After the critical and commercial success of Rocky Balboa, which I adored, who can blame Sylvester Stallone for wanting to bring another of his iconic characters back to the big screen? Rocky Balboa surprised people with how heartfelt and genuinely moving it was. Rambo (and yes, it's just called Rambo now) will shock people with how serious and shockingly violent it is. Set against the very real, very disturbing situation in Burma, Rambo finds Stallone on a mission to rescue a group of missionaries from sadistic Burmese soldiers.
Do you ever imagine a world where you shot the original ending of the novel First Blood (John Rambo commits suicide), and you hadn't had Rambo with you all these years?
SYLVESTER STALLONE: Yeah, I think about that all the time. I had that debate with Quentin Tarantino, and he was vehement that I made a mistake. On an artistic level, he's probably right. But at the time, I had been spending a lot of time doing research with veterans, and it seemed like this terrible, nihilistic...they just reveled in complete despair. And at that time, we had had almost a quarter of a million Vietnam suicides. So I thought, do I want to end it on that note? Or make him more of a victim who has been created to do a job, does a job, comes home, and no longer fits in? It's like training a pit bull. You train a dog to become a killer and now what do you do? You gotta put him down. But what happens if that pit bull gets loose and you realize he's not as bad as you think, you can somehow redeem him. I thought that was more of an interesting story. As Kirk Douglas says, "Not artistic, but commercial!"
Did you have to go back and look at the previous Rambo movies to get back into character?
SS: The ponderousness that comes with aging, the sense of weight, knowledge, knowing too much, lack of naivete, which has happened in my life, sort of set the stage for me. I wanted Rambo to be heavier, bulkier -- that's why his first line of the movie is pretty negative, he's given up. The other Rambos 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. It was all about body movement, rather than just the ferocity. This character, to me, is much more interesting. I like First Blood and I like this one. So it's like the first Rocky and the last -- Rocky Balboa. Everything in between is kind of trying to figure out what I should do.