tv The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations Bloomberg April 15, 2022 4:30am-5:00am EDT
david: this is my kitchen table and also my filing system. over much of the past three decades, i have been an investor. the highest calling of mankind, i've often thought, was private equity. [laughter] and then i started interviewing. i watch your interviews, so i know how to do some interviewing. i've learned how leaders make it to the top. >> i asked how much he wanted. he said 250. i said fine. i did not negotiate with him. i did no due diligence. david: i have something i would like to sell. and how they stay there. you don't feel inadequate now being the second wealthiest man in the world, is that right?
for six consecutive decades, sylvester stallone has starred in number one box office hit. he has not only been rambo and rocky, but a script writer, a producer, and a painter. i sat down with him to talk about is extraordinary, multi-decade career as a leading person in hollywood. i'm in the library of congress today with sylvester stallone. and thank you very much for giving us this time. sylvester: my pleasure. douglas: the library in congress -- david: the library of congress said that rocky was a national treasure and put it in our national heritage of films. was that a surprise to you that this was one of the most important films ever made? sylvester: it was a stunning revelation. when we started out, my intentions were to do a little
footage of what i did last summer kind of film. i never thought it would get to the magnitude that it did. david: in that movie, you conceived of rocky and then you played rocky. was it hard to get that movie sold to people? sylvester: very hard and i understand it. i was basically a classical nobody. and at that time, there were a few men in hollywood that actually considered themselves rather much easement and they could have filled the role. i knew this was the crossroad moment and if i did not hang on, if i did not go all in and the film was a success, i would have never forgiven myself the rest of my life. david: the idea for rocky, where did you come up with the idea? sylvester: everyone thinks it was watching muhammad ali fighting. that was the fabricated type story. rocky -- marciano, who was my
size had a fight with muhammad ali when he was suspended in 1970. the light bulb went off, i cited is sort of interesting. but then again, nobody in hollywood who rocky marciano was, so we 1975, i used that as a reference of the neighborhood loser going the distance with the champion. david: does it surprise you, disappoint you, or make you feel good that people actually think rocky is your life story and that you actually are a boxer? [laughter] sylvester: if the photos me, it does. david: people think you really were a boxer and this is your life story. sylvester: i know. they thought oh they found some fellow who was. that was -- actually to this day, people think i am more of a rocky character in reality. david: so to go back, where were you born? sylvester: i was born in hells kitchen new york.
and then you grew up in silver spring maryland? my parents migrated to bethesda. david: what did your parents do? sylvester: my father was a real tough guy, but he focused on hair. the stallone family was into cosmetology and my mother was too. she was the first one to open up a women's gym in new york. it was called barb ellis, which i thought was a great name, barbella. david: were you strong? sylvester: no, that was completely manufactured. i was not a physical specimen at all. when i went to see steve lee -- steve reed or hercules, my head exploded. i finally found. that is the role i want. david: when you told your parents what you want to do is be an actor, did they say get a real job?
sylvester: that is the line in rocky. you better start using your body. they did not put much faith in that particular occupation of choice. so i just said look, it is one of those things where they said have some in a fallback on. i go what? i'm not good at anything other than a day dreaming imagining. i am not pragmatic at all, i am totally abstract. and they took me to -- i don't know if i ever told anyone this. at 16, after being expelled from 11 schools, at 16 they took me to the drexel institute of technology. and they ran a battery of tests. in conclusion, i still have it, they said sylvester seems to be deficient in this and efficient in that. we recommend him to be an electrician's assistant or eight
tabs order, whatever that is. and i keep that as a reminder. sylvester: you wrote the script on rocky but before that you were an actor, is that right? but not exactly a very successful actor. so how did you support yourself in those early days? sylvester: i clean cases, i cut fish heads, i was good with sturgeon in the deli. i was kind of a night watchman in this building. i just a multitude of things, delivery boy, you name it. primarily i did those things, this is after four years of college that i took these jobs. so i would have my days. so i could make the rounds. david: you are making the rounds as an actor, but people were not saying we really want you so much. were writing at night or what were you doing? sylvester: what happened was i said i'm not going to make it. now i am starting to get around 26. so i got a job as an usher. and it was $39 a week, who could turn that down? but more importantly, i could watch films all day long.
and i started to dissect them at night. i had a one room transient hotel and i would take a tape recorder, record the soundtrack and the dialogue and go home. then try to replace the dialogue. it's like a game. after a while, i started picking up a tempo and rhythm. the first five screenplays, date where like what i did last summer-type screenplays until i came to the newark library and i went down to the basement and they showed me parchment writings of emerson, dickens, and edgar allan poe. that is where the light went off. talk about a misunderstood artist, way ahead of his time, the literary van gogh. that is what changed everything. david: how long did it take to write rocky? sylvester: three and a half days. david: that's all. sylvester: this is not a finished product, but you are a writer. but you had the format.
