Sylvester Stallone Interview For ‘Bullet to the Head’
In ‘Bullet to the Head,’ Sylvester Stallone stars as Jimmy Bobo, a New Orleans hitman who forms an alliance with Washington D.C. detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) to bring down the killer of their respective partners. Alongside Sylvester Stallone and Sung Kang, ‘Bullet to the Head’ co-stars Sarah Shahi, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christian Slater, John Seda, Weronika Rosati, and Jason Momoa. Walter Hill directed the film from a screenplay by Oscar nominee Alessandro Camon (The Messenger), based on the graphic novel ‘Du Plomb Dans La Tête.’ ‘Bullet to the Head’ arrives in cinemas on Febuary 1st.
After years of being linked to a number of projects together, how was it to finally get to work with Walter Hill?
Sylvester Stallone: It was a relief and it was unexpected. I thought we were going to do ’48 Hours’ and other projects that I should have done, but I didn’t. This film started to fall into the valley of trouble, and I thought, “My God, this isn’t going to go. This is going to go down in flames.” It didn’t work out with the previous director and it was becoming way too technical and visual, I wanted it to be old-school. So I said to the producers, “Walter Hill?” And they said, “He hasn’t worked in a while.” So I said, “Neither did I, for eleven years! The guys good.” He had the meeting and I think it brought out Walter’s chops again. We had to do this on a tight budget, so I think what he got on film was a very entertaining, kind of a retro flashback with modern day technology. He really got his wings back. It felt good.
How was your rapport together on set?
Sylvester Stallone: He reminds me a lot of John Huston, he’s a raconteur – he loves to tell stories. He’s got a photographic memory, and he’s probably the biggest fight fan going besides me, we’re just fanatical (laughs). The only person I know who’s more fanatical is my brother, who’s a complete historian. But it was good working with Walter, he’s extremely calm. I don’t have that gear, I don’t have the calm gear, he does. So working with him I would be like, “Is it over, are we finished, are we wrapped? Is that it, we’re done?” It was so easy, it was that kind of a trip.
Had you read Alexis Nolent’s graphic novel before you joined the project?
Sylvester Stallone: I hadn’t, I read it once I got involved. I read it and I thought that my character looked exactly like I did in ‘The Expendables,’ with the little goatee (laughs). So we had to think how to go with it. I thought the characters were really interesting, but they weren’t sort of a part of the new culture, so we changed some things up, changed characters around a little. Reading it, I really enjoyed it.
You’ve got a nice new haircut for the piece?
Sylvester Stallone: I know, I liked it (laughs)! I have to say that it was a big leap of faith, it kept getting lower and lower, it took about 9 cuts. Finally I thought, “Damn, I don’t have to wake up with bed head anymore, this is nice.” It worked (laughs).
What was it about the story and Jimmy Bobo as a character that appealed to you?
Sylvester Stallone: I like the morality of it, that the guy still has an achilles heal. I like that he isn’t flamboyant, he doesn’t have an unbelievable amount of skill, he’s not Rambo or that kind of thing. I also liked the sarcasm, and his dry humour – which I really liked. Jimmy Bobo’s very at peace with himself. He plays by his own set of rules that are blunt but simple to follow. Jimmy believes he takes out the trash, he believes he removes those hard-to-get-out stains in society. He doesn’t go after people who, in his mind, don’t deserve it. But now all of a sudden Jimmy’s confronted with something he’s never been confronted with before – a betrayal from within and a complete reliance upon a detective who hates his guts. Not exactly a strong support system.
How was it getting to use that sense of humour, in particular that dry sense of humour you were talking about?
Sylvester Stallone: A lot of people that know me, they recognise me as that, that is more of who I am. I like to look at life sarcastically, cynically maybe (laughs), but I try to throw humour in there – let’s not be boorish about it, you know? And Walter Hill really got it, because he’s got that sarcastic side too. We really clicked on that. And with my character, I wasn’t trying to be likable, I wasn’t trying to be embraceable, I wasn’t trying to manipulate – it is what it is. I just relied on Walter to go either “Good,” “Bad,” “Thumbs up,” or, “Let’s try it again.”
In a way, it’s a very “anti-buddy” movie, with the dynamic between your character and Sung Kang’s character….
Sylvester Stallone: Yeah, for Jimmy he sees this idiotic, idealist cop. It couldn’t be more anti-buddy, it was a perfect kind of combination for that. At first I thought, “This is never going to work, he’s so different to my character.” But then I was like, “No, dummy, that’s what works.” And I thought it would be great to work with Walter Hill on this type of buddy movie, which is a genre he knows well. Although, in this case, the main characters are not really buddies at all, but rather adversaries who have to work together against a mutual enemy because their lives depend on it. But out of that, an interesting relationship evolves.
What was it like filming the axe fight with Jason Mamoa?
Sylvester Stallone: That was a tough thing to work out. It’s one thing to do a fist fight, or to fight with someone like Steve Austin and you get hurt a little bit. But when you add the element of an axe and an extended piece of wood, which is hard enough to knock the hell out of you (laughs), things happen. And they happen because your perception is different when you’re working with something that’s long, so you would often catch yourself on your forearm. The blade was made out of this very hard, kind of carbon-type fiber, so it could split you open. But the wood, the oak, that’s the bad part. That’s the part that every time you hit, the vibration goes through your body or it slides down in the hands. Jason got a lot of cuts on him, and so did I. But it was an interesting visual, it’s something different.
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