|Actor, director, writer. (b. July 6, 1946, New York
He was just a bit player for the first five years of his movie career, playing leather-jacketed greasers or small-time hoods, before breaking into the star ranks with Rocky (1976), the feel-good story of a two-bit boxer who gets a once-in-alifetime title shot and makes good. In a way, it was also Stallone's once-in-alifetime shot; it remains one of the most enjoyable movies he's ever done. A drama student at the University of Miami, he returned to his hometown to crash the stage, appearing in a few off-Broadway produc tions and a porno film (since retitled The Italian Stallion before making his legitimate screen debut as a subway thug who menaces Woody Allen in Bananas (1971). The heavy-lidded Stallone worked in The Lord's of Flatbush (1974, to which he contributed some dialogue), The Prisoner of Second Avenue, Capone, Death Race 2000, Farewell, My Lovely (all 1975), and Cannonball (1976) before taking his biggest gamble to date. Thinking himself doomed to a lifetime of stereotypical supporting roles, he wrote Rocky with himself in mind, selling the property for little money (but a share of the profits) with the proviso that he play the lead. The lowbudget sleeper won a Best Picture Academy Award, earned Stallone Oscar nominations both for his script and his acting, and made him an overnight star. Flush with success, in 1978 he cowrote and starred in F.I.S.T an epic story about union organizing, and the picaresque comedy-drama Paradise Alley, an urban drama about three brothers, which he also directed. Neither of these was very successful, and Stallone penned, directed, and starred in Rocky II (1979) to recapture lost ground.
The problem was, audiences didn't seem to want to see him as anyone but Rocky. Neither Nighthawks (1981, a solid urban thriller) nor Victory (also 1981, a misfired actioner with a soccer theme) drew the expected crowds, but the surprise success of First Blood (1982) gave Stallone another icon-like character that audiences cottoned to: taciturn tough guy and Vietnam vet John Rambo. Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) and Rambo III (1988) were denigrated by most critics, but scored big at the box office.
Stallone's subsequent films have been hit-or-miss propositions, both artistically and commercially. Staying Alive (1983, a sequel to Saturday Night Fever that he cowrote and directed but did not star in), Rhinestone (1984), Cobra (1986, costarring then-wife Brigitte Nielsen), Over the Top (1987), and Lock Up (1989) can most charitably be described as mistakes. Typically Stallone has followed these unsuccessful experiments with returns to the Rocky saga (sequels in 1979, 1982, 1985, and 1990), which, amazingly, have all paid off handsomely.
In recent years he's shown a willingness to kid his own macho image, as witness the lighthearted Tango & Cash (1989, as a bespectacled, yuppified federal agent), the old-fashioned farce Oscar (1991, as a Prohibition-era gangster trying to go straight), and the broadly comic Stop! or My Mom Will Shoot (1992, as a cop tormented by his loud-mouthed mother). His summer 1993 release, Cliffhanger brought him back to straightforward action fareand big-time box-office success. He followed it with the futuristic Demolition Man (1993) and the action vehicles The Specialist (1994) and Judge Dredd (1995).