When “Rambo” was released in 1982, Sylvester Stallone was a star set to rule Hollywood for a decade alongside other action stars. If he has not managed to leave him since, the actor was not convinced by the potential of his second cult character, to which he almost turned his back.
Rambo : the other hero of Sylvester Stallone
The second iconic character with whom Sylvester Stallone built his myth, John Rambo arrived in American cinemas in October 1982, a few months after the release of Rocky III: Eye of the Tiger. While the glory of Philadelphia gentrified, which earned him a nice knockout inflicted by Clubber Lang, Sly radically changes register with this new protagonist, a traumatized survivor who sees his memories resurface.
Adapted from the novel First Blood by David Morrell published ten years earlier, Rambo opens with a very beautiful scene. The Vietnam veteran visits a friend’s house and learns that he has died of cancer, caused by exposure to Agent Orange during the war. Empathy towards the soldier is born immediately and is reinforced when wanting to stop in the small town of Hope to eat, he gets kicked out by Will Teaslesheriff played by Brian Dennehy, who wishes to protect his town from supposed vagabonds.
Taken to task and beaten by Teasle’s men, Rambo sees traumatic memories resurface and completely breaks down. Since then, a hunt begins between the reclusive war medalist in the forest and the inexperienced authorities of Hope. The latter have no choice but to call on Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna), the soldier’s mentor and the only individual likely to be able to stop the frenzy of violence.
A risky project for Sly
Rambo passes from hand to hand in Hollywood until the arrival of Ted Kotcheff at the controls of the feature film. More than 25 scripts have been written based on David Morrell’s work and the filmmaker is convinced by that of Michael Kozoll and William Sackheim. Faced with the coldness of Columbia and Warner studios to initiate the project, the director can finally count on the support of two producers at the head ofa young structure called Carolco, Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna, with whom he befriended. Thereafter, they will finance cartons like Total Recall, Terminator 2: Judgment Day Where Cliffhanger: Stalking to the topbefore their business went under due to the failure of Pirate Island.
The team immediately thought of Sylvester Stallone for the lead role. 24 hours after receiving the script, the star agrees for the film. The actor is seduced by the character created by David Morrell, who was inspired by testimonies of some of his students who returned from Vietnam, victims of insomnia, nightmares and panic attacks. It is through them that the author discovers post-traumatic stress symptomsfrom which John Rambo suffers.
But the actor, who does not appreciate the media treatment reserved for soldiers at the time, fears the film won’t work with audiences and fails to backtrack. In the documentary Sketch of First BloodSylvester Stallone explains:
It was a bad luck project. It had been offered to a lot of actors, the director had changed a lot of times and I was nervous. In reality, I hoped that it would never happen, that the project would fail. But it didn’t happen. (…) I said to myself: “Why did all the others refuse?”. I didn’t go there saying to myself: “It’s going to be a hit”.
A softened character
Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna then offer Sylvester Stallone to complete the writing of the protagonist. By making changes, the actor and screenwriter truly identifies with John Rambo and sees no one other than him to interpret him. He puts forward the idea of softening the hero by suggesting not to tip him into murderous madness, while the veteran kills more than fifteen individuals in the initial version of the script. Jerry Goldsmith’s melancholic score also allows us to see in him a broken character, not just a war machine. In Sketch of First BloodTed Kotcheff says:
Sylvester is very intuitive. He knows what the audience likes and dislikes. He said, “What if he didn’t kill anyone?”
Andrew Vajna says:
We preferred to make him a really lost guy, not knowing what to do with his life and a victim of circumstances.
Sylvester Stallone also insists that John Rambo stays alive at the end feature film, which…