LAFF 2010: Sylvester Stallone on 'The Expendables,' flirting with fans and his worst role ever
Few film festivals do a better job than LAFF in offering up more populist fare to its patrons, and Wednesday night's event with Sylvester Stallone again proved the broad appeal of their programming philosophy.
In conversation lasting a little over an hour that was engaging, freewheeling and candid, Stallone charmed the sold-out crowd on such topics as his writing habits, working with John Huston, directing Mickey Rourke in the upcoming "The Expendables," how to flirt with a lady, and the making of "Rhinestone," which he declared his worst movie.
A brief career highlight reel for the writer/director/actor opened with the theme song from "Rocky" and the audience went wild with cheers. When moderator Elvis Mitchell entered the theater from a side door, he waved the audience up out of their seats and they duly obliged as Stallone entered to the first of three standing ovations he would receive through the night.
Mitchell began with two slightly oddball questions, perhaps throwing Stallone a bit off-balance and setting the surprisingly off-the-cuff tone for their interview. The first was about the time a pre-"Rocky" Stallone was chastised for improvising on the set of a Neil Simon-scripted film. (He had added a slang-y "man" at the end of a line.) The other was regarding his failed audition for a part in "The Godfather."
"I couldn't even be an extra at the wedding, that's how far down the food chain I was," Stallone said.
Two short clips were shown from the mercenaries action-adventure "The Expendables," which opens in August, but the focus of the night was squarely on the bigger arc of Stallone's stardom, moving from the dual-edge of optimism and pessimism represented by Rocky and Rambo to other characters of his career. While discussing how the first "Rocky" film came to be made, Stallone referenced "The Studio," John Gregory Dunne's seminal book on Hollywood -- "You didn't think I was that smart, did you?" he joked.
A brief question-and-answer period with the audience simply underscored how meaningful a figure like Stallone -- so easy for some cinephiles to ridicule or dismiss -- is to his faithful fans. That this was not a typical festival crowd of industry tastemakers, intelligentsia and aspiring filmmakers became apparent from the first question: "In your personal life, how do you overcome adversity?" (Short answer: "You've got to stay in the game.") Two separate questions concerned the heartfelt speech from a father to a son in the recent "Rocky Balboa." In one of his responses, Stallone, who turns 64 next month, acknowledged, "I now, at my age, approach every film like this could be the last one."
At the end of the evening, LAFF Director Rebecca Yeldham presented Stallone with a small statuette honoring him as a special guest of the festival. "I don't do this very often," Stallone said, accepting the award. He then addressed the audience directly: "No man is an island. I've realized as long as I'm in touch with people like you then I can always be able to write stories about people like you. So I want to thank you very much, because as much as you got from me, I got from you."
-- Mark Olsen
Photo of Sylvester Stallone by Carlos Alvarez / Getty Images.
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