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Sylvester Stallone packs an award winning punch, scoring a standing ovation at the LA Film Festival

What is it about seeing movie stars in person that so entrances people?  It must be something more than the magnetism of their fame. Seeing Sylvester Stallone speak at the LA Film Festival was one of those experiences where you can feel the entire audience sitting in awe.

It wasn't just the Rocky theme playing loud that whipped the audience into a frenzy as he came in. Stallone had that celebrity sparkle, with his dark sunglasses, and the iconic Stallone strut that made him a star. Listening to the behind-the-scenes stories of the making of Rambo and Rocky, retold straight from the mouth of the star, with that deep throated mumble that made Stallone so famous, was like witnessing those blockbusters 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 from the film, rather unfortunately. He had the audience in hysterics delivering those 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-F%#er". 

And you think it's easy being Rambo, all done with stunt doubles and special FX?  One day, shooting a long action scene in grass so long he got caught 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 went to 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 to see in the biggest stars of the big screen. Hearing them speak in person we see celebrities are real people too, with families and insecurities and undoubtedly a lot of dysfunctions.

Stallone was surprisingly self-deprecating and self-examining, letting the audience laugh along with him at the revelation (from the moderator) that above all his films are not about fighting but the search for family. "Wow, you are right. I have never seen that before", he remarked, "this is like therapy!".

He was also apologising at times, revealing his own embarrassment at films he'd rather forget, including a 3h cut of a Rambo 2 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", Stallone says, "then think what it's like being me".

Who would have expected to hear Stallone confess candidly about the megalomania he felt filming Rambo... then the let-down of later having to prove to his own kids that he was famous and successful in decades past. "I mean, I was the fourth lead in Spy Kids!".  So Stallone made Rocky Balboa becuase he "couldn't sleep at night. I had to do it for Rocky. And do it for me. Every movie I make now, I make it as if it were my last". And that means an investment in his next film over and above even the hardnosed way he threw himself into his movies before.

Now Stallone is about to release his new film as writer-director and even movie trailer-editor, 'The Expendables'. Few people realise that Stallone not only starred in the Rocky and Rambo series, but was Oscar nominated for writing them too. And he's spent his time writing lots of other scripts too. He fondly reminisces about writing one favourite script years back. The moderator asks "what happened to that?". "I lost it", Stallone says.

But it is the craft of script writing that makes Stallone really light up, likening writing to boxing, with the need to get in the ring every day to keep in shape. "Every day write", he tells us, "even if it just one line: Exterior. Building. Night". (And again he has the audience in uproar, and in the palm of his hands). But again, he also takes it one step deeper, explaining that it might be just one line, but as long as he is working, creativing, a little every day, 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 LA Film Festival. "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 recounts from Rocky. The mark of a true action hero is not winning the fights but the abilityto keep fighting, he continues, 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, even though he now looks even younger than in the last Rocky. As the LA Film Festival presented him with an achievement award, he sincerely thanked the audience, proving again his standing ovation was not just for his longevity and two 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 could have been a stand-up comedian. It was because of his spirit. The Rocky in Sylvester Stallone is back, hungry to prove himself 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 showed he is in another stratosphere. He has so much prescence he will always shine - as long as there is an audience looking for a hero. He can be applauded for being smart enough to know that was why we were here to listen to him, and why he was here too. Stallone won the audience over with his knock-out last words - "as much as you get from me, I get from you". 



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