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Sylvester Stallone once starred in the 1997 movie Cop Land to change some perceptions about his acting ability. Because of this, the actor was willing to change his body for the role. But sacrificing his muscular physique for the build he sported in Cop Land sent the studio into a slight panic.

‘Cop Land’ director James Mangold didn’t want Sylvester Stallone to star in his film

Sylvester Stallone smiling
Sylvester Stallone | Stephane Cardinale – Corbis/Getty Images

Stallone has often shared that one of the reasons he starred in Cop Land was because of others judging his acting talents. He asserted that many began to see the Oscar-nominee as a meat-head because of his action movies. This reputation was one of the reasons why Cop Land director James Mangold was against casting Stallone in the film in the first place.

“I didn’t want him,” Mangold once told Playlist (via IndieWire). “When he was first brought up to me, I was like, ‘Please God no!’ My whole perception of Sly at that point was, and he’s a friend and he would understand, but it was like he’d made this series of slightly less than his best tentpole movies that weren’t very taxing for him, and he was just kind of an indestructible force in one picture after another.”

But eventually, the Logan filmmaker was willing to give Stallone a chance if Stallone agreed to Mangold’s terms.

“All I laid out on the table was that I didn’t want to make this movie with him if he was going to take control of it, and I didn’t want to make this movie with him if he was going to change it, and I didn’t want to make this movie with him if he wouldn’t get fat,” Mangold said. “And Sly in each case was like, ‘look, it’s your movie, it’s your script, so we’ll do exactly what you wrote, and also, I’ll gain weight – I’d love to.'”

The studio panicked after seeing how much weight Sylvester Stallone put on for ‘Cop Land’

Although Stallone was perfectly fine with putting on a few pounds, the studio wasn’t. The First Blood star was known for his chiseled physique, so to see him with a much less hardened body created some anxiety.

Mangold recalled the Cop Land scene that made the studio nervous.

“There was a great piece that for some reason the studio got very nervous about where Stallone wakes up the first morning of the movie and rolls over in bed,” he said. “You see his huge gut just kind of unveil itself as he kind of rolls out of the bed and sits up in the morning.”

The image caused such worry that the studio tried to nix the shot from the film. But Stallone’s weight gain was too pivotal for the role for Mangold to compromise.

“ And when the movie originally came out and Sly was still a huge mega-action star, when we first previewed it, like three guys out of 500 at a test screening giggled when they saw Sly fat, and it immediately made the studio paranoid that people are laughing at that,” Mangold explained. “And it was like, well, three Rambo fans might be, but it was like, ‘You’ve got to get that shot out.’ But the reality to me was that moments like that were such a tribute to the fact that really part of the weight gain was to play the role, and part of it was also to signal to the audience that ‘I’m not that guy – I’m not going to be that guy.'”

Sylvester Stallone believed he confused his audience with ‘Cop Land’


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Stallone had high hopes for the film. But in the end, he felt that Cop Land didn’t deliver the way he wanted it to. Instead, The Suicide Squad actor conceded it might have done him more harm than good.

“I was hoping it would be a game-changer, but the feedback from the studio was that it confused people,” he once told LA Times. “I didn’t mean to confuse people — I was just trying to stretch. That began a long doldrum.”