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In the latest Superstar to Superstar, MVP talks to Sylvester Stallone, writer, director and star of Rambo. The fourth installment of the action movie franchise hits theaters Jan. 25. Find out what happens when the United States Champion takes on one of the world's most famous action heroes in Superstar to Superstar.
MVP: Sly, how are you? MVP.
Sylvester Stallone: How you doing? I'm very good, thanks.
M: I'm doing good. Before we kick this off, I just wanted to tell you I'm a huge fan and I've enjoyed your work my entire life and this is a huge honor.
S: Well thank you, I appreciate that.
M: You've been busy lately. You're starring in and directing the fourth Rambo film. Tell me all about it.
S: Well this one here, they've kind of like deemed it old school. When it gets down to it, it's kind of like putting yourself physically on the line and doing the stunts and doing the battle, but more importantly trying to tell a realistic, true story and not go over the top. I enjoy Jason Bourne and the Bourne movies, but a lot of that is the incredible camerawork. When you just hold the camera in one spot and you keep it real, it's like watching wrestling, there's no trickery. You're flying through the air, and in this movie, I want people to say, you know, that's believable because it could be done. Actually, it's achievable, it's not something that's so far-fetched. I hate these movies where you have one guy out there with a pistol and he's taking on 800 trained soldiers and he never gets hit. Come on. So we've tried to eliminate that and we've brought this back down to simplistic, hard-edged, mano-a-mano type of filmmaking that hasn't been done in probably about 20 years. Truthfully, and I'm not just saying this, it's the best of all the Rambos. Just like I thought the last Rocky Balboa was the best of all the Rockys.
M: Let me ask you this: As the star, writer and the director of the film, what kind of challenges do you run into? I've always been curious about that. It sounds pretty complicated.
S: It is. You have to be a little bit of a masochist to do it.
S: You really do. You give up logic and common sense. (Laughs) But if you want something to be done close to the way you imagined it, you're going to have to do it yourself. If you write a screenplay and give it to another man, it's like giving birth to a child and hoping that if you give it to someone else, they'll raise it properly. Quite often they don't. So I thought if this was going to be the last Rambo, I wanted a certain purity to it. I knew if I didn't direct it, it was definitely going to take on someone else's personality. And I wanted this to be brutal. This is, by far, the most brutal movie. This makes Saw look like "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood." It's a true story about Burma.
When I was looking for a story to do, I didn't just want to do a caper or someone chasing drug guys, things we have done before. I called the United Nations and Soldier of Fortune magazine, which are really informed about all the different civil wars and these horrible atrocities that are happening all over the planet. I asked what is the most underreported, egregious display of human atrocity that no one knows about, and they said Burma.
In Burma, there's this one little group of farmers, and they're Christians, which is very odd, because almost the entire country of 50 million are Buddhists. And they have been, believe it or not, at civil war with the second largest army in the Far East for 60 years. These people are using World War II technology. They're using shovels, but somehow they've managed to survive. And truthfully every year -- usually groups from America, Christian groups, policemen, school teachers, shop owners -- they pool their money together, and in the name of Christianity, journey upriver and bring in supplies, medicine, whatnot, to these poor Karen farmers. Many of them are lost to landmines, because there are more landmines there than anyplace on the planet. I thought what an interesting story because they're never going to make a difference. They can bring faith, but unless you're bringing weapons, they eventually are going to be "genocidally removed," they're going to be killed.
So I thought, if I can take that story and insert Rambo into it. Rambo, this time, he hates the world, he realizes his entire life has been a waste. War has come to him; war is natural if peace is an accident. Peace just doesn't come naturally. War comes naturally. We can start a war in literally three minutes. But we've had people try to make peace, like in the Middle East, for 1,000 years; it just doesn't come naturally. So I just thought there's a story about good and evil, atheism, Christianity, man against man -- all these different levels. That's why I think that of all the Rambos this one has a very, very important impact because we might be able to bring light to a situation that is so horrible. It's really an interesting premise. But then what they don't count on is the brutality of Rambo, who finally has come to the conclusion that he never really killed for his country, he killed for himself. That's what he is, he's a killer. And like a warrior he needs a cause, and when he sees these missionaries going in there and getting killed and getting trapped, he finally does what he was born to do, which is to battle to the very end. It turns out really well. I think it's the best action film I've ever done.
M: I'm really eager to see it. I was in the sixth grade the first time I saw Rambo.
S: You were probably in kindergarten. (Laughs) That's how far back it goes.
M: I do remember watching the cartoon, Rambo, and I had some of the action figures.
S: You were six months old! (Laughs)
M: I remember, as a kid, seeing the character of John Rambo, and that first movie, it just blew me away. Your impact on the industry has just been amazing. As far as modern day action heroes go, you kind of set the standard for what it is.
S: Thank you.
M: When I was a kid, there were two guys -- you and the "Governator." Everybody has to measure up to what you guys did, which brings me to another question. You always have been in exceptional shape. How do you manage to stay in shape when you're filming? Being in Burma, what kind of challenges did you run into there, as well?
S: In Burma, we received so many death threats, and I'm not just saying that for publicity reasons. Burma and Thailand, right on the border, is a deadly, deadly killing zone because the Burmese are literally across the street from Thailand. They're separated by a river. On one side is the largest manufacturer of methamphetamine in the world, which is controlled by the Burmese military. They also deal a lot in human trafficking and they do a lot of business with the Thai. So it's very dangerous when you encroach on their territory. People must remember, that's the third world over there. People disappear. … It's a hard, hard, dangerous world, so we had to contend with that all the time.
But as far as staying in shape, what I do on a film, is I find one food source -- if it's going to be steak, a green vegetable and some kind of salad -- it's what it is for six months. It'll be the same food, that's it, period. I never go off of that. It's never like, "Let's have Chinese tonight, or I'm dying for a pancake." No. The reason I thought about that was because when they feed a racehorse, they keep him on a perfect diet, and that diet comes down to the same amount of feed per day, to the ounce, so the horse maintains a certain kind of strength, energy and weight no matter what, because he is not given anything in addition to that. So that's pretty much how I stay the same weight and the same shape.
M: And how about training?
S: Training becomes difficult. I find training at night really rough. After being in the jungle all day, the temperatures there are 110, I'll get up early in the morning and I'll get it down to just working what I call moving muscles or silhouette muscles -- trapezia, outer delts and maybe glutes, just for the power. Pretty much that will keep everything pretty toned because of the amount of heat burning up. It's hard to even keep weight on. To go through a regular routine would be too much, but when I'm in a city, like with Rocky, it's a little different because in between scenes, you're always sort of sparring and flexing. But in the jungle, I'd work out maybe three times a week, early in the morning, and just work the moving muscles.
M: This is just so amazing, because you're shedding light on so many things I hadn't even considered, just talking about the issues in Burma. … Kudos to you for shedding light on that. I consider myself a pretty informed guy, and I knew that region of the world was rough, but I had no idea …
S: That's one place you don't want to be captured.
To be continued … Check back for the second half of Superstar to Superstar featuring MVP and Sylvester Stallone Wednesday, Jan. 23, on WWE.com.