Sylvester Stallone Once Passed Up $34 Million for ‘Rambo IV’

"Tulsa King" TV Series Photocall - Credit: Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images
"Tulsa King" TV Series Photocall - Credit: Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images

When it comes to big-screen blockbuster choices, Sylvester Stallone has made some good (Rocky, Rambo, and Creed franchises) and bad calls (Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot and passing on films such as Pulp Fiction, Die Hard, and Witness) during his decades-long film career. But he missed a big payoff when he said no to Rambo IV, where he could’ve made $34 million.

“We were doing Rambo III. We thought it was going to be the biggest hit – this was before it came out. And I was paid a fortune for it. Then they go, ‘We want Rambo IV. Here it is: Pay or play, 34.’ I go, ‘Let’s not jump the gun here…,'” he told The Hollywood Reporter in a wide-ranging interview.

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And keep in mind that the proposed $34 million payday was in 1980s dollars, which would equate to around $85 million today. “For real. That’s not a joke. Oh boy, what an idiot. Now I think about that and … wow.”

As far as the status of other upcoming projects, he said there may be a Rambo streaming prequel. “I think it’s going to happen. I wanted to do it like a Ken Burns documentary on Vietnam, where you drop young Rambo in there, and he’s this outgoing guy, football captain, and then you see why he becomes Rambo. But what they want to do is a modern-day story where I pass the torch. That’s getting close,” he said.

But on the Rocky front, things could be, er, rocky. Over the summer, he took to Instagram to ask producer Irwin Winkler for some rights to the character to no avail. “No. It’s never gonna happen. It was a deal that was done unbeknownst to me by people that I thought were close to me, and they basically gave away whatever rights I would have had. At the time, I was so excited to be working, and I didn’t understand this is a business. Who knew Rocky would go on for another 45 years?” he said. “I’ve never used one [line of dialogue] from anyone else – and the irony is that I don’t own any of it. The people who have done literally nothing control it.”

However, he added that a Rocky streaming prequel could happen. “It may happen again because now Amazon’s involved. It’s pretty close,” he said. “There’s a side of me that goes: Is this really going to work? Every time you try to do Son of Kong, Son of Tarzan, it doesn’t work. There’s a certain indescribable formula that happens. If I gave you the novel The Godfather, good luck on casting that today. Good luck selling that whole premise today.”

On the personal front, Stallone also addressed his near-divorce with his wife of 25 years, Jennifer Flavin, who filed to end the marriage in August before the two reconciled. He said the life experience will be a part of his upcoming television series Tulsa King. “Of course, it’s part of the show. It’s the John Lennon thing: ‘Life is what happens when you’re making other plans,’” he said. “Hopefully, you’re involved with people who understand the foibles of life and the fragility of it and how rare a real good relationship is. Sometimes I put the work ahead of [my family], and that is a tragic mistake which won’t happen again.”

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