Arnold Schwarzenegger admits he wouldn’t have become an action star without Sylvester Stallone

© Image / APress
© Image / APress

In the 1980s, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone fought for the action crown. But without each other, they wouldn’t be where they are today.

In the 1980s, when action cinema as we know it today was born, there was no greater rivalry than that between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. With their muscular bodies, crisp one-liners, and an arsenal of weapons that made them effective one-man armies, they defined the archetype of the masculine action hero. They both dominated the world box office and Hollywood as the biggest stars on the planet at the time.

But the air up there at the top wasn’t cut out for more than one action star. So it’s no wonder that the two said they couldn’t stand each other and always tried to outshine the other. Stallone had a head start of a few years, and with “Rocky” and “Rambo,” he had two successful and celebrated films that made him an action star. Above all, Stallone considers the physical role of Vietnam veteran John J. Rambo to be groundbreaking, as he recalls in the new Netflix documentary “Arnold”:

“The ’80s were an interesting time because there wasn’t a definitive action hero. Up until that time, action consisted of car chases like in ‘Bullit’ or ‘Brooklyn’. […] ‘Rambo’ was action through and through. The story was relied on to be conveyed through the body. Dialogue was not necessary. I saw it as an opportunity because no one else was doing anything like that… except for another guy from Austria.”

Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, admits that Stallone was way ahead of him in this exciting decade of films, so he had a lot of catching up to do:

“Every time he came up with a movie like Rambo II, I had to figure out how to top him.”

Schwarzenegger responded to Stallone’s “Rambo II” with the guilty pleasure “The Phantom Commando,” and Stallone’s hard-hitting “Die City-Cobra” was followed directly by Schwarzenegger’s “Der City-Hai.” From film to film, the two increased with more muscles, more weapons, more (screen) dead, and even crisper slogans. Not only the fans were happy about that, but also the studios.

Schwarzenegger and Stallone: Old enemies have become new friends Although they had completely opposite acting styles, the rivalry between the two increasingly took place in private, recalls the 76-year-old Stallone, comparing it all to boxing legends Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier:

“He was superior. He had all the answers. He had the body, he had the power. That was his character. I tried to be the kind of guy who wasn’t too gifted. I was constantly being beaten up, while Arnold was never particularly hurt.”

They were “real enemies” and couldn’t even be in the same room without being separated, Stallone recalls, while Schwarzenegger later credits them with “waging a war.” That has now changed. Maybe it’s the wisdom that comes with age, maybe it’s also the knowledge that their best days are behind them, but today old enemies have become new friends who have even appeared together in front of the camera several times, for example in the thriller “Escape Plan,” which you can stream via Amazon. That would have been unthinkable in the 1980s. Their friendship is shown by the fact that Stallone admits something in the documentary that he would otherwise never have admitted:

“He wanted to be number one. Unfortunately, he made it.”

And: Schwarzenegger, who will also be 76 in a few weeks, admits that without Stall

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