"Let's go five to the head," Stallone said, outback.
Stallone's guest seemed momentarily confused, then he shrugged. "Sure." And sure enough, he kicked again. Stallone grabbed the foot, held on and smashed a right hook into Glorioso's jaw. He let go of the foot, and Glorioso collapsed.
Nearly 30 years later Stallone still feels the hurt—"He'd humiliated me"—and relishes the revenge: "I just walloped him, laid him out." He laughs. He clearly loves to tell this story. "That's what Rocky's all about: pride, reputation and not being another bum from the neighborhood."
But Stallone's mother, Jackie, an astrologer and promoter of women's wrestling, says that when you deconstruct Rocky you'll find that his roots lie somewhere else. "Sly desperately wanted to play football, but his grades were so bad they wouldn't let him on the team," she says. "So one day I drive by his high school during practice and see him in a uniform, leaping up and down outside the fence. He's borrowed the uniform so everyone will think he's a player. I think, How pathetic! He just wants to be accepted, and he's acting like a clown."
Stallone snorts at his mother's story. "That's all made up," he says. "She tries to make up my whole past. She tells people she taught me how to box."
He smiles sardonically. He's pacing a tastefully appointed office at Warner Brothers in West Hollywood, his temporary headquarters while he is shooting Oscar, a gangster farce in which he plays a comic capo. He wears a well-cut, conservative suit, red suspenders and a long gold chain that may or may not be attached to a watch. He's on stage a little bit. His jaunty air weds sincerity with practiced self-mockery. He's sharp and smooth, exceedingly shrewd and very charming. He takes pains to demonstrate that he is a sensitive soul who paints, collects art, writes novels. "People think I've got the IQ of a hockey score," he says. "I'm supposed to be this primordial being who slurs his way through life. I've been called a master of the malapropism. What crap! My vocabulary is larger than 90 percent of the writers I've met."
He honed this vocabulary, he says, with a dictionary he bought at 19. He loved Edgar Allan Poe but couldn't decipher him. So he taught himself a new word every day and practiced using it. But Stallone doesn't depend on this accumulated data, he says, when he's writing or acting or directing. He relies on instinct rather than intellect. Art, he says, is like playing football in the dark: "You don't know when you're going to get tackled, so you just go for it."
Yet each Rocky has been charted with enough calculation to send a rocket to Neptune. "It's not true that I keep making the same movie over and over," Stallone protests. "The Rocky series is about the evolution of a fighter. Rocky V is a 20th-century Cinderella's fall from grace. He comes out of it with his dignity intact. He's somehow not incredibly embittered. That's why the movie's about him and not about me."
"A good snarl can give you what the Bible calls a psychological edge."
—MICKEY in Rocky II