Sly Stallone Packs a Punch at LA Film Fest

What is it about seeing movie stars in person that is so exciting? Seeing Sylvestor Stallone speak at the Los Angeles Film Festival was one of those experiences that made everyone in the audience sit in awe.

It wasn't just the Rocky theme song playing loud that whipped the audience up into a frenzy. Stallone had that celebrity sparkle, with his dark sunglasses, and the iconic Stallone strut that made him a star. And listening to the behind-the-scenes stories ofRambo and Rocky, retold straight from the mouth of the star with that deep throated mumble that made him so famous, was like witnessing those movies being acted out right in front of us, by the big guy himself.

He took us along for the ride of just what it was like being Stallone being Rambo, sharing with us lines that were later cut out from the film. He had the audience in hysterics delivering the lines he himself will “never forget”, and now neither will I – Rambo kills an owl in mid flight, with the mere toss of his knife. As it falls to the ground, he says “take that, you mouse-munching mother-fucker!” And you think its easy being Rambo, all done with stunt doubles and special FX? One day, shooting a long action scene in grass so long he got lost in the scrub, Stallone finished the scene only to find the crew had already wrapped for the day. Shocked and scraped all over from doing his own stunts, Stallone found the director, who just shouted at him “you got a complaint you put it in writing!”.

So if the excitement of seeing a movie star is the hope a little star-shine will rub off them, Stallone delivers. But he also had a humanity and a humility that we don't expect from the biggest stars of the big screen. Hearing them speak in person we see these celebrities are real people too, with families and insecurities and undoubtedly a lot of dysfunctions.

Stallone was self-deprecating and self-examining, letting the audience laugh along with him when the moderator remarked that above all his films are not about fighting but about the search for family... “wow, you are right. I have never seen that before”, he said, “this is like therapy!”.

He was apologising too at times, revealing his own embarrassment at films he'd rather forget, including one of the Rambo movies that was “so long, I was out in the woods for an hour and a half!”. “Think of all the films you don't like, then think what it's like being me”.

He talked candidly about the megalomania he began to feel in the middle of the Rambo series... then the let-down of later having to prove himself to his own kids when they doubted he was as famous and successful as he said he was. “I mean, I was the fourth lead in Spy Kids!”. So he made Rocky Balboa because he “couldn't sleep at night. I had to do it for Rocky, and I did it for me. Every movie I make now, I make as if it were my last.” And that means an investment in the film even above the hardnosed way he threw himself into his movies before.

Now Stallone is about to bring out his new film as writer-director and even trailer-editor, “The Expendables'. Few people realise that Sylvestor Stallone not only starred in the Rocky and Rambo series, he wrote them. And he's spent his time writing lots of other scripts too. He fondly talked about one script he wrote some time back. The moderator asked “what happened to that?”. “I lost it”, says Stallone.

But it is the craft of script writing that makes Stallone light up, likening it to a boxer who has to keep training and fighting every day to keep in shape. “Every day I write”, he tells us, “even if it is just one line. Exterior. Building. Night”. (And again he has the audience in uproar). But again, he also takes it one step deeper, explaining that it might just be one line, but as he long as he is working, creating, soon the whole scene will unfold. It's Stallone's smart way to stay in the game.

And so behind his “dumb guy” image, Stallone revealed that winning Rocky attitude that has inspired so many, and inspired the audience to a standing ovation at the Los Angeles Film Festival's 'Evening with Sylvestor Stallone': “'I've been punched since I was born. The only thing that counts is not how much of a punch you can throw but how much of a punch you can take”, he repeats from Rocky. He also reveals it is the mark of a true action hero, citing “Bruce, Arnold, and Mel in Braveheart” as the only other real action stars on the screen for one reason alone - “vulnerability. They take a beating.”

Stallone has clearly taken a few. And as the LA Film Festival presented him with an achievement award, he humbly thanked the audience back, proving again his standing ovation was not just for his longevity and a blockbuster series of action films, for his 10 Academy Award nominations, or for his stories of his action hero adventures that were so funny he should be a stand up comedian. It was because of his spirit. The Rocky in Sylvestor Stallone is well and truly alive, and as humble as if he were Rocky Balboa facing a final fight knowing it is the audience giving him his drive.

Other stars will come and go, but Stallone is in another stratosphere. He has so much prescence he will always shine, as long as his audience calls him a hero too. And Stalllone could be applauded for being both humble and smart enough to know that is why we were here to listen to him, and why he was here too. Sylvestor Stallone won the audience over with his last words - “As much as you get from me, I get from you”