On the Set of Stallone’s “Champs”

Tibby Borbely a.k.a. Tybor, a STALLONE ZONE “regular” sent us in the following exculsive photos taken on a location shoot for “Champs.” Thanks to Tybor (and Jerry for the technical assist)!

On location with SLY!

Can you spot Renny Harlin, the director of “Champs?”

“Gentlemen, start your engines!”

Sly with Eli Samaha (the producer) of “Champs.”

Another shot of Sly and Eli Samaha.

Once again I would like to thank Tibby Borbely a.k.a. Tybor
for taking the time and caring enough to share his exclusive
photos with all of us here at the STALLONEZONE!

– Craig Zablo (August 13, 2000)

Sly to Reynolds to Newman

The August 8th issue of Star contains the following item in the STARpeople section:

SYLVESTER STALLONE, 54, and BURT REYNOLDS, 64, are in Toronto filming Champs, a film about aging race-car drivers who go back into the business. They were shooting at the racetrack and throngs of eager women showed up to watch the proceedings. When a reporter remarked to SLY that it was obvious that he’s still popular with the ladies, SLY gallantly remarked, “This time around they’re knocking me over to get to REYNOLDS! In this business, you expect popularity to give way to younger guys – but not to OLDER guys!” Funny thing is, a few minutes later, PAUL NEWMAN, 75, arrived at the track and the female fans pushed EVERYONE aside to get to him!

Stallone Courts Controversy in Comeback Attempt

Posted on Fri, Aug. 01, 2003
Stallone Courts Controversy in Comeback Attempt
By Eric Harrison
Houston Chronicle

Settling in for an interview in an Austin hotel suite recently, Sylvester Stallone bypasses a nearby couch and instead chooses a straight-backed desk chair across the room.

“I’ll get too comfortable if I sit in one of those,” he says.

It seems too easy, this ready-made metaphor, but comfort is a commodity Stallone no longer can afford. A box-office heavyweight in the 1970s and ’80s thanks to his Rocky and Rambo movies, the 57-year-old actor-writer-director has spent the past decade on the ropes. Studios balk at hiring him. Distributors won’t touch his movies.

In this summer of comebacks, Stallone joins Demi Moore and fellow strongman Arnold Schwarzenegger in making bids for continued viability. His is modest: He plays the villain in Spy Kids 3D: Game Over. His real hopes reside in his next project, an ambitious film he calls Thugz Lives, about the murders of rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. that Stallone wrote and hopes to direct and star in. It’s a risky proposition, unlike anything he’s ever done, with the potential to resuscitate his career or blow up in his face.

It isn’t his first comeback attempt. He tried in 1997, in Cop Land, an intelligent drama about police corruption that co-starred Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel and Ray Liotta. Stallone spent six weeks gorging on pancakes to gain 40 pounds. His character found a core of courage and became heroic at the end, but for most of the movie he played a mope, looked down on by nearly everyone.

Stallone hoped the role would show that the early promise he displayed as an actor was real, that he could do more than cartoon action heroes. But despite the stellar cast and good reviews, the movie did middling business. Stallone took that as evidence his audience didn’t want to see him flex his acting muscles; they wanted the old familiar Sly, talking tough and cracking heads.

“Nobody wants to see John Wayne perform The Nutcracker, you know,” Stallone says. “He may be the best ballet dancer in the world, but nobody wants to see him like that.”

After Cop Land, things went from bad to worse with a string of flops.

“It can eat you up,” he says of failure. “It just does a number on your self-esteem. The acting part is easy. The hard part of this business is maintaining your equilibrium and confidence. That’s why so many actors get hooked on alcohol and drugs.”

And maintaining that confidence has indeed been hard lately. Shade, the last movie in which he starred, languishes without a distributor. D-Tox (also known as Eye See You) opened on a handful of screens last year, earning $79,000, before going to video. Avenging Angelo, the film before that, never got an American theatrical release.

Driven, Stallone‘s last film to open wide, earned back less than half of its production costs before it vanished from domestic screens in 2001. And the total U.S. gross of Get Carter ($15 million) was less than some major movies make on opening night.

Stallone isn’t the only one who wants to change that run of failure. Robert Rodriguez, the Austin filmmaker who created the Spy Kids franchise, met Stallone in 1997 at the Venice Film Festival. Following the premiere party for Cop Land, they hung out together, and Rodriguez was surprised to see a side of Stallone that rarely came through on film.

“I’d always been a fan of his, but I’d never known how funny he really is,” says Rodriguez, adding sheepishly, “I wondered why his comedies weren’t any good.” Then he realized Stallone was always a hired hand in the comedies, working for other directors from scripts he didn’t write.

