Stallone wrote and directed this fourth instalment of the
franchise, which like its predecessors keeps action a priority. This film holds
the record for the most kills out of the entire Rambo series, with a whopping
236 kills (an average of 2.59 kills per minute).
Q: Rambo died at the
end of the original ‘First Blood’ book. Do you ever imagine a world where you
shot the ending of the book and didn’t have Rambo with you all these years?
SS: Yeah, I think about it all the time. I had that debate
with Quentin Tarantino who thought I made a mistake. I said, “You know, on
an artistic level, you’re probably right.” But at the time, I had spent a
lot of time doing research with veterans and it seemed like this terrible,
nihilistic ending that just revelled in complete despair. At that time, we had
a lot of Vietnam suicides. So I thought, do I want to just end it on that note?
Or make him more of a victim who has been created to do a job, does the job,
comes home, and says “You know what? You no longer fit in.” It’s like
you train a pit bull. Take a dog, turn him into a killer, now what do you do?
You’ve got to put him down. What happens if that pit bull gets loose? And you
realise it’s not as bad as you think. You can somehow redeem him. I thought
that was more of an interesting story. Again, as Kirk Douglas says, “Not
artistic, but commercial.”
Q: Did you have to go back and re-watch the previous Rambo
films to get back into character?
SS: Yeah, you know the ponderousness that comes with aging,
the sense of weight, the sense of knowledge, knowing too much, the lack of naiveté
which happened in my life, sort of set the stage for me. I wanted Rambo to be heavier
and bulkier, that’s why his first line in the movie is pretty negative. He’s
given up. He has nothing. The other Rambos I felt had a bit too much energy.
They were a little too spry. I’m not trying to run myself down but there was
much more vanity involved. Tank tops, it was all about body movement rather
than just the ferocity and the commitment of what he was doing. This character
to me is much more interesting. I like First Blood and I like this one, just
like the first Rocky and the last Rocky Balboa. Everything in between was kind
of trying to figure out what I should do.
Q: Talk about the
tone, can you enjoy the gratification with the realistic depiction of violence?
SS: If you notice over the opening credits, I had to live up
to a certain kind of responsibility because people are dying as we’re making
the film. Therefore, to just have me running through the film doing these
extraordinary heroics I thought would demean what they’re going through. So
they had to have their moment where you see a village that is decimated. That’s
what happened. As a matter of fact, it’s even worse but I said, “I don’t
know if that other stuff would fly today. I think the audience really wants
something that’s hard hitting but has a semblance of reality.” We went too
far in the old days. We got away with murder. “Jump out of a plane? Well,
I don’t need a parachute. You use mine.” And you made it. Somehow you made
it. You landed on a convertible roof and you did it. I said no, this time I’m
going to really show it and the violence has to be extraordinarily brutal
because we see people beheaded on television. How much harder can you get? You
cannot water it down, at least I didn’t feel. That was a big bone of contention
really. The other thing was do you do a film about a caper, like they wanted to
have the corrupt CIA guy and he was trying to sell plutonium rods. I said no.
The biggest and most interesting crises in the world is the human crises. It
never gets boring. Just like Shakespeare. You don’t need a gimmick. It’s just
man against man, just their intolerance of each other.
Q: How do you make
Rocky and Rambo relevant today?
SS: If I were trying to go after a youth audience and trying
to find something hip, using certain music and whatever, I think that would be
pretty obvious and be rejected. There’s some things that never change and are
universal truths. As you get older, they become more and more apparent about
how difficult life is and like the speech in Rocky about taking punches and
life gives you punches. The young people who would support Rocky more than even
people my age I think really enjoy and embrace those kinds of lessons. I think
the lesson that is somewhat presented here, that war is hell and there is no
winner ever and unfortunately people just have to find it out the hard way,
will translate. And eventually after a man takes that journey, a woman takes that
journey, you always hope that you can go back home, that there’s still some
gateway back to peace, peace of mind where you can start to rebuild. That’s the
only thing I hope works. I think it does work because they’re just universal
truths that never, ever change. No matter what society is, just everybody wants
freedom, everyone wants peace of mind but it comes at a horrible price.
Q: Are people surprised by your artistic motivations because
the characters are so physical?
SS: I don’t know if
that’s quite apparent but I know what you mean. If there isn’t some kind of
thought behind it, because muscles are easy. Anybody can do muscles. You just
go violence, violence, violence, violence, action, action, action. But if you
can find those little moments in between that connect to the people that aren’t
so physical, that’s what takes the time and that to me is the challenge and
that’s what I love about it.
‘Rambo’ is at Irish cinemas nationwide from Feb 22nd