Sylvester Stallone Says 'First Blood' Producers Wanted to Cut Rambo's Iconic Speech

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Sheriff Teasle (Brian Dennehy) had no idea what mistake it would be to lay hands on John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) in "First Blood." (Lionsgate)

Sylvester Stallone has been an icon of action movies for nearly 50 years now, and his career is going strong with "Tulsa King," a new gangster series from "Yellowstone" producer Taylor Sheridan that's set to debut on Paramount+ on Nov. 13, 2022.

In "Tulsa King," Stallone plays New York mafia capo Dwight "The General" Manfredi, a gangster who's just done a 25-year stretch in prison and kept his mouth shut for the duration. Expecting a warm reception on his release, he finds out that his old crew wants nothing to do with him. After they exile him to Oklahoma, Manfredi sets out to rebuild his life by recruiting an unlikely crew of misfit gangsters-to-be. Think "The Sopranos" crossed with "Yellowstone."

To promote the show, Stallone did an in-depth interview with The Hollywood Reporter that looked back over his storied career. The actor had some surprising things to say about the Rambo movies and how he'd make any future films in that series.

When Stallone starred in "First Blood" in 1982, the producers thought they were making another action quickie that would play a few weeks, hopefully turn a profit and then fade into obscurity like hundreds of other genre pictures.

Instead, they got a performance of surprising gravity from Stallone, who turned John Rambo into one of the most iconic characters in movie history and went on to play the Vietnam veteran in a total of five movies (so far) over four decades.

The highlight of "First Blood" is the monologue Rambo delivers near the end. After a nearly silent performance up to that point, Stallone delivers an emotional speech about the guys who didn't make it home from Vietnam and how the veterans who did struggle with their memories of the fallen.

Apparently, the money men behind the picture wanted to get rid of the scene.

"That scene was a tough one to get past the producers," Stallone told The Hollywood Reporter. "They didn't want it. I was supposed to be shot and die. And I go, 'There are a lot of veterans who are going to look at this and go, 'So my only hope is to kill myself?' I can't do that. I did 20 interviews with veterans and I compiled it into that moment, all stream of consciousness, with everything just pouring out. I want people to take away some sense of hope when they leave the theater. I don't want my heroes to die."

Obviously, Stallone was right and it wasn't only Vietnam veterans who connected with John Rambo. "Rambo: First Blood Part II" (1985) and "Rambo III" (1988) went on to become two of the biggest movies of the decade.

After the tragedy on the set of the Alec Baldwin western "Rust" in 2021, there's been a lot of discussion about whether improvements in digital effects have made it so that movies no longer need to have real guns on set. Stallone has a strong take on the topic.

"No one has shot more blanks than me," said Stallone. "On 'Rambo IV,' I wanted to show what a .50-caliber could do to a human being. We took a dummy and filled it with 200 pounds of beef. I thought, 'When I fire, it will knock the dummy over.' There were no bullets in the gun. It was just the force of the compression in the shell. But it turned the dummy into mist. It blew it apart. Then I turned the .50-caliber to a row of bamboo trees and it literally cut them in half. This is without bullets!"

Here's the brutal .50 cal scene from "Rambo," the 2008 movie also known as "Rambo IV."

Stallone knows that weapons are dangerous in the wrong hands, and he thinks movie sets should emphasize safety first. "I've had near misses. I've never said this before, but I had a pistol literally go off in my holster in 'The Expendables' -- bam, right down my leg," he said. "I've used weapons that are incredibly dangerous at close range. I'm surprised I haven't lost a finger or something. It was only a matter of time, and I agree: With special effects, there's no need to do this."

There you have it from an actor who's made a career mowing down the bad guys in classics like "Bullet to the Head," "Cobra," "Get Carter," "Judge Dredd," "Tango & Cash," "Death Race 2000," "Nighthawks," "Demolition Man," and "Assassins." The man who gave us Rambo knows his weapons, and if he says it's OK to switch to computer-generated bullets, we should probably pay attention.

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