On Saturday 11 January Sylvester Stallone became what Frank Sinatra, Al Pacino and Bing Crosby had become before him: a West End sensation.
The legendary London Palladium was full to bursting with a buzzing audience. ‘An Evening with…’ events are something you just don’t realise the enormity of until you are right there in the audience. It’s impossible for words to capture the impact of someone as iconic as Sly Stallone materialising right before your eyes. As the live camera cut to Sly making his way from the dressing room to the stage, it felt as if we were watching his boxer character in Rocky approaching the boxing ring – and the audience went wild. Before we knew it, he was onstage, looking tanned, fit and super-smart. It was a real Hollywood moment.
Our very own legend (and encyclopedia) Jonathan Ross was an impeccable host. He drew out a Stallone who talked movingly through his journey from poverty to unprecedented fame, his less than encouraging first brush with acting ‘I tried for a school play called (Sweeney) Todd goes West. I was horrible’, and who hilariously recounted his early success ‘I became insufferable. I look at some of my interviews now and wish I could go back and punch myself in the face’.
It was truly fascinating to hear him talk about inspirations such as Hercules (embodied by Steve Reeves), and how he would skip school to watch movies up to sixty times before rewriting parts of the dialogue to understand the way it was constructed. He wrote every word of Rocky, and rather than take the unimaginably tempting offer of selling his script to get-rich-quick, he held out to play the lead. It paid off.
We learned that Stallone is not only a phenomenally impressive action hero, but also a devoted screenwriter and director. He recently pulled together former adversaries (noting that the competition between them was ‘intense… but in a good way’) Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, as well as other stars such as Steve Austin and Jason Statham, for action thriller The Expendables, which he wrote, directed and starred in himself.
And he’s still going strong. January saw the release of Grudge Match, in which he starred alongside best mate Robert DeNiro. No one who saw the media coverage of the two roaming red carpets across the globe could doubt the truth of his comments on their collaboration “It was great working with Bobby, we laugh a lot together. I told him ‘I thought you were crap at that scene. I didn’t really believe you.’ He replied, ‘I thought you sucked too’”.
Sylvester Stallone had endless stories that offered a real insight into his own life and career, as well as old and new Hollywood. He had both Jonathan Ross and the audience spellbound. Our only gripe: that ‘an evening with’ Sylvester Stallone couldn’t be ‘a week’.