Sylvester Stallone Tells Why He Painted ‘Rocky’ Before Writing the Movie

by Shelby Scott
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(Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

Sylvester Stallone’s film, “Rocky,” first hit the big screen in 1976. Now, the movie remains an iconic American classic decades following its premiere. Further, Sylvester Stallone also remains one of America’s most recognizable Hollywood film stars. That said, as a dynamic actor, screenwriter, and producer, we finally have a chance to explore why the “Rocky” star decided to paint the character before actually writing the movie.

Outsiders can’t help but watch film after film flash through their minds when they think of Sylvester Stallone. The actor remains iconic for numerous roles and films outside of his writing and acting within “Rocky.” Other popular Stallone films include “Rambo,” “Creed,” and “The Expendables,” as well as a whole other host of films spanning decades.

However, he’s less commonly known as a visual artist. As such, it’s interesting to learn the iconic actor was immensely hesitant in sharing his visual work with the public.

Sylvester Stallone as a Visual Artist

According to artnet, Stallone has actually been an invested visual creator since he was ten years old, his first work of art completed on cardboard and depicting an African warrior.

Decades later, Stallone decided to paint Rocky Balboa ahead of actually writing the film. And, despite any prejudices you might have against celebrities as visual artists, his reasoning is raw, logical, and explorational.

Of the painting, simply entitled Rocky (1975), Sylvester Stallone said, “I made a self-portrait with a more defined ‘pug face’ than I had back then, but to capture his sadness, I switched the brush with a screw driver and carved the eyes.”

The technique might seem strange overall. Although, it’s definitely not uncommon within the visual arts to employ nontraditional tools to communicate more intense emotional narratives.

As to the figure’s sadness, artnet states that prior to “Rocky,” Stallone had been a “struggling actor.” He repeatedly saw himself cast for minor “bad guy” parts. Eventually, the theme began to wear on the actor’s morale. From there, the famed actor and screenwriter painted Rocky. And according to the outlet, the artist aimed to depict a physically tough though internally bruised protagonist. Essentially, he illustrated himself as a “lead character of contradictions.”

‘Rocky’ Actor and Painter Has Unique Relationship with the Canvas

Much like his tough outer shell, Sylvester Stallone paints and interacts with the canvas in a way that is both threatening and polarizing. Of his career as a visual artist, Stallone shared, “Painting is where I feel close to a bare naked truth, so much so that I look at the canvas as some sort of an enemy.”

Much like “Rocky,” Stallone compares the stroke of his brush to that of a swift punch in the ring. In fact, Stallone said, “When a painting resists halfway through, I don’t shy back from the conflict. ‘How dare you!’ I think and get physical with the brush.”

The result? A collection of bold, active paintings that portray muscular characters done in thick, black lines lying atop brightly colored shapes and backgrounds. The characters themselves often receive inspiration from the hyper-masculinity apparent in mythological figures across history, such as Hercules and Spartacus.

Now, Rocky, among another 50-odd works and paintings, are currently on display in Hagen, Germany’s Osthaus Museum. As per the outlet, the exhibition coincides with Stallone’s 75th birthday.

Outsider.com