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Rocky Balboa Sly's last punch?

india Updated: Feb 09, 2007 20:52 IST
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It is hard to take Sylvester Stallone seriously. Yes, he is an Academy Award winner but was also declared the worst actor of the century by the Razzie awards.

He has the dubious distinction of getting 30 Razzie nominations and 10 wins. Notwithstanding worst awards, he is world famous, an icon and has made a lot of money. He is also a bundle of contradictions.

He never wanted to be an action star. Throughout his career he tried to break the Rocky stereotype only to now most recently return to star in Rocky Balboa.

Stallone started out being passionate about more avant-garde material but his fame and audience expectations pulled him back to the more mindless action fare. In retrospect, Stallone just did not have the gumption to go the artist way. So, he might be popular and loved but not respected.

He had a rough childhood and was not spared even in his birth. A nerve above his jaw was severed which caused his eyelids to droop. He also had a speech impediment that would take years to overcome.

At school he was horrible in studies, was insulted and beaten up. Therapy and even some religious exposure did not help much. By the time he was 16 he had attended 20 schools.

Even when he went out to try acting he did not have a good start. At his lowest point, he took part in a porno film for $200. His true big break came with Rocky.

Stallone's heroic struggle to get this picture made is the stuff of legend and he has never matched that kind of respect he earned then. He rounded up actors who didn't mind working for peanuts. He trained intensely and watched over every detail of the movie. The crew grew to hate him.

The movie went on to gross more than a billion dollars and he was being hailed as the next Marlon Brando. And then in what has to be highest point in his life, Rocky won Best Picture at the Oscars, beating out such classics as Taxi Driver and All the President's Men.

From then on Stallone's career can be surmised as an all-out effort to break the Rocky spell. He starred in Nighthawks and Escape to Victory but tasted very little success.

The year 1982 was an especially good year for him. The first in the Rambo series First Blood was released and was the only other hit where he wasn't playing the boxer Rocky.

But things got worse for him as he strode into the 90s. He starred in comedy bombs like Oscar and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.

In one of his more reflective moments, he confessed that he had been arrogant and selfish. He spent an awful amount of time in the Planet Hollywood restaurant with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore.

The only bright spot movie-wise was the 1993 action hit Cliffhanger. He even launched a magazine called Sly, which aimed to appeal to men over 40 but it featured him on every cover.

And in 2006, 16 years after Rocky V, Stallone went back to what has always worked for him and which shadow he sought to creep out of.

At the ripe old age of 60, Stallone is back in the ring in Rocky Balboa. This might seem heroic or just plain desperate. It just might be one last punch from Stallone.

(Sevanand Gaddala is a writer on cinema. He can be contacted at sevanand @gmail.com)

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