Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme in The Expendables. In 2012, he reunited with the film's cast for a follow-up, The Expendables 2. Just one week after it's premiere, the film had climbed to the No. 1 spot at the box office, bringing in nearly $28.6 million.
Actor, writer, director, producer. Born on July 6, 1946, in New York City. One of the most popular action stars of all time, Sylvester Stallone is best known for portraying two heroic characters on the big screen—boxer Rocky Balboa and Vietnam War veteran John Rambo. His trademark droopy visage was the result of a forceps accident at the time of his birth. A nerve was severed in the accident, which also left him with slurred speech.
Stallone had a difficult childhood. Both he and younger brother Frank were adversely affected by their parents’ hostile relationship, which later ended in divorce. Sylvester spent some time in foster care. He eventually ended up in Philadelphia, living with his mother and her second husband. There Stallone struggled emotionally and academically. After his expulsion from several schools, he attended a special high school for troubled youth.
After graduation, Stallone eventually went on to college. First, he attended the American College in Switzerland where he studied drama. Stallone then went to the University of Miami, again choosing to focus on the dramatic arts. He left school before completing his degree to go to New York City to pursue an acting career.
While he waited for his acting career to take off, Stallone worked all sorts of jobs to make ends meet. He cleaned up the lions’ cages at the Central Park Zoo, ushered at a movie theater, and even made an appearance in an adult film called A Party at Kitty and Studs (1970). A few uncredited parts in mainstream films, such as Woody Allen’s Bananas (1971) and Klute (1971), soon followed. He had a more substantial role playing a tough guy in the 1974 independent film The Lords of Flatbush with Henry Winkler and Perry King. Around this time, Stallone married Sasha Czack.
In addition to acting, Stallone had an interest in writing. He created a screenplay about a rough-and-tumble thug who struggles for a chance to make it as a professional boxer. According to several reports, Stallone refused to sell the script unless he was allowed to star in it. Despite having a pregnant wife and little money in the bank, he held out until he found two producers, Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff, willing to let him play the lead.
Released in 1976, Rocky became a critical and commercial hit. The film earned ten Academy Award nominations, including two for Best Actor and one for Best Original Screenplay. Rocky faced stiff competition in the Best Picture category from such films as Taxi Driver, All the President’s Men, and Network. Proving to be the small film with a powerful punch, Rocky emerged victorious and won the Academy Award for Best Picture. The story of Rocky Balboa,
the quintessential underdog, also struck a chord with movie-goers and earned the film more than $117 million at the box office.
To follow up on his breakthrough role, Stallone next starred as a labor organizer in F.I.S.T. (1978). He received some favorable reviews for his work, but the film failed to attract much of an audience. Returning to the film that made him famous, Stallone wrote, directed, and starred in Rocky II (1979). He kept the franchise going a few years later with Rocky III (1982).
That same year, Stallone introduced a new character to movie-goers—John Rambo, a disenfranchised and troubled Vietnam vet—in First Blood (1982). Rambo ends up going to war with the police in a small town after being mistreated by authorities. Once again, Stallone struck box office gold. He went behind the scenes for his next effort, Staying Alive (1983), which he wrote and directed. A sequel to Saturday Night Fever (1977) starring John Travolta, the film did not fare as well as the original.
Trying to branch out as an actor, Stallone starred opposite Dolly Parton in the comedy Rhinestone (1984). The film proved to be a commercial and critical failure. Fans, however, continued to line up to see Stallone in trademark roles in Rocky IV (1985), Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Rambo III (1988), and Rocky V (1990).
By the mid-1990s, Stallone’s star power as an action hero started to fade. He made a series of forgettable films, including Judge Dredd (1995) and Daylight (1996). Taking a break from big budget action films, Stallone took a supporting role in the independent drama Cop Land (1997) which starred Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, and Ray Liotta. He earned raves for his portrayal of a sheriff in a small New Jersey town largely inhabited by New York City cops.
Returning to his leading man status, Stallone starred in the crime thriller Get Carter (2000), which received mixed reviews. He then wrote, co-produced, and starred in the car-racing drama Driven (2001). It netted more than $32 million at the box office—a long way from his glory days of Rocky. Another effort, Shade (2004), came and went without much notice.
Stallone once again returned to familiar territory to write the final chapter of his most popular creation. The plot of Rocky Balboa (2006) mirrored Stallone’s own career to some extent. The former heavyweight champion, long retired, decides to go for one more big fight.“Things really started to slow down for me about 10 years ago, and I had a lot of time for introspection...It is kind of bittersweet. That is why I wanted to write this film. If I had been cranking out films, very successful ones, I wouldn’t have done this one,” Stallone explained to People magazine in 2007. Fans turned out in droves to see Rocky’s final fight, which earned more than $70 million at the box office.
More recently, Stallone returned his other action persona,ohn Rambo. In addition to playing the lead, he wrote and directed Rambo (2008). The film lived up the gory legacy of its predecessors. As one Entertainment Weekly critic described it, the film “is up to its boot tops in numbing violence.” Rambo may be maligned by critics, but it was able attract enough fans to bring in $42.7 million at the box office.
In 2010, Stallone starred alonside Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme in The Expendables. The film also features Jason Statham of The Transporter film series, mixed martial arts fighter Randy Couture, and martial arts expert Jet Li. In addition to his performance in the film, Stallone served as director and screenwriter.
After years of being the target of many critical barbs, Stallone has begun to receive some appreciation for his life’s work. He received an honorary Cesar Award, the French equivalent of the Academy Award, in 1992 and an acting award at the Stockholm film festival in 1997. In 2008, Stallone became the first person to receive the Golden Icon Award at the Zurich film festival.
Thrice married, Stallone is currently wed to former model Jennifer Flavin. The couple has three daughters, Sophia, Sistine, and Scarlet. He has two sons, Sage and Seth, from his first marriage to Sasha Czack.
On July 13, 2012, Stallone's eldest son, Sage Moonblood Stallone, was found dead in his Los Angeles home. The 36-year-old actor, director and producer, co-starred with his father in Rocky V and Daylight. Stallone made his first public appearance after his son's death in August 2012, on Good Morning America. Of Sage's death, he said, "Time, hopefully, will heal, and you try to get through it, but it's just something. It's a reality of life. I think it's important to get back and start reliving your life. Otherwise, you can go into a spiral."
In 2012, Stallone reunited with the cast of The Expendables to co-star in a follow-up film, The Expendables 2. The movie premiered in August of 2012, and within just one week, had climbed to the No. 1 spot at the box office, bringing in nearly $28.6 million.