david: you write longhand? sylvester: i write long. david: so a producer, mr. winkler, right, so you give him the script and they say yes, we will buy it, provided that you are the writer, not the actor. sylvester: totally, absolutely. david: you said no. sylvester: i said guys, it's not for sale. it is just not for sale. at that time, i went broke. and when i say broke, i mean broke. david: finally they said ok, but i heard they give you a 15 day trial. sylvester: they did. they had all kinds of morality clauses. basically if you spit on the ground, we can replace you. and the first scene we did was mean shaking down the fellow along the docks. you know, come on give me your coat. and something happened. they saw this might actually work.
script writer best actor. that only happened twice before. orson welles and charlie chaplin. sylvester: who? david: and also the movie is also maybe your best picture. where you amazed and astounded? did your friends call you up and say i really knew you were great? sylvester: everyone, the the back slapper's were there. also it emboldened me in a negative way. i told you. see? and that is where i went too far into the obnoxious. david: did you expect to win? sylvester: not at all because every film back then was kind of a statement film. i mean all the presidents men, bound for glory, and then there is rocky, which is no statement really. it's just about a man wanting to have a little bit of respect.
david: you get the academy award, best picture and then your life changes, all of a sudden you're famous and you are extremely wealthy and you made a lot of money because of the film? sylvester: no, i don't know the percentage. there was something devious behind the scenes. machinations where when you are naïve, you are going to get burned. so i have no ownership. david: george lucas owns star wars, he owns every thinker sylvester: he's a smart man. david: and you owned nothing. sylvester: i'm an employee. david: but you did ok. sylvester: i did fine. david: most actors are thrilled what if they have one part like rocky in their whole career. you had another one, rambo. now rambo was not something you created, is that right? sylvester: rambo was a novel by david morrell. and i was the 11th choice. everyone. i don't have that was next after me, because they had gone through everyone.
pass, pass, pass, past, including three different directors. so this had become sort of a pariah of sorts. the first time we go in there, rambo was in the original screen, he was horrible. he was a psychopath. he killed children, he killed fishermen, this and that. i said if i am going to get involved with this, i see the character going on beyond this. they said what you want to do? i said i want to rewrite the screenplay and i want him to go right to the edge of violence. right to the point where he is being pushed and he pulls back because it's similar to james dean in east of eden, he wanted to be accepted back into the family of man. david: so if rambo got in a fight with rocky, who would win? sylvester: rambo, easy. it would not even be a fight. rambo is a killer for real. he is almost a psychopath, which flips. -- when the switch looks. rocky is a good guy.
he has mercy. the other one has no mercy. david: when you do these movies, let's say rocky, you are performing in the fighting scenes and isn't that hard? because you're not a professional boxer, so how did you learn how to do that and not get hurt? sylvester: the hard part of the choreography. it is trial and error because it's one thing if you just numeral regular fight, but create dramatic beats, it takes hours, months of trial and error. so it ends up being written down like notes that rights which move, fake, and i thought if i don't do this myself it is never going to be done right. david: any and when you are boxing in a movie rocky, somebody is hitting you? sylvester: all the time. david: did anybody really hurt you a lot? sylvester: oh yeah, i have a lot of photos where you actually see distortion. david: how may times have you been injured doing movies? do you have like 70's stun injuries?
sylvester: i would say more than anyone in the world. david: why do your own stunts? sylvester: it's just something, it's like the call of the wild, the jack london novel. i just get up there and i can do this. there is a difference between stunts and when you hook yourself up to -- for example, your jumping from train to train to train and this and that, that is just a certain kind of actor doing those sorts of james bond stones. and there is a kind that you become very physical and you engage with other people and you do it yourself completely. no doubles. that is going to lead to a lot of injuries, you know? so i chose more of the confrontational kind of stunts, you know, jumping off a waterfall, fire stunts. of course, i would have some very good doubles. at the time, mark and dallas farnsworth. the majority of them, you do it yourself.
david: you have a successful rocky series and the successful rambo series, but after all of these successes, at some point, people say to you well maybe you are too old to play these parts. all of a sudden, your agent says maybe we cannot help you as much. and you are seen as a washed up actor by some. how did that feel after you are at the top of the mountain to all of a sudden, all of the people telling you how great you are are telling you it was -- was at a real disappointing? sylvester: it was. then again, is that fourth crossroad. ok, joy listen to them or how do you feel? do you feel competitive? is there, as rocky would say, stuff in the basement? i'm like yeah, but i just have to do it age-appropriate. that is when i came up with the expendables. you cannot do it alone, but i will take a group of actors that are not doing so well and you put it all together and i got the idea when i took my wife to
a rock 'n' roll revival where you have like 20 groups. each one was worse than the next, but together, it was an interesting ticket. oh, look at this. and i thought why don't i do the same? i take all these guys who perhaps on their own were struggling, including myself, put them together, and i want to see how this turns out. this is kind of interesting. david: when you go to a restaurant or go out anywhere did people come up to you all the time for pictures, autographs question hard to people come up and say i want to arm wrestle you? sylvester: they do all the time. and usually with an arm wrestler, you do not know who is the killer in the room. ♪
david: so you have the success of the rocky movies and then you have a sequel, the creed movies. and by the way on creed, there is another creative movie coming out. sylvester: i believe so, yes. david: you would know. but i'm told that you are not going to reprise your role as rocky. his rocky ever going to be appear on screen? sylvester: boy, there is a possibility. i've written half a screenplay, because this is a story where obviously, his days in the ring are long gone. where he now tries to save his neighborhood or he thinks he can, because that area right now in philadelphia is that it was fentanyl.
