“Rocky” One of the ‘Best of the Best’

The February 23, 2001 issue of Entertainment Weekly has an article titled “The Best of the Best” in which EW ranks the 72 Best Picture Oscar winners. Here’s what they had to say about Rocky:

43 ROCKY 1976

Directed by JOHN G. ALVIDSEN Starring SYLVESTER STALLONE, TALIA SHIRE Nominations 9 Wins 3 Stiffest Competition Taxi Driver, Network

A likable triumph-of-the-underdog tale, but why this boxing fable and not SCORSESE‘s Raging Bull four years later?

Let me begin by pointing out a small error… did you catch it? The listing says that “Rocky” was nominated for 9 Oscars but the right number is 10! I’ve already e-mailed them about the error – so let’s talk about the article…

Articles like these are written to encourage discussion about the subjective rankings of personal favorites. So let me say that, personally, I feel that “Rocky” should be in the Top 10 and without a doubt the Top 20 — I am happy to see that the editors of the piece ranked “Rocky” higher than many past winners [even if they didn’t “get it exactly right.”].

Craig Zablo

The Making of “Driven” Part One

Returning to his roots as a writer five years ago, SYLVESTER STALLONE was full of questions about the type of men it took to control a 900-horsepower car at speeds well over 200 miles per hour. At the core of his new film “Driven” is STALLONE‘s fascination with “the men behind the visor,” the only professional athletes who risk their lives each time they practice or compete.

“For years I watched guys in helmets go around and I never knew who they were,” STALLONE said. “I wanted to understand who was living inside the helmet. What’s that man’s life like? What are his fears? How does he find the ability to maintain such extraordinary focus?”

Produced by Franchise Pictures, “Driven” is currently in post-production and will be released on April 27, 2001 by Warner Bros. Pictures. Using the latest moving-camera techniques and computer graphics technologies, director RENNY HARLIN is bringing to life a meticulously researched script that became a labor of love and an obsession for STALLONE.

Early in the research process, STALLONE narrowed his focus to open-wheel racing, attracted by the extremely high speeds and the danger inherent in an open cockpit. Over the next few years, STALLONE attended dozens of Formula One and CART races around the world. In the process, he spent time with drivers and mechanics, team owners and journalists, asking questions and listening to their personal stories.

STALLONE soon identified an intriguing paradox at the core of motor racing: driving requires enormous personal courage and passion, but a racer has few opportunities to display these emotions during competition. Although he and his car are constantly communicating with the pit crew, each driver works alone in a delicate balancing act of risk and reward. Strapped into a tiny, confining cockpit, hands and feet occupied at all times without a break in the action, the athlete is further isolated from his fans by a full-face helmet. The visceral power and storytelling range of cinema seemed a perfect medium to unmask the driver and reveal his personal experience.

In search of a central character, STALLONE created Joe Tanto, a retired race car driver who is called back to racing to help develop a talented, but unfocused young rookie [KIP PARDUE]. For Tanto, getting back on track means navigating a troubled emotional past and once again confronting the racer’s delicate balancing act between the desire to win and the need to survive.

“These guys have many of the same fears and daily concerns or problems we all have,” STALLONE said. “But they have to develop what we call in the film, the ‘quiet spot,’ this extraordinary focus and channeling of energy to do their jobs. A driver is right on the ragged edge between heaven and hell, life and death. He’s the master of his destiny and that’s a rare, powerful place to be.”

Reflecting the multicultural mix of the real-life racing community, “Driven” stars an international cast of familiar faces and newcomers. The players range from BURT REYNOLDS, whose “Smoky and the Bandit” films featured some of the most unforgettable chase scenes of all time, to CHRISTIAN de la FUENTE [Family Law], who started his career as a pilot in the Chilean Air Force. GINA GERSHON plays FUENTE‘s wife, and German actor/director TIL SCHWEIGER plays the world-champion driver Beau Brandenburg. Making her feature film debut, Canadian supermodel ESTELLA WARREN lights up the screen as Brandenburg‘s girlfriend.

Shot on location in and around the actual 2000 CART racing series, “Driven” will offer race fans with a unique opportunity to transcend the visual limitations of televised motorsports, revealing the driver’s full experience of speed. While the wide lenses and high angles of television used tend to flatten and slow down action for the viewer, HARLIN‘s use of advanced technology moving cameras, multiple angles, visual effects and computer graphic imaging promises a spectacular depiction of velocity.

“We’ve never seen what the driver sees at such high speeds,” said STALLONE. “We want to give the audience the terrifying, thrilling experience of what it’s like to be sitting on top of all that horsepower, to get inside the mind of the driver, to see what he sees and feel what he feels.” To accomplish this ambitions goal, STALLONE and HARLIN dove into the traveling carnival of open-wheel racing and created a new way of planning and making an action film.

Part 2 of this series will explore a complex and unusual shooting process that took place during carefully-scheduled breaks in the actual race action at tracks on four continents. “Driven” stars SYLVESTER STALLONE, BURT REYNOLDS, KIP PARDUE, TIL SCHWEIGER, GINA GERSHON, ESTELLA WARREN, and CHRISTINA de la FUENTE. Directed by RENNY HARLIN and written by STALLONE, the film reunites the two following their highly successful collaboration on “Cliffhanger.” “Driven” is produced by Franchise PicturesELIE SAMAHA, STALLONE and HARLIN. ANDREW STEVENS, DON CARMODY and KEVIN KING are the executive producers. It will be released by Warner Bros. Pictures, an AOL Time Warner Company

From a “Driven” Street Team press release – Craig Zablo [February 20, 2001]

“Smilin’ Jack Ruby” Looks at “Dolan’s Cadillac”

Smilin’ Jack Ruby [gotta love that name!] posted a very positive review of the script for “Dolan’s Cadillac” over at Fandom.com. Jack had some very interesting things to say…

“I had the opportunity to read the script and not being ABKing [SZ regular Andrew! – Craig Zablo], I am skeptical of all things SLY STALLONE. Well, this role is tailor-made for him.”
“He’s the ultimate heavy, the kingpin of Las Vegas organized crime and the guy who runs the Mandarin Casino, which rises high over the strip.”

