Some actors are marked by a single role throughout their lives. It was believed that this course would be the same one that Sylvester Stallone would take in his career. Born in New York, the son of poor parents with little education, he and his brother, Frank Jr., suffered from a constant routine of abuse under their own roof. Frank and Jackie, his parents, woke up screaming at each other, neglected their children and were constantly physically aggressive, according to him and Frank Jr. report in “Sly”, a documentary that chronicles the actor’s trajectory.
“Sly” is a bit of a revelation. The title of the film is also the affectionate nickname that Sylvester Stallone received from his friends and family. An imposing, intimidating and masculine figure, he was always a model of strength and an icon for boys in the 1980s and 1990s, who grew up watching “Rocky” and “Rambo” in the afternoon session. But the hour-and-a-half documentary, directed by Thom Zimny, pulls back the curtain on the unexpected: Sylvester is, beneath his thick shell, a needy and sentimental man.
His need to be loved and welcomed by fans came from his childhood with narcissistic parents. Unbelievable records show Frank, during a polo game with Sly, when the actor was famous, purposely knocking his own son off his horse with a swing of a stick. The animal stepped on Sylvester, who was injured, while his father simply turned his back. In his childhood, an equally traumatic and absurd episode, also during a polo match, left Sly hurt with Frank. The father, dissatisfied with the way his son handled the horse, hanged him and threw him to the ground. Frank’s aggression on this day made Sylvester give up on being a professional athlete, even though he loved polo and horses.
The turbulent relationship with Frank was always a burden for Sly and shaped his career. For a long time in his adult life, Sylvester wandered from audition to audition trying out interesting roles in films. However, his talent was simply not recognized. They didn’t consider him good enough or charismatic. Tired of begging for characters with depth, Sylvester decided to write and film his own films, with the help of his brother, Frank Jr.
Who would have thought that when Sly took control of his career, he would simply gift the world with one of the best films in the history of cinema, “Rocky”? Until then, his least decadent role had been that of Stanley Rosiello, in “The Lords of Flatbush”, in which the writers and directors gave him creative freedom to write his own dialogues and make changes to the script. Sylvester had not been a good student during his childhood. His essays were far from perfect. With the scripts, however, he seems to have a shine, something special. Sylvester knew exactly what the characters should say and do to captivate the audience.
In “Rocky”, the boxer’s relationship with his father is also turbulent. However, Sly never confronted his father like his character. He idealized situations that he would have liked to have happened and included them in his plot. The thrilling story of decadence and glory was his own. Everything he wrote was inspired by his life, his relationships with people, his personal conflicts and his search for success. And just as “Rocky” imitated life, life also imitated “Rocky”. Sylvester was acclaimed, became a true worldwide phenomenon and won three Oscars with a literally homemade film.
Overnight, Sly was famous, loved by the public, and rich. However, success only made his relationship with his father even more bitter, who couldn’t bear to see his son being better than him. Frank even wrote a plagiarized “Rocky” script, which he sent to film producer and director John Herzfeld. Frank tried to bypass his own son to stand out in cinema, which was never his calling.
“Sly” follows a good part of Sylvester’s cinematic journey while analyzing his troubled relationship with his father. Also about how his success affected the career of his brother, Frank Jr. The film portrays unknown aspects of the actor’s life and reveals to us that the macho figure is a mere facade and that, behind it, there is a man so human, hurt and sensitive as possible.
Direction: Thom Zimny
Gender: Documentary / Biography