Sylvester Stallone is a huge star with limited time, so he gives his interviews as press conferences. You may see these answers posted elsewhere, but he makes it feel personal when he’s saying it. Whenever I got the chance to ask a question, he reacted like we were having a conversation, like he appreciated the thought I was bringing to his work. So essentially, I verbally jazzed all over my childhood hero and here’s the result.
CraveOnline: What happened to the shot from the Cannes sizzle reel where you punch the guy’s head off?
Sylvester Stallone: I know, that’s an optical confusion. What it was was the knife and it was such a bad print, it looked like I punched his head off. No, that’s the shot, absolutely. I kept reading blogs and said, "Guys, look closely. No one can punch someone’s head off."
CraveOnline: What has happened to Rambo over the last 20 years?
Sylvester Stallone: Well, last time we saw him he was in Afghanistan and he was disenchanted about America. He felt America was like a big parent that had no use for him, who just threw him away. He is this angry and disillusioned soul that believed in a cause and realizes it’s all been a waste of time. I had a big speech in the movie and I cut it. He was speaking about how war is natural and peace is not. How war is the consequence of a bunch of men on top who start the war but it’s not really your war. It’s old men starting the war, young men doing the war and nobody wins. Everybody in the middle dies, and you think that God is going to make all that go away, just go home. But Rambo can’t talk like that! I can talk like that but not Rambo. So at the end, I went from that long speech to “Go Home.” Just “Go Home.” These are the dilemmas I had to face. I put lots of philosophy about what’s going on in Iraq and Afghanistan about our senior citizens who are starting these war but don’t have to fight them. In the end who wins? This one has still his house, his family, he is still a congress man and this family over there is destroyed. So Rambo has it, he is fed up with politics. So this is where he is at. He is a bitter individual.
CraveOnline: How did you decide to make this Rambo so much gorier than the other ones?
Sylvester Stallone: If you notice over the opening credits, I had to live up to a certain kind of responsibility because people are dying as we’re making the film. Therefore, to just have me running through the film doing these extraordinary heroics I thought would demean what they’re going through. So they had to have their moment where you see a village that is decimated. That’s what happened. As a matter of fact, it’s even worse. The other thing was do you do a film about a caper, like they wanted to have the corrupt CIA guy and he was trying to sell plutonium rods. I said no. The biggest and most interesting crises in the world is the human crises. It never gets boring. Just like Shakespeare. You don’t need a gimmick. It’s just man against man, just their intolerance of each other.
CraveOnline: Was it hard to bring the movie in at an R rating? Did you want more gore?
Sylvester Stallone: I couldn’t believe it first of all. When babies are being bayoneted and people are getting impaled, I though this will never go. We presented it but I did have a caveat with the MPAA. I said, "Guys, this is happening today. If we’re ever going to do something responsible where art has the ability to influence people’s awareness, impact the lives of these people, don’t dilute it. Don’t water it down. It’s got to be uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable. It’s miserable. It’s distasteful. It’s horrifying. But if you’re not going to do it, don’t do the movie. Don’t do violence light. It’s just wrong. Don’t cut away too soon. Just let it sit in. I want people to feel it." To their credit, they allowed this film to be as truthful as it could.
CraveOnline: Did you do your own stunts and was it harder this time around?
Sylvester Stallone: Pretty hard indeed. I did everything but one stunt, the one where I’m supposed to jump off the hill during the explosion when the big bomb goes off. I really thought the stunt guy was going to die. I felt bad. We had to do it twice, and it was very slippery. You will have to look at the making off when the video comes out because there were so many injuries during the shooting, like snake bites, cuts, and so on. But this made this movie such a great adventure because of all of these incidents. Everyone at first hated and was scared. I said “I know but this is like a war and you’re all going to be sad to go home. You’re going to go home and look at your husband or your wife and kids and tell them, ‘You have it so easy you don’t know. So don’t even complain to me again.’"
CraveOnline: You’ve brought back your franchises in ways that make the fans really excided, but how do you bring back someone else’s franchise, Death Wish?