“I have read the script and it’s pretty interesting. You wouldn’t think it, but it actually combines some elements of “The Shawshank Redemption” into a revenge thriller, though this story never tries to get to that level. It’s a revenge pic, pure and simple.”

“If you read the short story, you’ll find out what this big revenge thing is. Needless to say, it is something incredibly cinematic that makes me really, REALLY want to see this movie.”

“KEVIN BACON as Tom is perfect casting…”

“I’m sure this will turn into a project with a lot of good actors as the parts are well written.”

“I have to hand it to SANDY TITLE and JONATHON PENNER, this is an adaptation I want to see…”

“It is well-cast, well-written… really keeps the tone of STEPHEN KING intact in the script.”
The underlined sections are parts that I highlighted for emphasis.


To read the complete review, click |HERE|. – Craig Zablo [February 18, 2001]

Rambo Action Figure

On January 27, 2001 we reported that Rambo would be the first in a new line of action figures from N2Toys. At that time we even previewed a figure based on preliminary work.

Now we can show you the actual Rambo figures which were on display at a recent Toy Fair. Click on the images at the right (6″ action figure) and below (12″ version) to see larger pics.

Thanks to Dedrick of D & G Electronics and Toys for the images.
– Craig Zablo (February 11, 2001)

“Dolan’s Cadillac” Confirmed

On January 30th, the SZ announced that SLY was planning to star in an adaptation of STEPHEN KING’s “Dolan’s Cadillac.” Fans became excited by the prospect of SLY in the role of a Las Vegas kingpin who thinks he’s gotten away with murder.

Well, it wasn’t just STALLONE fans who thought that this was newsworthy! The same day that our story ran, Dark Horizons and Chud posted the news as well! [Chud got their info from DH… and DH was sent the tip by Lilja of The World of Stephen King who had also e-mailed the SZ.]

Yesterday Zorianna Kit of The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that SLY is set to star [and KEVIN BACON is in negotiations to join him] in “Dolan’s Cadillac,” based on a STEPHEN KING novelette. The movie is scheduled to start production in May with writer-director STACY TITLE [“The Last Supper”] directing from her own adaptation.

In “Cadillac,” STALLONE will play a Las Vegas kingpin who thinks he’s gotten away with the murder of an innocent woman, though the spouse of the victim has big revenge plans.
This will be SLY’S fourth film for Franchise. He starred in “Get Carter” as well as the upcoming “Driven” and SLY will start filming “Avenging Angelo” with MADELINE STOWE in mid-April and then begin work on “Dolan’s Cadillac” in May.

– Craig Zablo [February 7, 2001]

EW’s Advance Look at “Driven”

The February 16, 2001 issue of Entertainment Weekly contains the following write-up about “Driven”


what’s the big deal? SLY writes himself a Rocky of the racing circuit

The last time STALLONE buddied up with action auteur HARLIN – for 1993’s Cliffhanger – they rappelled back to base camp with $260 mil worldwide. And since the thriller was also STALLONE‘s last hit, it makes sense that he’d tap the Finnish director to help steer him back onto the fast track. In fact, it’s why STALLONE penned this race-car-driving saga. “I’m trying to do something different with my career,” he admits. “Yeah, this movie has action and adventure, but it’s really a drama underneath, like Rocky.” How so? Well, the actor plays a retired driver whose days in the victory circle are over. Then a sage racing-team owner [REYNOLDS] offers him a second chance – not to get behind the wheel, but to help train a cocky young prodigy [Remember the TitansPardue]. Still, despite all the human drama, HARLIN promises it’s the wipeouts that’ll fuel this vehicle. “The way we’re shooting these crashes is brand-new,” he says. “You’ve never seen it before. The viewer’s going to be right there in the driver’s seat, spinning out of control.” Pass the Dramamine. [April 27]

I really like the overall positive tone of this write-up. It’s especially gratifying that the writer feels that the “big deal” about “Driven” is that SLU wrote the screenplay himself!

Craig Zablo [February 4, 2001]

Frank Stallone Checks In

FRANK STALLONE e-mailed the SZ to thank us for the kind words that he’s been receiving from SZ fans about his newly designed site. He also wanted us to know that he’s updated it again with a ton of never before seen photos! Included are some really cool family pics, as well as photos of FRANK and some of the many celebrities that he’s worked with over the years. Click |HERE| to check it out.

FRANK also wanted us to know that he will be starring in Walker, Texas Ranger on February 10th at 9 pm PST on CBS. Appearing with FRANK will be his “big band.” In addition to his dramatic role, FRANK will also sing three songs!

FRANK also answered a question that many STALLONE fans have been wondering about for some time… Will the film “The Good Life” [FRANK starred in the movie and SLY appeared in a cameo] be released now that the lawsuits have been settled? FRANK‘s response, “I would honestly say no. We have distanced ourselves from it. for it was bad scene. Now my brother and I are closer than we ever were, so after it all that was only positive thing that came of it.”

We really appreciate FRANK taking the time from his busy schedule to send us an update. Be sure to check out his site at frankstallone.com as well as his appearance on “Walker, Texas Ranger.” The SZ will continue to provide updates from FRANK as we get them!

Craig Zablo [February 4, 2001]

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