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An Audience with Sylvester Stallone in Sheffield

By midlandsmovies, Jan 27 2015 09:28PM

An Audience with Sylvester Stallone in Sheffield

With queues around the block when we arrived, it was a cold Sheffield evening on Sunday 25th January when Yorkshire was treated to a bit of Hollywood glitz and glamour as living legend Sylvester Stallone came to town.

The megastar was performing in an “Audience With...” format and there were fans aplenty who wanted to find out more from their Rocky and Rambo hero.

After a short wait outside, the throngs were let in through the large doors of Sheffield’s City Hall venue and then into the main auditorium I went with my girlfriend Lucy, who as the biggest Stallone fan I know, was literally bouncing off the walls with excitement.

The theatre was sold out and I grabbed the complimentary souvenir brochure from the seat (which was a refreshing change to see but was much needed given the high price of tickets) and read about Sly’s life before seeing an Alan Partridge-esque couch and interview chair on stage. The magazine explained Sly was to be interviewed by Mike Read – wasn’t he caught up in the Saville-storm I thought before realising that actually no, he was “merely” caught doing a anti-Europe song in cod-Jamaican patois – who would post the questions. Righty ho!

A strange choice I thought but I guess that they had arranged the format for this thing a while back but before I could “read” any more into this, the lights dimmed and the real Read walked into the spotlight. Our seats in the second tier were a fair distance but gave us a superb central view of the entire stage and he began by introducing a cinematic montage of Sly’s best moments on the big screen. The soundtrack? Obviously the Rocky theme.

After a few minutes of scenes from Rocky, Rambo, Demolition Man, The Expendables, Cliffhanger and many more, the electric-charged atmosphere was unbearable and the man himself was welcomed to the stage. The venue had cameramen strategically placed throughout and the first sight of him was actually on the screen on stage as we could see him walk from his backstage room to the front of house...just like...a boxer heading to the ring.

But this wasn’t to be a hard sweaty slog but more of a champion comeback with Sly entertaining the crowd with his pleasing hooks and jabs about his upbringing, Hollywood, workout regimes and much more which were turned out to be all big hits with the crowd.

Starting from humble beginnings like all good underdog stories, Sly waxed lyrical about all of his accomplishments without ever bragging or going over too-familiar territory. Adoring fans would no doubt be already aware of some of these stories but for the rest of us (including myself); each tale opened another door to the Sly story.

From playing Polo with Prince Charles to family struggles, I was informed by a close friend before I went that there would be more behind the man than the brainless macho action films and he was so right. The shallow persona that we have seen ever since his dumb 80s action starring roles has long followed him around but Sly is much more articulate than many a young actor in the same genre. Early on, his discussions involved talking about art (a creative endeavour he encouraged anyone to take up) whilst his struggles as a penniless actor would make a great film in his own right.

As he grew up he was offered low budget porn skin-flicks which he unashamedly said were easy money for little work. Although Party at Kitty and Stud's was hardly a breakout role, Sly acknowledged that he still needed to pay the bills and when he came up with Rocky (a film that included only a little boxing in it in its first draft) he soon realised he had a winner on his hands.

The now New York based actor was offered a 6-figure sum for his plucky new sports script and despite the vast amounts of money involved, the struggling actor/writer insisted he must play the lead character role himself. This headstrong decision was the first of many big choices Sly threw at the audience, saying we only get a few each lifetime and you have to pick them carefully but playing safe is not always an option. Lucky for him, United Artists took a chance and the rest is cinematic history.

In fact, Sly told us that it has also become sporting history as he (as Rocky) was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame making him feel highly embarrassed that his fictional character was placed amongst the other real-life esteemed alumni. Sly told us that Mohammed Ali was an inspiration and that he also admired British boxing legend Henry Cooper. However, when asked about his real heroes he mentioned regular doctors and nurses. Sly went on explaining these everyday heroes were unsung and helped both him and his daughter with their respective heart conditions.

Quickly informing everyone that he was jealous of (“the perfect 6 foot five Adonis with a chemistry degree”) Dolph Lundgren who once hit him so hard, the hospital thought he had been in a vehicle accident, Sly also made the audience laugh as well as think.

Adding to this was a story about how he couldn’t afford to feed both himself and his dog, Butkus (yes, that one from Rocky) so he originally sold him for $50 but the very next day was offered the Rocky contract. Attempting to get the dog back, the new owner wanted $2000 (!) so he paid him and the dog was cast in the film. Another anecdote followed a young man in his 20s that could barely speak English who was outside his mansion one night. The man was doing the splits across his driveway but Sly kindly offered the man a lift and dropped him off nearby. 9 years later and the young foreigner became a huge star in his own action films. The man? None other than Jean Claude Van Damme.

Sly’s thoughts on religion were touched upon – he downplayed the God angle (thank goodness, this isn’t the American Mid-West) and focused more on personal development and using whatever spirituality you have to better yourself by helping others. We also got glimpses of a selfish streak that all good business people have as he explained that you needed a thick skin to deal with criticism and to forget those who don’t believe in you. This reminded me of Arnold Schwarzenegger whose biography I recently read which was less “actor’s studio” and more real-estate weightlifting zealot!

Sly mostly skipped over his mother’s appearance in UK’s Celebrity Big Brother a few years back however he left the audience in hysterics over his embarrassment at her interest in “Rumpology” (a form of psychic butt reading – yes, really) which showed mums can still bring you down a peg or two.

As we neared the end, Sly explained about his new film “Creed” which is to star Michael B Jordan (“Chronicle”) as Apollo Creed’s son and is a spin off from the Rocky franchise. Stallone went to great lengths to explain that it wasn’t a cash in and that he will be taking a very light supporting role in the film. He also explained how he was recently at Everton Football Ground to film crowd scenes for the movie and he was to fly back that very evening to start filming in the USA the next day.

Finally a Q & A from the audience showed the real appreciation that Sly still holds over young and old alike. From fawning ladies who almost got booed such was their length of their sonnets of love to Stallone to the film-geeks, Sly kindly responded to each request like a pro. Mike Read mentioned a Tweet that had been received from an audience member challenging him to an arm wrestle which he gladly accepted and graciously lost to a female fan (echoes of Over The Top). Another lady asked if he could repeat his famous “You’re a disease, I’m the cure” line from Cobra which he did too without batting an eyelid. And to top it all, one lady said her boyfriend would only ask for her hand in marriage if Sly could do the asking. Well, what else could the Italian Stallion do? The couple came to the stage and Sly asked on behalf of the man and boom! A dream was made.

And that was what it was all about. For nearly 40 years, Sly has been making Hollywood dreams and from classic action films to the plucky underdog stories to the recent re-imagined thrills of The Expendables, Sly has always fought against the tide and for film and fight fans, he’s a personal hero to many people and from this knock-out live performance, you can easily see why.

Midlands Movies Mike

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