Sylvester Stallone enters boxing ring for sixth time



john bramley/mgm/associated press


Sylvester Stallone returns to the ring in the title role of Rocky Balboa. The latest in the series of films about the underdog boxer opens tomorrow.


"My hope is that people that have screened it have enjoyed it and say ‘You know what? It’s not as bad as you think.’"

We’ve all experienced this during the coming attractions at the movie theatre — Hollywood makes a dramatic, inspiring pitch for an upcoming production and everybody laughs.

That’s happened with the trailer for Rocky Balboa, the sixth instalment in the franchise after a 16-year absence. The film has been battered with derision and peppered with punch lines even before it hits theatres.

That hasn’t blindsided the film’s 60-year-old star, however.

"I understand, I do. I totally get it. They’re going to have that polarization," Sylvester Stallone said when asked about audience reactions. "My hope is that people that have screened it have enjoyed it and say, ‘You know what? It’s not as bad as you think.’ "

Stallone’s comeback bid is part of a larger trend of aging stars revisiting dormant franchises.

Sharon Stone, 48, earlier this year again crossed her legs for Basic Instinct 2, 14 years after the original. Harrison Ford, 64, wants to make another Indiana Jones (which last was in theatres in 1989) and more than a decade later, Bruce Willis, 51, thinks he can Die Hard again.

Back in 1983, Sean Connery had moderate success returning to 007 in Never Say Never Again, an encore to his James Bond run which had ended in 1971 with Diamonds Are Forever.

But Stallone — who’s also hoping to revive Rambo — is playing a role particularly revealing of the aging process. Even in 1990’s much-disliked Rocky V, the fighter was presented as over-the-hill.

It is, though, a story often replayed in the real boxing ring. George Foreman’s multitude of comeback attempts extended even until 2004 (when Foreman was 55), but that attempt didn’t make it past training.

In Rocky Balboa (which carefully avoids the roman numeral VI, since marketing research suggests moviegoers prefer original titles for sequels) Rocky comes out of retirement after a televised virtual simulation shows he could beat the current champ, Mason (The Line) Dixon (played by real former boxing champ Antonio Tarver).

"It sounds like something somebody said as a joke at a pitch meeting and people wrote it down," said Mark Lisanti, editor of the L.A. gossip blog The site has repeatedly poked fun at the new Rocky film — as have a number of late night talk show hosts and comedians.

"It’s hard for it not to look desperate," Lisanti added.

Stallone, who also wrote and directed the film, has repeatedly said he wanted to make Rocky Balboa to erase the bad taste left by the dark Rocky V and conclude the franchise on his terms.