How ‘Rambo: Last Blood’ Is Like ‘Rocky II’ and Other Stallone Movies

It’s great to hear Sylvester Stallone talk about his new movie, Rambo: Last Blood. It’s even better to hear him talk about his classic movies. And not just the original Rocky, but all the sequels to Rocky and Rambo over the years. During a Rambo: Last Blood press conference on Friday, September 13, Stallone regaled us with stories about his other classic films too.

Rocky II
Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers in Rocky II | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

There was Rocky II, the first sequel to his Oscar-winner. There was the original First Blood, without which there would be no Rambo: Last Blood. There was 2008’s Rambo preceding this one. Stallone even related an old cult movie to his latest sequel. Rambo: Last Blood is in theaters Friday, September 20.

When Stallone directed ‘Rocky II’

Stallone turned Rambo: Last Blood over to director Adrian Grunberg. Stallone had directed 2008’s Rambo and it was the only film in the series he had directed. 

“It was just a matter of timing,” Stallone said. “I think I was working on something else.”

Stallone directed four of the Rocky sequels. When he took over in Rocky II he faced the same situation, matching a previously established style.

Rocky II
Burgess Meredith and Sylvester Stallone in Rocky II | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

“I remember I had a problem when I had to take over for John Avildsen [who directed] Rocky I [when I was] directing Rocky II,” Stallone said. “So I realized I have to keep the similar style because it’s a direct cut. Rocky leaves the ring, he’s in the hospital. So I directed kinda like John Avildsen and it worked fine. Then Rocky III, I went to long lenses, short, medium diopters, you name it. I got to use all the toys.”

Grunberg had to do what Stallone did on Rocky II.

“So with Adrian, he used his style but he stayed pretty close to the last one that was in Burma which I think was good,” Stallone said. “I wouldn’t all of a sudden want to jump into some very dramatic change like Darren Aronofsky. Great director, but that would’ve been like wow, what a shock? You want to keep it pretty similar.”

The original ‘First Blood’ established the ‘Rambo’ movies’ lean running times

Stallone was worried the original First Blood was going to sink him. That was when the film had a nearly three hour running time. 

“We said ‘Let’s bring it down to about 85 minutes from three hours’ because I think Rambo movies need to be short,” Stallone said. “There’s not a lot you need to explain. You get it. Especially with each film, you need less and less time. Let’s get to the meat of it.”

First Blood
Sylvester Stallone in First Blood | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

In fact, it took even less time to sell people on First Blood.

“They said, ‘Sly, here’s our last chance. We’re going to cut 20 minutes together’ – which I’d never seen – ‘And you’re going to go out there in front of a room full of strangers, the last attempt, people from Poland and Russia, any distributor and just try to get someone to take this movie.’ So I went out there and ‘Hurry, hurry, hurry, welcome. Hello, folks. You’re about to see 20 of the greatest minutes.’ I haven’t seen one second. I don’t know if it’s the biggest bunch of crap ever. I’m serious, you talk about blind faith. I still hadn’t seen it, so I just, we’re all broke, anyway, I went out and my jaw dropped. I went, ‘Oh my God, this movie works. It really works.’”

Sylvester Stallone, Rambo: Last Blood press conference 9/13/19

A deleted scene from 2008’s ‘Rambo’ showed a possible love connection

Fans who watched the deleted scenes on the Rambo DVD already know this, but Stallone mentioned the significance of a particular deleted scene. Running through the jungle with Sarah (Julie Benz), they stop for Rambo to tend to her feet. It gives Rambo hope there may be something, or someone, to live for, until it doesn’t.

Sylvester Stallone and Julie Benz | Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

“A couple scenes were cut out where he was washing her feet when she’s running through the jungle and you could see that he wanted her badly to stay with him,” Stallone said. “But when she says, ‘How do you think my boyfriend is doing? How do you think my fiance is?’ Oy, don’t make me kill you. But he did reach out for that and was unsuccessful.”

Stallone has a knack for discovering talent

It’s true. Stallone discovered Mr. T, Dolph Lundgren, and even Nick Nolte? No, Nolte wasn’t one of Rocky’s opponents. Stallone just picked him out of an obscure early movie. 

“I remember a goofy movie called Macon County Line and it’s with the guy from Beverly Hillbillies, Max Baer was producing,” Stallone said. “There’s a guy there pumping gas in the car and that’s it, three seconds. I go, ‘That guy’s a star.’ It turned out to be Nick Nolte. Isn’t it weird? There’s just some people you go there it is.”

Macon County Line
L-R: Geoffrey Lewis, Alan Vint and Jesse Vint in Macon County Line | American International Pictures/Getty Images

Stallone felt the same way about Yvette Monreal, who plays Rambo’s niece in Last Blood

“Compared to the other, this person has the essence,” Stallone said. “It’s just there. Words you can learn things. Just the presence on cinema is a very, very unique blessing because some of the guys are so good looking, women so good looking but they’re just there. Some people can look like an elephant and you watch them hold this phone, they’re just interesting to watch. So I really look for that, the people that can speak volumes without saying a word, just their body language.”