When you consider a career in acting, you think of being at the mercy of cattle calls, kissing ass to directors and producers, and even worse – being at the total mercy of that “big role” that will demonstrate you dazzling thespian skills. But throughout cinema history, when actors took charge, the results were frequently great contributions to cinema. Actors such as Warren Beatty, Barbara Streisand, and John Cassavettes decided they weren’t going to sit around and wait for roles, even if they were making a good living at it. Take the story of…
Legend has it that Sly (as he is known to his friends) had some kind of surgery when he was a kid. The wrong nerve was cut. Half his mouth was paralyzed. That not only did not stop this guy from pushing against impossible odds to transcend into a movie star, but creating the role which was the catalyst to that eventuality.
Sly would soon be at the wrong side of 30. He was living in hell’s kitchen, married with one handicapped kid, and only getting the occasional role (one scene in a Woody Allen movie, bad guy opposite David Carradine in “Death Race 2000”, he was even doing porn to get by). That still did not change when he wrote the screenplay that would change his life.
A period piece about two brothers, both boxers, would find its way to producers Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler. This script wasn’t incredible, but the two producers saw something in the draft they could develop. So, they paid Sly a pittance to option the script and develop it. Although starving, barely making a living, Sly insisted that he should play the lead role of “Rocky.”
A year later, the story of “Rocky” was updated to modern day for budget reasons. Chartoff-Winkler would offer Sly a fortune if he allowed someone like say Ryan O’Neal (the biggest movie star at that time) to play the lead. Sly politely declined and played the role of his life. “Rocky” would win Best Picture at the Oscars and allow Stallone to take charge of his career even more.
The greatest bonus was that he was able to sell the same screenplay again under the title “Paradise Alley”, but he changed the brothers to wrestlers. Sly not only wrote, directed and starred in the film, but sang the lead song. He could do whatever the hell he wanted. The movie is pitifully bad, but that didn’t matter, he directed the next 3 Rockies, the half-mouthed star created not only one – but two more franchises. “Rambo” and the recent “The Expendables.” Sometimes directing, always writing. Sly has taken such charge of his career that not even bizarre plastic surgery (frequently career deaths for most stars) has done much damage (today, he looks like he’s 35 and 55 simultaneously). Last year he was nominated for an Oscar for a second time playing “Rocky” in perhaps another franchise, “Creed.”
Written by: Norith Soth