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Hey, Those Guys Look Like Rocky

3 minute read
Richard Corliss

He is the Toymaker, the brainy bad guy bent on ruling the cyberworld. He holds conferences with three advisers–a steely general, a bald scientist and a blissed-out hippie–all played by the one actor. Sylvester Stallone is simply the guest villain of Robert Rodriguez’s 3-D video game, but when the veteran star is onscreen, this Spy Kids plays like Sly Kids.

“Actors who partake in films like this or in animated films, like I did in Antz, often say, ‘I did it for my children,'” notes Stallone, who’s 57 but looks a fit and muscular 15 years younger. “Nah. You mean you did it for your inner child. Here I get to scream and act like a total fool and get paid for it. In a part like this, you really have to let loose and not worry that you hear the ‘acting police’ sirens looming in the background.”

Stallone had mentioned to Rodriguez that he had no movies in which he appears to show his older daughters, Sophia Rose, 6, and Sistine Rose, 5. As the director recalls, “I told him he’d get to be a hissable but redeemable bad guy and to play opposite one of the greatest actors: himself. We sent the kids an early videotape so they could see how cool their dad is.”

Or some might say “was,” for Stallone is at least a decade past his uber-hunk prime. Of his star vehicles after 1994, the top U.S. grosser (a modest $45 million) was the arty Cop Land. His last action film, D-Tox, hardly played in theaters at all.

As for Rocky and Rambo: those franchises are sooo last century. Stallone knows he’s lucky to have played two iconic heroes, but he calls it “the esoteric kiss of death, because you’re never going to be taken seriously. It’s like if John Wayne wanted to dance The Nutcracker. People would say, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t care how good you look in a tutu or how you are en pointe, I’m not buying it.'”

At 57, any man hears the whispers of career mortality. “You almost feel obligated to get depressed,” he says. “What nags at you is becoming warehoused–having your soul and your ambition put in cold storage.” Your ego too: it’s tough to fade gracefully to character-actor status after 25 years of stardom.

So he’ll be starring in and directing Rampart Scandal, about alleged cop corruption in the Tupac Shakur murder case. He’s also defying age and logic by planning a Rocky VI.

Clearly, the pug boxer is never far from Stallone. His home is festooned with Rocky arcana, including paintings by the actor. There’s also a photo, taken the day Baghdad fell, of a young Iraqi hoisting a U.S. flag with Rocky emblazoned on it. The image pleases and tickles the star: “You know the movie wasn’t playing in Iraq. Why would someone smuggle into the country a character that represents the American Dream? Did he have it under his bed thinking, I can’t wait to be liberated! It’s the first thing I’m pulling out!?”

In Hollywood, Stallone the star may be history. But in the rest of the world, he still helps make it. –By Richard Corliss. Reported by Desa Philadelphia/Los Angeles

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