he was the co-presenter, alongside Sugar Ray Leonard, of the NBC Reality television boxing series The Contender. That same year he also made a guest appearance in two episodes of the television series Las Vegas. In 2005, Stallone also inducted wrestling icon Hulk Hogan, who appeared in Rocky III as a wrestler named Thunderlips, into the WWE Hall of Fame; Stallone was also the person who offered Hogan the cameo in Rocky III.
2006–2008: Revisiting Rocky and Rambo
Sylvester Stallone Hollywood Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame
After a three-year hiatus from films, Stallone made a comeback in 2006 with the sixth installment of his successful Rocky series, Rocky Balboa, which was a critical and commercial hit. After the critical and box office failure of the previous installment Rocky V, Stallone had decided to write, direct and star in a sixth installment which would be a more appropriate climax to the series. The total domestic box office came to US$70.3 million (and US$155.7 million worldwide). The budget of the movie was only US$24 million. His performance in Rocky Balboa has been praised and garnered mostly positive reviews.
Stallone’s fourth installment of his other successful movie franchise is titled simply Rambo. The film opened in 2,751 theaters on January 25, 2008, grossing US$6,490,000 on its opening day and US$18,200,000 over its opening weekend. Its box office was US$113,244,290 worldwide with a budget of US$50 million.
Asked in February 2008 which of the icons (Rocky or Rambo) he would rather be remembered for, Stallone said “it’s a tough one, but Rocky is my first baby, so Rocky.”
2010–present: The Expendables and Creed
Stallone promoting The Expendables 3 at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival
The Expendables was Stallone’s big success of 2010. The movie, which was filmed during summer/winter 2009, was released on August 13, 2010. Stallone wrote, directed and starred in the movie. Joining him in the film were fellow action stars Jason Statham, Jet Li, and Dolph Lundgren, as well as Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Randy Couture, Eric Roberts, and Stone Cold Steve Austin, and cameos by fellow ’80s action icons Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The movie took US$34,825,135 in its opening weekend, going straight in at No. 1 in the US box office. The figure marked the biggest opening weekend in Stallone’s career. In summer 2010, Brazilian company O2 Filmes released a statement saying it was still owed more than US$2 million for its work on the film. A sequel, The Expendables 2 was released August 17, 2012, to a positive critical reception of 67% on Rotten Tomatoes, as opposed to the original’s 41%. As well as returning cast members from the first film, the ensemble cast also included Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris.
In 2013, Stallone starred in the action film Bullet to the Head, directed by Walter Hill, based upon Alexis Nolent’s French graphic novel Du Plomb Dans La Tete. Also in 2013, he starred in the action thriller Escape Plan, along with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Caviezel, and in the sports comedy Grudge Match alongside Robert De Niro. Stallone expressed interest in making a remake of the Spanish film No Rest for the Wicked and to star in a fifth Rambo film but both projects are now shelved.
The Expendables 3, the third installment in the ensemble action film series was released on August 15, 2014. The returning ensemble cast also added Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford. In 2015, Stallone reprised his role as Rocky Balboa in a spin-off-sequel film, Creed, which focused on the son of his deceased friend/rival, Apollo Creed, becoming a boxer. The film, directed by Ryan Coogler, received critical acclaim. Portraying the iconic cinematic boxer for the seventh time, Stallone’s portrayal of the character received widespread acclaim and accolades, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor, and his third Academy Award nomination; this time for Best Supporting Actor.
In 2017, Stallone appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in which he portrayed Starhawk. On July 21, 2017, Stallone confirmed that he had completed a script for a sequel to Creed and it would feature the return of Ivan Drago from Rocky IV. He is also working on an Escape Plan 3, which will be his fourth character to be portrayed by him for a third time, after Rocky Balboa, John Rambo, and Barney Ross.
