John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) has been a symbol of freedom and patriotism for decades. Introduced as an anti-war Vietnam veteran in the seminal drama FIRST BLOOD, the character of Rambo evolved over the years into a one-man vengeance machine, standing up for the underdog and righting wrongs on the global stage.
According to Stallone, though, the character who has endured over these decades almost didn’t come to be, as FIRST BLOOD initially was such a disaster, the franchise almost sank way before it was allowed to swim.
While promoting this week’s RAMBO: LAST BLOOD at a press conference in Los Angeles, Stallone remembered about how "bad" he thought the first cut of FIRST BLOOD was, and if he had his way, audiences wouldn’t have seen it.
"That movie was so bad, I wanted to buy it back and burn it," Stallone said with a laugh. "It was that bad, because it was just overblown and over-long. And I had never seen an actor attacking his own country. It was just odd. Eleven people passed on the film. Then, once it was done, we said, 'Let's bring it down to like 85 minutes from three hours.' Because I think RAMBO movies needed to be short. There's not a lot you need to explain. You get it. Especially with these films, you need less and less time. You need to get right to the meat of it."
Even after Sylvester Stallone and his creative partners got the film down to a length they thought worked better, the star says they couldn’t secure distribution for the movie. Stallone was given one last shot to save John Rambo’s proverbial skin. It was an unprecedented move, according to the lead actor.
"They said, ‘Sly? Here’s our last chance. We're going to cut 20 minutes together — which I've never seen — and you're going to go out there in front of a room full of strangers … people from Poland and Russia and any distributor and just try to get someone to take this movie.' So, I went out there and said, 'Folks! Hurry, hurry. Welcome! Step right up! You're about to see 20 of the greatest minutes… ' And I haven't seen one second of it. I’m serious. You talk about blind faith."
But it all worked out. Sylvester Stallone recalls that they played those 20 minutes of footage for potential investors, and his own jaw dropped. He knew they had something special in FIRST BLOOD. And a cinematic hero had been born.
Now we know how John Rambo started. Soon, we will be able to see how his story ends. RAMBO: LAST BLOOD is expected to be the final movie in the long-lasting franchise. The movie co-stars Paz Vega and Yvette Monreal in a plot that pits Rambo against a Mexican drug cartel to protect the "family" he calls his own.
RAMBO: LAST BLOOD will be in theatres on September 20.