RUSH: We’ve got Sylvester Stallone on the phone, just back from Las Vegas. Sly, welcome to the program. It’s great to you talk to you again.
STALLONE: Oh, thank you very much. Real privilege.
RUSH: I watched your movie the other night. I guess I watched it Wednesday night. Sly, my staff… I came in and told everybody about it. It was about this time in the program yesterday. I started telling everybody about the movie and I got so passionate about it (laughs), they said, ‘You better stop. You’re giving everything away.’
STALLONE: Oh, no. Listen, thank you very much. I was actually, when we were making the film, I was thinking about — after you had seen Rocky Balboa — I said, I really wanted to give you the other side of life, a real contrast and try to be true to Rambo ideal of what he represents to a lot of Americans.
RUSH: Well, why did you choose to premise this movie on what’s happening in Burma? Here’s Rambo. He’s retired and living in Thailand, capturing snakes for people.
RUSH: We have no idea how he got there. Why did you decide to focus on that?
STALLONE: Well, I originally had him coming back to America. I was going to deal with the Mexican border situation and MS 13; then I thought, ‘That really wouldn’t resonate around the world.’ Then I said, ‘Why don’t we go back to the Vietnam War? That had the most dramatic effect on his life.’ So he’s sort of drawn back to that jungle and wrestles snakes. It’s almost kind of like his second family, and a different family but a family: the jungle, the indifference — and then I called Soldier of Fortune magazine and a certain faction of the UN and said, ‘What is the most underreported human rights violations on the planet, a really hell on earth that no one knows about?’ And they said, ‘Burma.’ I said, ‘Why?’ They said, ‘Well, the Burmese pay millions of dollars every year to lobbyists and PR firms in Washington to basically squelch what’s going down over there.’ They have the longest running civil war in the world: 60 brutal years.
RUSH: Now, your portrayal of the people — and you wrote this, and you had from what I was able to count in the credits, it’s like ten or maybe 11 different production arms and elements.
STALLONE: (laughing) That’s true.
RUSH: Okay, so that tells me it took a lot to get this made.
STALLONE: Exactly right: a dollar here and a dollar there.
RUSH: Okay. So your portrayal of the doctors and the nurses, from the church group to go in and try to help the sick it’s so right on the money.
RUSH: It’s right on the money, and I was stunned to see it from a Hollywood movie. But you’ve always had the ability to get away with this kind of thing in your work, but it was just right on the money. At times I was standing up and laughing at it, and other times I just found myself getting angry.
STALLONE: (laughs) Right.
RUSH: I don’t want to give too much of it away, but when — after you save 20 people’s lives — the guy tells you he has to report you because it’s never right to take a life? He wouldn’t even be alive, and those people are alive and amongst us today.
STALLONE: Oh, very much so. I actually did a lot of research on these people. They actually believe what they’re doing is right and that someday there’s going to be this mystical moment and we’re all going to join hands and sing ‘We Are the World,’ and when the truth is, Rambo says, ‘War is natural. Peace is an accident.’ That’s a fact of life. It’s unfortunate that we can start a war in five minutes, but it takes us a hundred years to make peace. So what comes more natural? So what he’s trying to tell these people: All the medicine, all the Bibles, all the optimism and this naïveté doesn’t work in a savage world.
RUSH: Well, I’m not going to tell anybody whether they learn their lesson or not.
RUSH: (laughs) You portray them flawlessly. Now, I want to ask you about this because after I saw it — and I watched it a couple nights ago — I saw the first reviews. The Variety review said that it’s missing a plot. The review I read in the New York Post today, it was also not glowing — which I think is fabulous news for you, because don’t spend a lot of time reading movie reviews. But the ones I do always seem to be critical, and those movies just do boffo.
STALLONE: If I could be really candid with you, if my name is Scorsese or Coppola, right away it would be taken a certain way. I represent something, especially to the liberal press. When Ronald Reagan came out and jokingly said, ‘Rambo is a Republican,’ the die was cast. So people cannot even interpret the movie. I find it incredibly irresponsible that when this savagery is going down… Like USA Today gives it one star. They don’t even review the idea of what is happening in Burma. They couldn’t care that the monks are slaughtered. It’s just like, ‘Whatever Stallone represents to a kind of like right is might, let’s squash him immediately and make this sound trite, and it’s just a vehicle for a man who should be sitting in his wheelchair retiring.’ The odd thing is, there’s a lot of hope out here, Rush, because the majority of the people who see Rambo are 28 years old to 40, and the people are going to see this movie are the younger generation because they’re looking for a representation of what real values are; what it means to be a man. And as Rambo says, ‘Live for something or die for nothing.’ You know, it’s like you have to take a side and really stand up and be willing to walk the walk, and these people just don’t walk the walk. I am the anti-Christ to what they represent and what they stand for, and it’s sad because sometimes when I write, I go, ‘You know, if you just looked into the Burmese situation, rather than scathing me, you could have wrote something positive because by the time this article is written, probably about nine children have been murdered — and all you’ve accomplished is just throwing another rock at me and it really has no more impact on me.’ (laughs) I’ve been rocked the past 30 years. That’s really the unfortunate thing is they don’t look at the political ramifications of trying to be positive. They just go after what they think I represent — which is hard-right core, jingoistic, you know, irrational savage instincts. And it’s completely wrong. I try to walk the balance in this film. We show both sides.
