Sylvester Stallone turned down $34 million for Rambo IV in 1988

Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone
Photo: Theo Wargo (Getty Images)

2008’s Rambo isn’t what most would describe as a “good time at the movies.” It’s not a “chill hang,” nor does it have “vibes.” What it does have are hands being blown off, children being burnt to a crisp, and enough throat rips to make a master like MacGruber jealous. Still, according to The Hollywood Reporter‘s fascinating new interview with Stallone, the hyper-violent third sequel is the one Stallone considers his “best action movie.”

“One film I’m truly proud of — it’s the best action film I’ve ever done because it’s the most truthful — is Rambo IVdealing with Burma, where they’ve had a civil war for 67 years,” Stallone told The Hollywood Reporter. “But I got excoriated because the movie’s so violent. And it is violent. It’s horrifying. It’s children being burnt alive. That’s what makes civil war worse than anything: It’s your neighbor, all of a sudden, killing you. I was really happy with that film, and I never thought it would ever reach the theater. I thought, ‘They’re never going to show this.’”

While Stallone was happy to wait more than two decades for the follow-up to Rambo III, the studio wanted to make one much quicker and was willing to pay through the nose for it. Stallone said that when he was first asked about Rambo IVhe ended up turning down his biggest payday ever, to the tune of $34 million.

The Hollywood Reporter: What’s the most you were ever paid for a role?

Stallone: I turned down 34.

THR: You turned down $34 million?! For what film?

SS: We were doing Rambo III. We thought it was going to be the biggest hit — this was before it came out. And I was paid a fortune for it. Then they go, “We want Rambo IV. Here it is: Pay or play, 34.” I go, “Let’s not jump the gun here…”

THR: And that’s in 1980s dollars. [Factoring inflation, $34 million would now be approximately $85 million].

SS: For real. That’s not a joke. Oh boy, what an idiot. Now I think about that and … wow.

Perhaps it was turning down such a fat stack of cash that led Stallone to focus too much on his rivalry with fellow beefed-up action star Arnold Schwarzenegger, inadvertently dooming the world to endure Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot in 1992.”Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was supposed to be like Throw Momma From the Train with the mom as this really nasty piece of work,” Stallone said. “Instead, you hire the nicest woman in Hollywood, Estelle Getty, who you wish was your mother. That’s the end of that! Also, I had heard Schwarzenegger was going to do that movie, and I said, ‘I’m going to beat him to it.’ I think he set me up.” Schwarzenegger confirmed the story, telling the Reporter that the story was “100% true.”

“In those days, we did all kinds of crazy things to get ahead in our rivalry,” the Terminator star said.” Luckily for us and everyone else, today, we root for each other. Thank God, because we sure don’t ever need another Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.”

sorry for Arnold, by simply evoking the film’s titlean entire 10-part Netflix series based on the origins of Stallone’s character Joe Bomowski starring Liam Hemsworth was presumably greenlit, produced, and forgotten.

Read the full interview with Stallone at The Hollywood Reporter.

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