The legendary Sylvester "Sly" Stallone is an action megastar like no other. He's an icon.
He has the distinction of being the only actor in the history of cinema to have starred in movies that have hit No. 1 at the box office across six consecutive decades.
In addition to acting, he has also had great success in the fields of screenwriting, producing, and directing. It was back in 1976 that the spotlight first shone so brightly on Sly for his portrayal of the underdog archetype boxing character Rocky Balboa.
He penned the screenplay for the blockbuster "Rocky" film and played the starring role.
It went on to receive 10 Academy Award nominations and took home three Oscars, including Best Picture. The movie established Sly as a legitimate writer and highly bankable actor. It also made him a household name.
Multiple franchises would follow.
"Rocky" items that were used in the filming of the movie actually made their way into the Smithsonian. And the scene that features the staircase leading to the front entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art got the famed structure nicknamed the "Rocky Steps," with a statue of the "Rocky" character located nearby.
In the 1980s, he would create a new action character, the reluctant soldier-warrior John Rambo. It would lead to a series of "Rambo" films being developed, the latest of which was released in 2019.
One of Sly’s trademarks is that he has always done his own stunts, which oftentimes have unfortunately resulted in injuries. In one instance during the making of Rocky IV, he told fellow actor Dolph Lundgren to not just fake hit him, but to actually hit him for real.
On the day of the fight scene, he told Lundgren, "Just go out there and try to clock me."
Sly wound up being hospitalized and even spent nine days in the intensive care unit.
Consistent with his worldview, many of the plots of the "Rambo" films contain communist characters that are portrayed as the villains they really are.
For example, "Rocky IV" was particularly critical of the old totalitarian Soviet Union.
In the 2010s, Sly launched yet another movie franchise, "The Expendables" series.
"Expendables 3" was released in 2014. Now seven years later, Sly is filming an additional installment. He recently shared some photos on Instagram of himself working on the set of the fourth in the series alongside co-star Jason Statham. Sly and Statham will be joined by some cast members who are new to the series: Megan Fox and Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson.
Sly posted, "Having a great time at work with my great friend Jason on the new Expendables!!!"
It turns out that the movie plot of the initial "Rocky" film is a kind of allegory for Sly's personal life. He was born in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City from a dad of Italian heritage who worked as a cosmetologist and a mom of French and Jewish heritage who was a dancer and promoter of female wrestling.
Nerve damage that occurred during the birthing process caused paralysis to a portion of his face. A blessing in disguise, it would ultimately gift him with a signature facial expression and style of speaking that would become a part of his unique Hollywood brand.
He was bullied as a child, but fortunately his faith-filled home would be a saving grace. Interestingly, the early positive religious influence made its way into the plotline of the "Rambo" series fourth installment.
Rambo, the atheist main title character, escorts Christians through a hostile territory so that they can minister to the native people. The Christians in turn help to facilitate Rambo’s change-of-heart journey.
Sly talked about his faith during a conference call that was hosted by Central Christian Church of Las Vegas’s Pastor Jud Wilhite. "I was raised in a Catholic home, a Christian home, and I went to Catholic schools. I was taught the faith and went as far as I could with it until one day I got out into the so-called real world. I was presented with temptation and I lost my way and made a lot of bad choices," Sly shared.
It would be the "bad choices" that would cause Sly to endure a dozen dark years away from his Christian roots. But he would eventually find his way back to the light.
Quoted by the Catholic News Agency, Sly explained that his baby girl’s medical condition is what caused him to turn to a higher power for assistance.
"When my daughter was born sick, and I realized I really needed some help here, I started putting everything in God’s hands, his omnipotence, his all-forgivingness," he said.
He used an action star example to illustrate a point.
He compared the process of keeping one's body fit by using a gym to keeping one's soul in shape by frequenting a church. " . . . [A]ll my life I’ve been involved with exercise but no matter how much — and I know a great deal about the body — you need help.
"You need a trainer. You need to go to a gym and you need to have the expertise and the guidance of someone else. You cannot train yourself," he declared, noting that he feels the same way about Christianity.
Stallone's own words sum it up best, "The church is the gym of the soul."
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax TV Hollywood. Read James Hirsen's Reports — More Here.
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