Sylvester Stallone, 64-year-old star The Expendables (not to mention Rocky and Rambo) on getting older, the state of the film industry and his new movie.

Next to the current generation of young leading men, you and the tough guys in The Expendables come across as, well, prehistoric.
[Laughs] Yeah, definitely – are you kidding me! We were like head waiters at the Last Supper. We had a dinosaur as a house pet. We’re old. Well, I’m old.

Does that mean your action days are now really numbered and you might do more dramas?

No, I’ve done my ‘mind’ movies and I don’t think people are really that interested in seeing me do that anymore. I think I’m past my prime doing dramatic films. It becomes like almost a pathetic cry to be recognised as a serious dramatic actor.

I’ve done my little moment. I’m very proud of the drama in Rocky Balboa – it’s about as deep as I can go – and in Cop Land. I would much rather just direct dramas.

Your career spans four decades. How has the film industry changed in that time?
Well, stars don’t matter that much now. Concept is what matters. It is about the overall originality or a re-interpretation of a really classic situation.

Back in the day they used to put you in a film and just surround you with guys and they didn’t need to develop character. You can’t do that today. There is a lot at stake these days. There is no more “Oh, I got a gut feeling, I’m going to take a chance. Everyone says no but I’ll try it anyway.” That’s gone.

These days actors are weighed against what they are going to bring in. It’s really like a math project.

The bodycount is very high in many of your films. Do you think all the violence is justified?

I believe the violence is very justifiable. One thing in my films, I kill people that need to be killed. The ones that deserve it, get it and they get it good but the ones that go after women really get it.

People say:  “Isn’t that overkill” but I’m not going to have a man sit there and really have his way with a woman, tearing her apart, wrecking her life and then just shoot him with a bullet. He’s going to feel real pain and I think for the audience it’s a cathartic feeling. I don’t feel guilty about it at all.

How much pressure is there on you as an actor and director when it comes to The Expendables? People attending a preview screening applauded before the film even started.

Oh, that’s commonplace around my house. When I wake up my daughter applauds and says: “Yay, good morning daddy”. [Laughs]

No, really, it’s a lot of pressure because sometimes you have a film and you have a major turkey on your hands, and it’s not even Thanksgiving. This is the other side of it, where you have great expectation.

A lot of action fans are excited to see you square up to Dolph Lundgren, your nemesis in Rocky IV, again. Didn’t he put you in hospital all those years ago?

I’m dying to kick his brains in because he really beat me up badly in that movie. I look at it now and I go: “What was I thinking? This guy’s a monster.”

I said to him when we were filming the fight scene in Rocky IV: “Dolph, I want you to try and knock me out, just for the first 30 seconds and I’ll do my best to protect myself.” He put me in hospital for four days so I’ve got a bit of grudge. [Laughs].

The Expendables is out August 19

Interview: Pierre de Villiers

Image credit – Denis Makarenko /