“He was always funny in the Rocky movies,” Rodriguez says.

So when it came time to cast the role of the Toymaker, the villain in Spy Kids 3D, he thought of Stallone. For his part, Stallone says he had no choice but to accept. His kids (he has three with his third wife, former model Jennifer Flavin) are big Spy Kids fans.

“I had to do it,” he says. “Otherwise, I’d be disowned by a 6-year-old.

“He had a ball, he says. He loved not being the center of attention, not being the star who has to carry the picture.

Now, as he begins to plan a sixth Rocky film, Stallone is pushing ahead with Thugz Lives. The movie, like a previous documentary and book on the cases, will link the murders of Shakur and Biggie to corruption in the Los Angeles Police Department and to geographical rivalries within the hip-hop record business. Stallone, who hopes to start filming in September, hints there also will be a suggestion of FBI involvement.

“This is like the JFK assassination to the black community,” Stallone says. “And like the JFK assassination, they’ll be battling this out for the next 100 years, trying to figure out what happened.”Which is exactly what Stallone wants: to be back in the middle of a big fight.

Craig Zablo

Maybe They Call It “Rocky Road”

JULY 14, 2000

TORONTO (AP) — Maybe they can call it “Rocky Road.”

SYLVESTER STALLONE, who portrayed underdog Rocky Balboa in a series of popular movies, is now hoping the same magic that worked for boxing can be translated to Champ cars.

SLY, whose original idea of a movie about Formula one never came to fruition, has written a script and put together an independent deal to make a movie tentatively titled “Driven.” He will also produce the movie, which is scheduled to be released in the summer of 2001.

The story will revolve around STALLONE‘s character, an aging racing star, being brought back to mentor a budding star [KIP PARDUE]. BURT REYNOLDS will play a cantankerous team owner, while ESTELLA WARREN will be STALLONE‘s love interest.

Some initial scene-setting filming was done earlier this year during the race weekend in Long Beach, Calif., but the action is almost nonstop this week in Toronto as Championship Auto Racing Teams puts on its 11th Molson Indy.

RENNY HARLIN, who directed STALLONE in his last big hit, “Cliffhanger,” in 1993, will also direct this project.

HARLIN said the Rocky film saga parallels “Driven” in many ways.

Rocky wasn’t a movie about boxing and this won’t be a movie about cars going around the track,” he said. “It won’t be a documentary, but since we followed racing all our lives, we don’t want to take liberties with things that could never happen.”

During a press conference to introduce the cast, Reynolds got the biggest laugh.

Asked why STALLONE sought him out for the role of the team owner, Reynolds said: “BURGESS MEREDITH was dead.”

MEREDITH played STALLONE‘s crusty trainer-manager in three “Rocky” films.

The rest of the cast includes GINA GERSHON, ROBERT SEAN LEONARD, STACY EDWARDS, TIL SCHWEIGER, CRISTIAN de la FUENTE and BRENT BRISCOE. Several current CART stars including MICHAEL ANDRETTI, JUAN MONTOYA and DAN FRANCHITTI will also have cameo roles.

Craig Zablo

Sly in FHM


A hotshot rookie driver hits a slump and realizes he needs the help of a grizzled old vetern who, incidentally, looks a lot like Rocky Balboa.


Go speed racer In a feat that never ceases to amaze, screenwriter STALLONE strung together enough words to pen an entire script. At least you can count on director RENNY HARLIN [“CLIFFHANGER’] to make stellar racing scenes.
Get this: While filming, HARLINE was planning the DVD, which will let the viewer watch the races from various angles: high above, on the side or in the driver’s seat.


1 SYLVESTER STALLONE wrote his first draft of the script in three frenzied days. That version ended with Rocky throwing the fight.

2 Even though he had only $105 in the bank, STALLONE originally turned down offers of as much as $350,000 for the script from producers who wouldn’t let him play Rocky.

3 To get the green light from the studio, the producers had to agree to keep their budget below $1 million and agree to cover any extra charges out of their own pockets. Both producers ended up mortgaging their house.

4 When production moved from LA to Philadelphia, STALLONE could only afford to travel by train. Accompanying him on the 3-day ride was his dog Butkus, who appears in the film and who had putrid gas throughout the trip. In Arizona, SLY literally picked up the pooch and squeezed him, but the dog refused to empty its bowels until they got to Philadelphia and SLY‘s hotel carpet.

5 The famous shot of Rocky celebrating at the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps was originally filmed as a tight shot on Rocky with a zoom out. Later, the director decided he wanted to start wide and zoom in. In the film, the footage is actually playing backward.

Thanks to Ernest “Jazzman” Resendes! – Craig Zablo