Other Film Works
Stallone in 2009 at the 66th Venice International Film Festival
Stallone’s debut as a director came in 1978 with Paradise Alley, which he also wrote and starred in. In addition, he directed Staying Alive, the sequel to Saturday Night Fever, along with Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, Rocky Balboa, and Rambo. In August 2005, Stallone released his book Sly Moves which claimed to be a guide to fitness and nutrition as well as a candid insight into his life and works from his own perspective. The book also contained many photographs of Stallone throughout the years as well as pictures of him performing exercises. In addition to writing all six Rocky films, Stallone also wrote Cobra, Driven, and Rambo. He has co-written several other films, such as F.I.S.T., Rhinestone, Over the Top, and the first three Rambo films. His last major success as a co-writer came with 1993’s Cliffhanger. In addition, Stallone has continued to express his passion in directing a film on Edgar Allan Poe’s life, a script he has been preparing for years.
In July 2009, Stallone appeared in a cameo in the Bollywood movie Kambakkht Ishq where he played himself. Stallone also provided the voice of a lion in Kevin James’ comedy Zookeeper. Stallone has also mentioned that he would like to adapt Nelson DeMille’s novel, The Lion’s Game, and James Byron Huggins’s novel, Hunter, for which Stallone had the film rights several years; he originally planned to use the plot from Hunter for Rambo V. In 2009, Stallone expressed interest in starring in a remake of Charles Bronson’s 1974 film Death Wish.
There are plans for a fourth film in The Expendables series that will conclude the saga. Plus, there could be a possible sequel to Creed, where Rocky Balboa would serve as a mentor to Adonis Creed once more. However, no further news has since surfaced regarding its alleged development.
Stallone has occasionally sung in his films. He sang Too Close To Paradise for Paradise Alley (1978), with the music provided by Bill Conti (who also collaborated with Stallone in prior years, having recorded the famous “Gonna Fly Now” theme for his Academy Award-nominated film, Rocky (1976) which was a U.S. #1 hit). In Rocky IV (1985) Stallone (as Rocky Balboa) sang Take Me Back to his on-screen wife, Adrian (played by Talia Shire) as they lay in bed. The song was first performed by his younger brother, Frank, who had a small role in the original Rocky as a singer at a street corner, and then had bit parts in several of the sequels. For Rhinestone (1984), Stallone sang (albeit, very badly) such songs as “Drinkenstein” as well as duets with his co-star, and actual country music star, Dolly Parton. He also performed two songs when he guest-starred on The Muppets TV show in the ’80s, at the height of his career. The last time Stallone sang in a film was in Grudge Match (2013) when he and Robert De Niro performed The Star Spangled Banner together. Stallone’s brother Frank achieved moderate success as a pop singer, releasing the #10 U.S. hit Far From Over in 1983 for the film Staying Alive, which Stallone directed and had a cameo appearance in. Frank also portrayed the character Carl in the film. In addition to this, Frank has contributed songs to other films starring his brother, including Rambo: First Blood Part II, and The Expendables 2.
Stallone became a boxing promoter in the 1980s. His boxing promoting company, “Tiger Eye Productions”, signed world champion boxers Sean O’Grady and Aaron Pryor.
Stallone resides in Beverly Hills, California.
Stallone has been married three times. At age 28, on December 28, 1974, he married Sasha Czack from Pennsylvania. The couple had two sons, Sage Moonblood (May 5, 1976 – July 13, 2012), who died of heart disease at age 36, and Seargeoh (b. 1979). His younger son was diagnosed with autism at an early age. The couple divorced on February 14, 1985. He married model and actress Brigitte Nielsen on December 15, 1985, in Beverly Hills, California. Stallone and Nielsen’s marriage, which lasted two years, and their subsequent divorce, were highly publicized by the tabloid press. In May 1997, Stallone married Jennifer Flavin, with whom he has three daughters: Sophia, Sistine, and Scarlet. His daughters were chosen to be Miss Golden Globe at the 74th Golden Globe Awards.
After Stallone’s request that his acting and life experiences be accepted in exchange for his remaining needed college credits to graduate, he was granted a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree by the president of the University of Miami, in 1999.
