Veteran action heroes on becoming superheroes

Sylvester Stallone with (above, from left) his daughters Sistine, Sophia and Scarlet and wife Jennifer Flavin at the premiere of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 in Hollywood last week. Kurt Russell also stars in the sequel.
Sylvester Stallone with (above, from left) his daughters Sistine, Sophia and Scarlet and wife Jennifer Flavin at the premiere of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 in Hollywood last week. Kurt Russell also stars in the sequel.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Sylvester Stallone with his daughters Sistine, Sophia and Scarlet and wife Jennifer Flavin at the premiere of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 in Hollywood last week. Kurt Russell (above) also stars in the sequel.
Sylvester Stallone with his daughters Sistine, Sophia and Scarlet and wife Jennifer Flavin at the premiere of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 in Hollywood last week. Kurt Russell (above) also stars in the sequel.PHOTO: REUTERS

Veteran action heroes Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell are the first to admit they are not fans of comic book superhero films. They knew next to nothing about the genre when they joined the cast of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2.

But it did not take them long to appreciate what a massive franchise this could be: Despite being one of the more obscure Marvel titles, the first film was the biggest sleeper hit of 2014 when it earned US$773 million worldwide.

Its popularity dawned on Russell, the star of classic action flicks such as Escape From New York (1981) and Big Trouble In Little China (1986), when it emerged that he might play Ego - the long-lost father of Chris Pratt's character - in the sequel.

Those rumours became all that anyone wanted to talk about during his press interviews for director Quentin Tarantino's western The Hateful Eight (2015), he recalls.

"I hadn't seen the first movie - I'm not much of a moviegoer. But I knew that everybody loved it. And when I saw the movie, I started getting it," says the 66-year-old.

 
 
 

"And that was immediately followed by thinking: 'Everybody loved the first movie. What you don't want to do is do something that's going to make them not like the second one.'

"So you do feel that pressure. I told (director) James Gunn I don't want to mess this thing up," says Russell, who is in a relationship with comedy star Goldie Hawn, 71, and has a son, 37, with his ex-wife, actress Season Hubley.

Stallone, too, was unfamiliar with the superhero genre, in part because he "grew up with a different sort of superhero - you know, like Elastic Man and things like that".

"They were really horrible," jokes the 70-year-old star of the Rocky and Rambo films, who won a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe for the last Rocky movie, Creed (2015).

But when he was picked to play Stakar, one of the mercenaries from the gang known as the Ravagers, he chose not to read the comic book source material or do too much homework.

"I wanted to go in with a clean slate and just do what the director wanted done, without any preconceived ideas," says the actor and film-maker. He has three daughters aged 14 to 20 with his third wife, ex-model Jennifer Flavin, 48, and a son, 37, from his first marriage.

He welcomed the chance to broaden his resume. "The only thing I haven't done is perform brain surgery on myself. And I spared Shakespeare undue stress by not doing that - you've got to know your strengths and your weaknesses."

He acknowledges that this film, with its elaborate computer-generated and practical effects, is not the sort of action movie he is used to.

"So this is venturing into a new area. And it takes a lot of skill to work in these films. It's one thing to do the kind of action films I do, but with this thing, there's a lot to it.

"I was very impressed by the patience and the professionalism and just the overall skill set that these people possess. I'm jealous."

Alison de Souza

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2017, with the headline 'Veteran action heroes on becoming superheroes'. Print Edition | Subscribe