Sylvester Stallone: The Forgotten American Writer

  Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone

By Sean Tuohy

Before his name was instantly recognizes all over the world, before he was a pop culture icon, before all the fame and glory, Sylvester Stallone was hunched over a pad of paper with a pen in hand trying to create a story.

Like many struggling artists, he had the talent and the drive and was just trying to make a buck. We all forget that Sylvester Stallone is a writer and an incredibly underrated one at that. He has 27 accredited scripts to his name and several of those are considered American classics. Screenwriters never get fame or glory. At best, they get a "good job" and then are left alone to create another story. If you look past the action movie star image you will find that Stallone is no different than any other writer. He’s stuck in a room trying to create something from nothing.

So let’s take a moment then to appreciate Stallone the writer.

“Rocky”

Rocky is considered by many to be one of the best made sports movies ever made. Stallone wrote this movie when he was nearly broke and struggling to make it as an actor. He knew that he had a great idea for a story within his own life. He wanted to write about a talented actor trying to make it, with one shot at the big time. The storyteller within Stallone told him no one would empathize with a movie about an actor trying to make it, so he switched it to the story of a boxer.

Bingo!

If you look at the script for Rocky, you find a well-crafted story that shows the rise of a troubled character trying to overcome the odds. Each character in the movie has flaws and internal conflicts, and overall are all well-developed characters. The monologue in “Rocky” where Rocky tells Adrian his fears and doubts before the big fight is a wonderfully honest portrait of a young artist on the brink of success (the above clip with his trainer Mickey ain’t bad neither). People tend to forget that Rocky does not win the match in the movie. After a close fight, he barely loses to Apollo Creed. Only a true writer would look at a story about boxer and say “He needs to lose the match for the sake of the character and the story.” Rocky's story is relatable, timeless, and always heartwarming.

The John Rambo Series

Stallone was not the creator of John Rambo—that was in fact the talented David Morrell—but he did bring him to life on the big screen. He co-wrote the first three movies (“First Blood,” “Rambo: First Blood Part II,” and “Rambo III”) and he was the sole writer of the fourth and final in the series, “Rambo.” Although I love the entire Rambo series, the fourth installment of the series has always stuck out to me the most. Although the plot seems very basic—Rambo saves hostages from a hostile country—it solely exists to move the action. When you look at the story developing within Rambo, there is so much more to find. Rambo is a man who hates who he is, and has never really came to peace with what he was made to do. By the end of the story, Rambo has been able to confront who he is enough to begin to recover and allow himself the peace to like himself again.

“Poe”

Sadly, I don't think this movie will ever be made. I have a feeling people would scoff at the idea of an “action star” making a bio pic. However, if it is ever made in to a movie I will be the first in line to see it. If I have to I will elbow an old man out of the way to get that ticket. I was lucky enough to find the script for Poe, which Stallone had penned years ago and had planned to make himself, but sadly, like so many movies, it fell apart and the story was shelved.

The movie was about famed American writer Edgar Allan Poe. Stallone was able to approach Poe as a tragic and tortured soul that had an amazing talent for writing but let his inner demons get in the way. Instead of your typical biopic, which tends to make their subjects two dimensional, Stallone actually was able to bring Poe to life in his screenplay.

It is hard to see Stallone as a “normal person” because he is, after all, Sylvester Stallone. However, at his core, he is a writer and actor who is just trying to share his stories. I like to believe that even someone like him, who has experienced such success, at one time or another felt the same self-doubt, fear, and frustration that all writers feel as they try to sort out the mess of ideas swimming around their head into a coherent story.

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