Hosted by Jonathan Ross
Reviewer: Chris Rogers
Like punters to a prize fight, the London Palladium was sold out from stalls to roof with buzzing spectators. The occasional “Yo Rocky – Hey Adrian” was giggled nervously while the hungry crowd awaited the undefeated champion of mumbled one-liners: Sylvester Stallone.
Playing the referee of the night, trusty Jonathan Ross took the stage to explain the ground rules, the length of the rounds of discussion, the Q&A, no dumb questions or under the belt gushing of sentiment.
A montage was played (Yes, Rocky got a montage.) to remind the crowd of the accomplishments of the person they were about to encounter live in the flesh. The crowd didn’t need reminding, but a shared understanding that everyone in the crowded auditorium had seen and grown up with the canon of Sly Stallone fuelled the anticipation…Sure enough, the Rocky theme tune blasted from the speakers and the crowd stood to greet their hero of countless films in a standing ovation.
The London Palladium in the past has had a history of hosting the heroes of the time. Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Carmen Miranda, Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Bob Hope, Liza Minnelli, Ella Fitzgerald and Sammy Davis, Jr. have had evenings in their name appear on the famous Palladium board. Earlier in 2013 Hollywood legend Al Pacino graced the stage, and there can be no doubt that Sylvester Stallone is a vastly shining star among the ones preceding him.
At only five feet and nine and a half inches, Sly came to the stage looking like a giant. Waving his massive hands with a calm, reassuring smile, his deep voice mumbled something like ‘hello’ in a resonance that sent the ladies in the stalls swooning.One would easily assume that this outward show, the Hollywood persona, would be what the audience was about to receive. What followed couldn’t be further from it.
Wossy guided the next 50 minutes with a steady, loving skill through the actor’s life. From his humble origins in Hell’s Kitchen New York with a Father who owned a hair salon and a mother who promoted women’s wrestling to the most recent exploits of “The Expendables 3” and “Creed”, the rumoured film about the grandson to Apollo Creed.
Standing on stage was the true underdog, the man who started with softporn, took his chances to move to LA and saw his career crumbling, the man who wrote films because he was an out of work actor with nothing else to do, the man who sold his dog because “It was either sell him or eat him… I couldn’t feed both him and me.”.
Sly, like Rocky in his restaurant, is a wonderful raconteur. And so he went on to tell the story of his one shot: An audition he was yet again not right for and five words he said in leaving that changed his life…. “I write a little too…”. He was told to come back when he had something to show so he returned within an hour and gave the audition panel the early script of Rocky.
What emerged was a humble, intelligent man. A man who has written countless screenplays, a man who laughed a lot at his younger self (“Some of those earlier interviews… Sometimes I wish I could go back and punch myself in the face.”). A man who sees the genre that made his career fading and yet brings his screen rivals together for the Expendables trilogy. (“They don’t come to see one of us anymore but I thought: They’ll come to see ten guys.”) A loving father of three girls who loves to go horse riding. A man with a bigger heart than his giant hands.
After the tales of Rocky, Rambo and more intricate films like Copland were answered, there was a short Q&A during which Sly continued to give sound advice to aspiring filmmakers and actors and dealt charmingly with the odd fan who couldn’t help but gush with sentiment when they had the microphone.
Finally, the auditorium stood once more applauding and as Sly left waving those big pranks once more there were shouts of “Rocky! Rocky! Rocky!” coming from the crowded ranks.