A betting person might give the American star better odds in the ring, but when it came to behavior on set, the Brit was quick to put his co-star in his place. In fact, Stallone found the entire shoot revealing and physically brutal and later admitted that he had no idea what he was getting himself into. His demand that his character score the winning goal despite being a goalkeeper certainly did not go down well and was promptly dismissed. The actor had publicly stated that he thought soccer was a “sissy sport” until he was sent to the hospital after some brutal encounters on set, including with the great Brazilian legend Pelé, which left him with a broken finger.
The basic premise of Escape to Victory, which is back on TV screens today, had the Rocky star playing a WWII Allied POW. He becomes the goalkeeper for a team of imprisoned professional soccer players. They plan to make a daring escape during a Nazi propaganda match against a German team in Paris.
The film made headlines because it included an extraordinary array of famous soccer players from Pelé and Bobby Moore, plus Osvaldo Ardiles and numerous teammates from Ipswich Town, which was one of the biggest teams in Europe at the time.
Despite all the hoopla and world-famous players involved, Stallone admitted that he strutted around on set and didn’t even bother to warm up before beginning his first scenes in goal. Several broken bones would follow.
The muscular actor has often revealed publicly how he pushes himself to the limit on set, even goading Dolph Lundgren into hitting him harder during 1985’s Rocky IV. He was hospitalized on that occasion and says the nursing staff feared for his life. .
During an interview to promote Victory, Stallone said: “I thought Rocky was tough, but I never trained that hard. I thought football was a sissy sport until they kicked the ball into my stomach and I crossed the border into Austria with bruises.” on both hips.”
In the early days of filming the film’s soccer scenes, the actor suffered a broken rib and a dislocated shoulder. He would be followed by another broken rib and then a broken finger thanks to Brazilian legend Pele.
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Stallone told the BBC: “That was one of the lowest points of my life. What a kick in the butt they gave me! I still have a broken finger from trying to block a Pele penalty.”
“He put on a pair of World War II shoes, which had steel toes, and the ball was like a cannonball: it was twice as thick and heavy as today’s balls… He told me he was going to take a shot and I thought ‘It’s football, what’s the problem? It’s easy’ The ball still flew past me before I could move…
“He did it again, and he went through the back of the netting and broke a window in the barracks where we were filming. I said ‘Are you kidding?’ I found a new kind of respect.”
Stallone eventually began receiving on-set advice from England’s World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks, also accepting that he couldn’t actually score the winning goal (in addition to the fact that in the movie, the match is finally a draw). However, other behavior also angered the cast and crew.
The actor demanded that he only be called to the set when he was ready to take a take, as he was busy writing the script for Rocky III. But when he too started to be late, Caine told him that he also had important things to do elsewhere (actually he didn’t) and that from now on he would show up whenever he wanted. The point was clear and Stallone was always on time.
However, the actor’s dedication to his role was never in dispute. Although it was ostensibly a sports movie, it actually had to “get out of shape.”
Stallone lost weight to more realistically resemble a prisoner of war, losing 40 pounds. He said: “My waist is down from 33 to 29 inches, I run every morning, I’m trying to look a little haggard.”
He also admitted that he had signed not because of the story or his alleged $1.8 million payday, but because the film was directed by the legendary John Hughes.
Stallone said, “There are some directors you almost automatically jump at the chance to work with.”
Houston, for her part, later distanced herself from the film, saying the I only did it for the money!
Meanwhile, Caine was as baffled as anyone else to be offered the role of a supposed professional football player at age 47. However, he revealed that he only accepted the role for the chance to meet and work with Pelé.
Unsurprisingly, his football skills and overall athletic prowess failed to impress anyone, with Ardiles calling them, “Awful, and he couldn’t even run twenty yards.”
Stallone, beaten and bruised by his experience, later said: “Working in this business, I met some of the champions and tried to figure out how they do it. Training for ‘Rocky,’ I boxed with Muhammad Ali. Learning how to play football … tomorrow morning, I’m having lessons from Pele. What’s next? I need some quiet time. Maybe chess with Bobby Fischer.”
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