LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Rambo is coming to get theater audiences this week with Sylvester Stallone back on the big screen as the touch-as-nails Vietnam veteran.
One year ago Stallone's "Rocky Balboa," the sixth film in the movie series about a rags-to-riches boxer, restored luster to the franchise earning $155 million at global box offices.
Now "Sly" Stallone is back on Friday with the second of his two movie character icons -- action hero John Rambo, in "Rambo" -- a movie he starred in, wrote and directed.
At 61, Hollywood watchers have speculated about whether Stallone was up to the task of taking on the Rambo character again, but the star appears in great shape after a grueling three months in the Thai and Myanmar jungle making the film:
Q: Did you wonder if you were still up to the task?
A: "Oh my God, by the third month things were breaking down. You don't get a break. Even a football player gets a weekend off. On this, we were scouting, going six days-a-week, and it gets you. The big thing was trying to stay on top of your game, eat the right stuff, take the right supplements and so on."
Q: You decided to write, direct and star in it. Why take all that on, when directing alone is such a tough job?
A: "It is, especially these kinds of films. I didn't realize. "Rocky" was hard but it was much easier than this one. I didn't even think about the trucks and the jungle and 300 extras and the heat and so on."
Q: Did you have any fun on this shoot?
A: "It was a bitch to make it. The fun part is I enjoyed seeing it. Usually I can't sit through things I do, but I enjoyed this."
Q: How do you explain the global appeal of John Rambo?
A: "There hasn't been anyone like him, and he really does put his stamp on the dark side. Rocky's got optimism. The glass is half-full. This man is just a pessimist. And I feel his thoughts about 'What is life all about?' are more common and more visited by people than Rocky's thoughts, I really do. We're always questioning our worth and our insecurities."
Q: You've always been closely associated with Rocky. But how much of you is in Rambo?
A: "I got to play two very different characters that are actually both sides of most people's personalities. Imagine being able to play your upside and then being able to play your demons?...Rambo, like most guarded people, is so pent up inside. He's such a physical creature in that way and wants to physically act out his demons, and that's exactly who I am (laughs). On one side. On the other, I'm very optimistic, just like Rocky ... these are the two characters that I really love and that I'm proud of."
Q: How hard was it getting back in shape?
A: "Rocky was just inundated with injuries, so I never really got into top shape, but it was OK, as he wasn't supposed to be in peak shape. This one was so hard. The weather, the pollution and just the overall lifestyle took a big toll. Many people had to go to the hospital to have fluids pumped into their bodies. We were all pushing it."
Q: Did your wife come to visit the set in Myanmar?
A: "I begged her not to come, unless she was wearing a mosquito-proof dress. I told her it was going to be hard. She lasted two days and said, 'I can't take it anymore!' But that's what it is. If you're going to do this movie you have to go to where it's at. It's not for a vacation."
Q: How long do you think you can go on doing action films?
A: It's uncharted territory ... what I'd like to explain is, it's not about action, it's about in-between-the-action. It's the interaction, the brain work and a story that the audience can emotionally hook into. My buddy Bruce (Willis) is still doing it, and you've got Harrison Ford now in the new Indy movie, and he's 65. So I think if you do it intelligently, where every now and again you have back pain (laughs) and then you keep going, like Clint (Eastwood) did, I think it still works.