Throughout the course of his career, Sylvester Stallone has stood tall and proud next to the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis as being one of the greatest action movie heroes of all time. From the boxing ring to the jungle to the mountains, good old Sly has always come out fighting and often delivered performances with surprising emotional nuance.
However, while some of Stallone’s movies, such as Rocky, came through the initial production process into the position of a true champion, others were not so fortunate. Following on from the success of his boxing movie, Stallone turned his attention to his action movie First Blood, in which he played the Vietnam War veteran John Rambo.
The 1982 film is based on David Morrell’s novel of the same name, a book which had received several unsuccessful adaptation attempts since its release. Eventually, it fell into the hands of director Ted Kotcheff, with Stallone starring and also co-writing. However, the original cut of the movie was so bad that Stallone actually wanted to destroy it.
“It was based on a book,” Stallone began. “What I did when we did it, it was so bad – at least I thought, and even my manager thought – we both went out, we both wretched in the alley together. We tried to buy it back and burn it. First Blood, I swear on my dog and my children, we tried to buy it back and burn the negative.”
Narratively, First Blood, the first in the Rambo movie series, sees a troubled and oft-misunderstood Vietnam War hero, John Rambo, survive a heightened manhunt for him following a succession of brutal events. As police and army troops try to capture him, Rambo has to use his combat skills and survival knowledge to stay alive in a small town in Washington.
“Originally, it was three hours long,” Stallone continued to explain about the poor first cut. “I stayed an hour and a half in the woods chasing guys, plus I was pontificating throughout the whole thing. For example, I shoot an owl, and then the owl drops, and I go, ‘Take that, you mouse-munching mother…’.” If that line in particular was bad, then there was worse to come
The Hollywood legend went on, “Then there’d be lines like the cop pulls me over and goes, ‘Where do you think you’re going?’ I go, ‘Did you ever see Easy Rider?’ ‘Yeah’. ‘Well, I’m Easy Walker.’” Evidently, the first cut of First Blood was so bad that Stallone thought it was doomed, but thankfully, he saved it from oblivion.
When asked how he managed to get the three-hour awful version of the classic action film into its beloved release state, he noted, “I said, here’s a good idea, cut out all my dialogue, every line and have other people talk about you, which by the way is not a bad way to live in general.”