it's terrible. and he involves himself. he realizes you cannot save the neighborhood. you know, rocky has a simple mind, so he starts to focus on a couple of these characters and it becomes like the new adrian, but with all the 2020 problems of today. and then a fellow comes from mexico and rocky takes him under his wing and before you know it, it's rocky and adrian and he is the mentor in this horrible existence until he becomes powerful. david: what is more pleasurable, writing, acting, producing? which do you like the most? sylvester: directing is fantastic, but you lose your life. it is seven days a week, you wake up in the middle of the night jotting notes. writing is a complete horror, complete horror. i've never seen a truly well, freshfaced writer. david: edgar allan poe.
sylvester: yeah, exactly my point. haggard, gone, dead at 39. reading is rough and i have tremendous -- it is almost like being a composer. every word is a note. it is not just typing. anyone can type, anyone can talk into a recorder. but to actually get the fluidity in the essence of dialogue, it is beautiful. but it is hard. david: so if you are starting today in hollywood and you are giving advice to a young actor, writer, producer, what would you say? would you say forget motion picture theaters and go with the streaming or what? sylvester: i would say that, yeah. i think you could do a couple of --indies to learn your cops, but the idea of grabbing life by the seat-of-the-pants, grabbing your gut, is over. rocky could never be made today. this never would've happened,
the godfather would not be made today. david: so today, you think the motion picture business is changing and streaming is taking over. you think the motion picture industry will survive? sylvester: i don't think it will ever have the golden era it has had so far, because the audience, the demographic, is different. there are watching films on their iphone so it is not as though the theater has become this habitual shrine to coming attractions. streaming -- actually i'm going to do one very soon called the tulsa king or the king of tulsa and it just allows that character to breathe out, to take 10 weeks, which is beautiful. where as in a film, you have maybe 95 minutes, 110 minutes. and it is all a crapshoot. in other words, with films, you
have a james bond, $200 million, you have one opening weekend. david: so when you do that, a particular picture, are you writing any of it or are you just acting? sylvester: this one is being written by taylor sheridan and of course terrence winter. and i am kind of like the -- david: the hired actor. sylvester: i am the hired gun. but you do put your input. as you said, it is easier to remember your own dialogue than someone else's. you try to construct the center so it is easier to recall. sylvester: you have three daughters would those three daughters -- would you recommend they go into the motion picture business? sylvester: if they are going to go in it solely as i am an actress, rough, rough. the day of the 30 year career is long gone. i have been really fortunate and
i'm very proud, and i'm the only person is at a number one film in six different decades, which is remarkable. david: as you look back, what would you say you're are most proud of? sylvester: i am most proud of rocky balboa, the sixth one, because that was done with such skepticism and i was at my career low. because it is all peaks and valleys, peaks and valleys in any career, any sport, anything and i was in some serious valley of the unknown. and i came up with this idea that 59, 60 years old to play rocky as a boxer, this and that and they said this is absurd. david: if rocky had not worked and it had been a flop. the first one had been a flop, what would you have done with your career? where do you think you would have wound up? sylvester: probably something in the equestrian world. david: really? sylvester: because you're interested in horses.
i'm very good with horses. david: isn't that kinda dangerous? sylvester: it's very dangerous but it is something i grew up with. david: any regrets in your career? sylvester: yeah, there are tons of regrets. there are always regrets. it's frustrating because you can't do anything about it, but there are certain roles you turn down, the politics went right. and we get perhaps not being as adamant about surrounding yourself with like-minded people. and because you are dealing with very fragile egos and everyone is usually running on a lot of fear. that is the fuel. and you've got to really trust your own instincts. those other people are looking out for their part of it. the writer is guarding the words, the actor is looking do i have more lines than the guy next to me. everyone has a different motive for what they do. david: so you have a bucket list, anything you have not done that you want to do? sylvester: i was singing about
the nutcracker suite but my ankles are not what they were, so that's not happening. david: when you go to a restaurant or go out anywhere, do people come up to you for pictures, autographs, people come up and say i want to arm wrestle you or something like that? sylvester: they do all the time. and usually with an arm wrestler, having done a film about it, you don't know who is the killer in the room. some fellow will come with pipe stem arms and he is a savant in arm wrestling, so you never know. david: you and i were having dinner not too long ago and a little boy came up. sylvester: that's right. david: he wanted to arm wrestle you and you arm wrestled him and you let him win. sylvester: of course. because what if he did win. this way at least i can fake it. ♪
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