The 1980s rivalry between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone is the stuff of Hollywood legends, but the two action stars have mended some fences now that they’re not competing at the box office every year. Stallone even makes an appearance in the new Netflix documentary “Arnold” to praise his former enemy for reinventing the action genre. He recalled that the action film landscape that the two men entered was dramatically different from the one that they created together.
“The ’80s was a very interesting time because the definitive ‘action guy’ had not really been formed yet,” Stallone said. “Up until that time, action was a car chase like ‘Bullitt’ or ‘The French Connection.’ A film all about intellect and innuendo and verbal this and verbal that.”
Once the ’80s came around, humans replaced cars as the primary drivers of action in these blockbusters. Stallone credited Schwarzenegger with being one of the first actors to drive that physical approach to action filmmaking.
“You actually relied upon your body to tell the story,” he said. “Dialogue was not necessary. I saw that there was an opportunity, because no one else was doing this except some other guy from Austria, who doesn’t need to say much… He was superior. He just had all the answers. He had the body. He had the strength. That was his character.”
Stallone recalled that Schwarzenegger’s impressive musculature made him much more durable on set and allowed him to keep filming through injuries that would have hindered other actors.
“I had to get my ass kicked constantly, whereas Arnold, he never got hurt much,” he said. “And I’m going, ‘Arnold, you could go out and fight a dragon and you’d come back with a Band-Aid.’”
For his part, Schwarzenegger was quick to return the favor and heap praise on Stallone. He explained that the “Rocky” writer’s creativity prevented him from resting on his laurels and forced him to keep innovating in order to stay relevant.
“Every time he came out with a movie like ‘Rambo II,’ I had to figure out a way of now outdoing that,” Schwarzenegger said. “Without Stallone, I maybe wouldn’t have been as motivated in the ’80s to do the kind of movies that I did and to work as hard as I did. I’m a competitive person.”
“Arnold” is now streaming on Netflix.