Interviews


Sylve Sterstallone


Occupation: Actor, Director, Producer, Writer
Date of Birth: July 6, 1946
Place of Birth: New York, N.Y., USA
Sign: Sun in Cancer, Moon in Gemini
Relations: Wife: Jennifer Flavin (model); first wife: Sasha Czack (theater usher); second wife: Brigitte Nielsen (actress); kids: Sage Moonblood, Seth (a.k.a. Seargeoh; both with Czack); Sophia Rose and Sistine Rose (with Flavin).
Education: American School of Switzerland; attended University of Miami

 

SYLVESTER STALLONE'S two trademarks features, his drooping eyes and slurred speech, were actually the result of a severed facial nerve caused by forceps during his delivery. These abnormalities, coupled with his unfortunate first name (there were many Tweety bird jokes) made for a difficult childhood in New York's Hell's Kitchen. The eldest of two sons born to hairstylist Frank Stallone and chorus girl Jacqueline Stallone (Mrs. Stallone eventually became a practicing astrologer and a women's wrestling promoter), little Sly boarded with a woman in Queens between the ages of two and five, and only saw his parents on the weekends. He assuaged his loneliness by immersing himself in the fantasy life afforded by comic books--he broke eleven bones in as many years in his attempts to mimic his heroes' feats of derring-do. Reunited with his family at the age of five, Stallone moved to Maryland, where his parents operated a chain of lucrative beauty salons. Their marriage ended six years later, and Stallone went to live with his mother and her new husband, a pizza manufacturer, in Philadelphia. Expelled from fourteen schools by the time he was fifteen, he finally landed at Devereaux Manor, a private school for troubled youths in nearby Berwyn, Pennsylvania, where he found an outlet for his aggression in sports. His poor academic performance left him few options at graduation time: too young to enlist in the Navy, Stallone instead enrolled in beauty school. He quickly discovered that he had a paucity of coifing abilities and succeeded in earning a scholarship to the American College in Switzerland, where he supported his drama studies by teaching girl's physical education classes. After receiving a standing ovation for his performance in a student production of Death of a Salesman, Stallone knew for certain that acting was his true calling.

Stallone returned to the States and enrolled in the drama department at the University of Miami--unfortunately, his teachers tried to discourage him from aspiring to an actor's life. He was not to be deterred, however, and just three credits shy of completing his degree, he dropped out and headed to New York to launch his acting career. Stallone's mother had predicted, based on astrological calculations, that he would struggle for a period of seven years before breaking through as a writer, so Stallone began writing screenplays, mainly under the pseudonyms Q. Moonblood and J.J. Deadlock. He took a series of odd jobs to pay the rent, including cleaning lion cages at the zoo, demonstrating pizza, hawking fish, and working as a bookstore detective and as an usher in a movie theater. He landed the occasional bit part, including the role of a subway mugger in Woody Allen's Bananas, and starred in a low-budget porn flick that he would just as soon forget (the film, originally titled A Party at Kitty and Stud's, was renamed The Italian Stallion after Stallone hit it big).

A small role in The Lords of Flatbush convinced him to give Hollywood a try. Struggling to find work as a screenwriter in Lotus Land, Stallone happened to catch a fight between Muhammed Ali and a little-known boxer named Chuck Wepner. Wepner lasted fifteen rounds against Ali, and by the time the fight was over, Stallone had an idea for a screenplay. It only took him three days to write the story of an underdog boxer named Rocky Balboa; though several producers were interested in developing the property, they were scared off by Stallone's insistence that he play the lead (they were lobbying for Ryan O'Neal). He eventually found a backer, and the film was shot on a shoestring budget in just under a month. Rocky was the sleeper hit of 1976, earning over $225 million dollars and winning the Best Picture and Director Oscars--with acting and writing nominations for Stallone. (Frank Capra called it "A picture I wish I had made.")

Taking full charge of his now-golden career opportunities, Stallone turned Rocky, and another laconic alter ego named John Rambo, into incredibly profitable franchises (the two series of films have grossed nearly $2 billion worldwide). Not content to play just action heroes, he branched out with a handful of unsuccessful comedies, but returned to the action genre with the long-overdue hits Cliffhanger and Demolition Man (both 1993). A spate of less well-received actioners--The Specialist, Judge Dredd, and Assassins--kept the Italian Stallion in circulation. In his latest action-packed drama, Daylight, Stallone plays a disgraced former head of a Emergency Medical Services team who attempts to rescue a group of people trapped in the underwater commuter tunnel linking New York and New Jersey. In an attempt to make himself over into a "serious" actor, Stallone signed on to the low-budget feature Cop Land, with Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel, as well as cast his line for a role in Quentin Tarantino's adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel Rum Punch. Stallone will helm the Universal thrillers The Hunter and One Free Murder, and has been mentioned for roles in Capone (in the title role), Comes the Watcher, and Gangland (in the role of John Gotti).

Stallone left his wife of eleven years and his two sons (the younger boy, Seargeoh, is autistic) to marry Brigitte Nielsen, a statuesque, athletic Danish blonde who quickly drained his pocketbook and his patience (there were rumors of her infidelity). In 1997, Stallone married former model Jennifer Flavin, with whom he has two daughters, Sophia Rose and Sistine Rose. Surprisingly, beneath the palooka exterior lurks a painter (his neo-expressionist paintings go for about $40,000), art collector (his multi-million-dollar collection has included works by Rodin, Botero, Monet, Chagall, Dali, Lichtenstein, and Warhol), novelist, and polo player.

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