RUSH: Well, all that’s true, but even though, you’ve risen above it with the content of your movies. Your movies reach people. You connect with your audience.
RUSH: They love the movies, and these critiques are not going to matter. They don’t matter that much, I think. These people cannot kill a good movie and they cannot make a bad movie.
STALLONE: That’s true. Actually, and then I started thinking about it. I said, ‘Well, maybe if this person really did like your film that you’ve missed.’
STALLONE: (laughs) You’ve done something wrong. You’ve now joined them.
RUSH: Well, congratulations on it. Let me ask, when I mention the reviews of the critics, it got a little rise out of you. How important is that? Maybe I’m wrong. Is it more important than I think to the success of your movies? You’ve got a franchise, here. Rambo is a franchise.
STALLONE: No, not really, Rush. It’s like when people have a certain kind of an agenda that really goes, ‘Let’s just be negative and not see things as they are,’ and that always bothered me. If, at the end of every critique, just like when you have a child and you criticize a child, and say, ‘Okay, now here’s the way we think you should do it. Here’s the way we think you would be better.’ If they’re going to be destructive in criticism, you should also be constructive at the very end, say, ‘Hey, why don’t you try this?’ It might not be right, but at least it gives a fair and balanced reporting. But the most important thing is I really wrote it for people to enjoy. It’s an action film that also, hopefully, brings about a little awareness to a situation that’s so sad.
RUSH: Well, you bring mercenaries in for the film. Rambo usually has been a one-man show. You bring some assistance in. Why did you do it that, by the way?
STALLONE: Well, I think to be realistic that Rambo gets to a certain point that when you do it as a one-man army, I think now you’re kind of into fantasy land. Realistically to carry out a situation like this, I thought I’d bring in mercenaries, but the mercenaries also represent people that have kind of like being shown as soulless, and you can buy and sell them. But, by the end of the movie, you learn that Rambo could have never succeeded without them because, as they say: ‘They send in the devil to do God’s work, sometimes.’
RUSH: Well, great. Stick to your guns because while they talk about what they think you ought to do or who they think you are based on some political identity, just tell them to look at their own box office receipts, and say, ‘What makes you people think you know what you’re doing?’
STALLONE: There you are!
RUSH: There you are.
STALLONE: It’s so great to be talking to you again, and I thank you very much for liking the film. I hope your audience enjoys it, too.
RUSH: They will. They will. If I do, they will. Well, if I do they’ll go see it.
STALLONE: Thank you. (chuckles)
RUSH: This audience is not mind-numbed robots. They’re independent thinkers like you and me. But, look, thanks.
STALLONE: Another thing.
STALLONE: I was talking to Arnold Schwarzenegger last night. He came to the premiere. He said, ‘Rush is the man. This is one man that can get a rise out of me, and I never want to debate with him.’
RUSH: (laughter) Well, thank you.
STALLONE: You bet.
RUSH: I’m surprised he said that.
STALLONE: Oh, he did. He really respects you. He said, ‘I’m telling you, that’s one powerful individual.’ I swear.
RUSH: Well, that’s curious. Sly, thanks for passing that on. Thanks for sending me the movie, too. I appreciate having the chance to see it — and all the best with it.
STALLONE: Thank you very, very much.
RUSH: Sylvester Stallone is Rambo, and I think it’s tonight when it debuts and premieres and starts. The run time on this thing, I should tell you, is 86 minutes. It runs about an hour 23, hour 26. There’s a slow credit roll at the end that takes about an hour and 33 minutes if you want to sit and watch the whole credit roll. There’s some gaps in it, like I said yesterday. Here’s Rambo out there in the middle of the Thai jungle. He’s in Thailand, just out in the middle of nowhere capturing snakes to stay alive; and out of the blue comes this bunch of doctors and nurses, just walking into this bedraggled place that he lives, with no explanation of how they got there; no explanation of where they came from. Well, there might be an explanation of where they came from but with my hearing it’s difficult. This was not captioned, so I couldn’t hear the whole thing. They just walk in out of the blue, no indication of how the hell they found the guy — and then, after they’re captured, the guy from their church who sent them shows up in a Palm Beach sport coat in a white pair of pants in the middle of the jungle trying to hire Stallone, Rambo, to go get these people. How did he get there? There are little things like that that are left out of this, but in the end, they don’t matter very much the way this whole thing plays out. But that’s my two cents. I’m not a professional movie reviewer. All I can tell you is: I liked it and I didn’t once think of getting up, and I didn’t once look at the watch.