The movie icon on cleaning lion cages, his new flick and breaking his neck on set!
Hi Sly! Your new movie, The Expendables, is full of old-school action stars. Did anybody turn you down?
Yeah but only two – Steven Seagal (who’d committed to making Machete) and Jean-Claude Van Damme (who, it’s reported, claimed he was given no details about his character).
In the movie you’ve got (deep breath) Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, UFC legend Randy Couture, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Mickey Rourke! Is it true you rewrote the script each time another actor joined?
Each one had his own distinct personality that needed to be served. I did about a hundred drafts of the script! There’s so much action, but there’s poignancy, too. If it’s just about muscles and bullets, it’s pretty limited. There are comedy elements and that’s hard. These guys were terrified of comedy!
You’ve also got Arnie and Bruce Willis in it. What was it like on set?
Great fun. We’re old friends. The scene with the three of us is about five minutes long, which is pretty impressive considering we only had them for one day. Then Bruce had to go off to Istanbul and Arnold had to go back and do governmental stuff.
Didn’t you break your back during filming?
Yeah, it was a fight scene with Steve Austin. I told him to crack me as hard as he could. It snapped my head back and cracked my back. They had to put some cadaver bones in, so I have ghosts in my neck. That plate goes off every time I go through airport security!
I heard you busted yourself up trying to fly as a child. Is that true?
Oh yes, I was an ambitious child but tended to be scatter-brained. If I was at school and saw a bird outside the window, I wanted to follow it. I was adventurous. I was in a fantasyland and once I jumped off a roof, thinking I could fly, and broke my collarbone!
Were you picked on as a kid? Sylvester isn’t a very tough name…
I changed school 14 times, so there wasn’t much time to develop friendships. But yes, kids made fun of my name. I used to call myself Mickey!
You haven’t always been a famous actor bloke. What’s the worst job you’ve had?
I’ve cleaned lion cages at the zoo, delivered fish and been a theatre usher!
Of your films, what are your favourites?
Rocky’s still my favourite. It stands the test of time and I gave my purest performance. I also like Paradise Alley because it was the first movie I directed, and I loved First Blood. And Cliffhanger! I’m also really happy with The Expendables. Most action films are a one-man show, but this has a lot of heart.
You’ve also made some pretty bad movies.
Yeah, I’ve made some truly awful ones. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was the worst. If you ever want someone to confess to murder, just make him or her sit through that film!
Really? I thought Rocky V was pretty shocking.
What can I tell you? I’m greedy! It was a mistake because the audience didn’t want to see the downside of Rocky. They wanted him to remain on top. I should’ve known that.
You’re not in bad shape for a 64-year-old. Have you always looked like this?
Not as a boy! I was scrawny, my mouth went to one side and I had a speech impediment. Between a bulldog, and me you’d say the bulldog was cuter!
So you won’t be retiring any time soon then?
No! I still feel good physically and I’m in shape. The day I can’t walk is the day I quit the movies. I’m pursuing happiness, even if it makes the people around me unhappy!