Sylvester Stallone: I think Death Wish, if it were done today, would be volcanic. The idea of Jeff Goldblum being a mugger who breaks into an apartment is very simplistic. It gives you an idea how bad the elevation of violence has become. I would focus on defense attorneys, allowing this crap to happen, not so much the guy on the street. It’s like who permits it. What if it happened to you, that your daughter was grabbed and her eyes were put out, would you want to sit there and defend that guy? So there’s moral questions here that are being presented that have not been answered in 30 years. So by no means is it the pacifist. Also, I’ll give you a little hint. He was a very violent human being, completely violent, an ex-convict who walked the walk, was accepted back into society and did everything he could to be a [good person]. Like these thieves and junkies who now work on the side of the law, they’ve gone that way, but when something happens he reverts back to that guy. So now you’ve unleashed a man who really understands the world of violence. He isn’t burdened with this passive-aggressive, conscientious-objector kind of thing. That’s been done. It’s like what happens when the wolf has gone from wolf to wolf in sheep’s clothing back to the wolf. Now the fellow on the street has a problem because he knows how to deal with that kind of mentality because he was a prisoner. So it would be a different take.
CraveOnline: How do you make Rocky and Rambo relevant today?
Sylvester Stallone: If I were trying to go after a youth audience and trying to find something hip, using certain music and whatever, I think that would be pretty obvious and be rejected. There are some things that never change and are universal truths. As you get older, they become more and more apparent about how difficult life is and like the speech in Rocky about taking punches and life gives you punches. The young people who would support Rocky more than even people my age I think really enjoy and embrace those kinds of lessons. I think the lesson that is somewhat presented here, that war is hell and there is no winner ever and unfortunately people just have to find it out the hard way, will translate. Eventually after a man takes that journey, a woman takes that journey, you always hope that you can go back home, that there’s still some gateway back to peace, peace of mind where you can start to rebuild. That’s the only thing I hope works. I think it does work because they’re just universal truths that never, ever change. No matter what society is, just everybody wants freedom, everyone wants peace of mind but it comes at a horrible price.
CraveOnline: What was the most challenging aspect of making this film?
Sylvester Stallone: Well, we had a crew in Rocky of about 60 people. [Here] there was 570. That’s how hard it was to move through the jungle and everything else. It was the hottest temperatures in 94 years. They called it the burning season. I even wrote lines in there about when they’re going up the river and it’s always hazy and foggy. That was the burning season. The entire country’s burning to the ground. They can see it from satellites. They had to send in military. It was just out of control. It was just burning and burning and burning their land. Every time we cleared it, people were just getting sick. There are 165 different snakes in Thailand, 90 that were poisonous. So we lived with the constant problem of people being bit, centipedes which are the size of your shoe being found in your shoes. It was a rough, rough. Julie Benz coming from Dexter went, "What?" Welcome to action films. You know what it reminded me of? I was watching the making of David Lean’s film, Bridge Over the River Kwai, how much you just had to truck and use brutal manpower and get inland. There’s nothing glamorous about it. I’d watch these men shoulder these giant generators and cut trails with a cigarette in the mouth, no shoes. You could never have done it anywhere else on the planet. Believe me, when we were starting to get all the threats from the Burmese, I said, "Can’t we shoot this in Puerto Vallarta?" I tried, you don’t know. You don’t know.
CraveOnline: Was directing a Rambo harder than a Rocky?
Sylvester Stallone: It was so difficult indeed. The editing took for ever. Compared to Rocky I thought this would be easy and it wasn’t because I wanted it to be brutal and real. When you see lots of these films you don’t even know how complicated they are to put together. A battlefield is a terrifying situation to look at and I wanted to get all of it there. It was very hard because of the timing of the editing, the choice of the music and trying to figure out the female character and for her to realize that war is natural and Peace is not. This woman has to listen to Rambo telling her, “You’re not going to change anything and men will be always in turmoil. This is never going to stop, no matter what you do. Don’t think we can hold hands and it’s going to be peaceful for ever." She got to learn it the hard way. For example, the ending was very difficult to shoot. I shot it five different times. He waves, she waves. I thought the right choice was just for Rambo to look at her and with his eyes tell her, “I told you so. Go home."
CraveOnline: Wasn’t the movie initially scheduled for Christmas?
Sylvester Stallone: Yes, but it could not have happened for two reasons. First it was such a crowed season with way too many movies in theaters. You just could not get any theaters because they are booked way in advance. Second, I truly just finished the movie like 10 days ago. It was that hard because of these special effects and to show the impact of war. It took longer than I thought. Now I have much more respect for all these people doing CGI work and special effects.
CraveOnline: Jackie Chan says you asked him to be in Rambo IV one time. At what point was that idea?
Sylvester Stallone: This was during Demolition Man, so 1993. Now you’ve got Jason Statham, you lucky people.