In 2006, Stallone partnered with a beverage company producing an upscale bottled water brand called Sly Water.
In 2007, customs officials in Australia discovered 48 vials of the synthetic human growth hormone Jintropin in his luggage.
His 48-year-old half-sister, Toni Ann Filiti, died of lung cancer on August 26, 2012, six weeks after the death of his son, Sage. She died at their mother Jackie Stallone’s Santa Monica home, after choosing to leave UCLA hospital.
Stallone was the recipient of the Heart of Hollywood Award from the Board of Governors of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in 2016.
Known for physically demanding roles, and his willingness to do a majority of his own stunts, Stallone has suffered numerous injuries during his acting career. For a scene in Rocky IV, he told Dolph Lundgren “Punch me as hard as you can in the chest.” “Next thing I know, I was in intensive care at St. John’s Hospital for four days. It’s stupid!” While filming a fight scene with actor and professional wrestler Steve Austin in The Expendables, he broke his neck, which required the insertion of a metal plate. During the filming of Escape to Victory, Stallone broke a finger trying to save a penalty kick from Pelé.
Stallone was raised a strict Catholic but stopped going to church as his acting career progressed. Later, he rediscovered his childhood faith, when his daughter was born ill in 1996, and he again became an active Catholic.
In late 2006, the actor was interviewed by Pat Robertson from the CBN’s 700 Club. Stallone stated that before, in Hollywood, temptation abounded and he had “lost his way”, but later put things “in God’s hands”.
In 2010, he was interviewed by GQ magazine, to which he said that he considered himself a spiritual man, but was not part of any organized church institution.
Stallone is an outspoken supporter of the Republican Party. In 1994, Stallone contributed $1,000 to the campaign of then-Congressman Rick Santorum, who was then running for the United States Senate in Pennsylvania. In 2008, Stallone endorsed John McCain for that year’s presidential election. In the 2016 election he praised Donald Trump as a “Dickensian character” and “larger than life,” but did not endorse him or any candidate in that year’s Republican primary. In December, he declined an offer to become Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, citing a desire to work on issues related to veterans. He is a staunch advocate of gun control and has been described as “the most anti-gun person working in Hollywood today”.
Awards and Honors
- Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
- International Boxing Hall of Fame (Class of 2010)
- 1970: The Party at Kitty and Stud’s
- 1970: No Place to Hide
- 1974: The Lords of Flatbush
- 1975: Capone
- 1975: Death Race 2000
- 1975: Farewell, My Lovely
- 1976: Rocky
- 1978: F.I.S.T.
- 1978: Paradise Alley
- 1979: Rocky II
- 1981: Nighthawks
- 1981: Escape to Victory
- 1982: Rocky III
- 1982: First Blood
- 1983: Staying Alive
- 1984: Rhinestone
- 1985: Rambo: First Blood Part II
- 1985: Rocky IV
- 1986: Cobra
- 1987: Over the Top
- 1988: Rambo III
- 1989: Lock Up
- 1989: Tango & Cash
- 1990: Rocky V
- 1991: Oscar
- 1992: Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot
- 1993: Cliffhanger
- 1993: Demolition Man
- 1994: The Specialist
- 1995: Judge Dredd
- 1995: Assassins
- 1996: Daylight
- 1997: Cop Land
- 1998: Antz
- 1999: D-Tox
- 2000: Get Carter
- 2001: Driven
- 2002: Avenging Angelo
- 2003: Spy Kids 3: Game Over
- 2003: Shade
- 2006: Rocky Balboa
- 2008: Rambo
- 2010: The Expendables
- 2011: Zookeeper
- 2012: The Expendables 2
- 2012: Bullet to the Head
- 2013: Escape Plan
- 2013: Grudge Match
- 2014: The Expendables 3
- 2014: Reach Me
- 2015: Creed
- 2016: Ratchet & Clank
- 2017: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
- 2017: Animal Crackers
- 2018: Escape Plan 2: Hades