Sylvester Stallone Has A Surprising Attitude Toward Guns On Film Sets

Sylvester Stallone and the general filmgoing public seem to have very different views of John Rambo. Thanks to the bold, ultra-jingoistic attitudes of "Rambo: First Blood Part II" and "Rambo III," the title character came to be, throughout the 1980s, a symbol for unstoppable American military might. Rambo was often seen charging shirtless into gunfire-heavy areas, heavy artillery draped around his body, firing bullets into anyone or anything that entered his field of vision. 

This ultra-macho, military-forward vision of Rambo stands in direct contrast to Ted Kotcheff's 1982 original "First Blood," co-scripted by Stallone. In that film, Rambo is a depressed veteran, defeated by life and saddened by the deaths of his wartime compatriots. Rambo is then treated so badly by the local cops — being mistreated is depicted as a symbol for veterans' plight — that he "snaps" back into military mode, tragically becoming a solider again, kind of against his will. 

Stallone still seems to feel that Rambo is not an unstoppable right-wing military badass, but a wounded, tragic figure, beaten by life and pushed away from his home country. He feels that Rambo is politically neutral, and said as much in a recent interview with the Hollywood reporter, saying "Everyone assumed Rambo is a conservative. President Reagan posted a picture going, 'Rambo's a Republican.' I went, 'Uh-oh.' Rambo is totally neutral." 

When it comes to guns on set, however, Stallone is hardly neutral, saying that weapons — even without bullets — are far too dangerous to wield so casually. Perhaps a strange take from a man who has fired more bullets on camera than any other actor.

'No one has shot more blanks than me'

There is some debate as to which film currently holds the record for the most number of bullets fired on camera, although some cursory internet research leads to several notable titles. "Rambo: First Blood Part II" is in the mix, as is Antoine Fuqua's "The Replacement Killers." Paul Verhoeven's "Starship Troopers" has also been mentioned, and many cite "The Matrix" as being near the top. Between the Rambo movies and the three films from "The Expendables" series, though, Stallone likely does hold the record for firing the most personally. 

Despite this, Stallone has never been a gun advocate and feels that guns on sets are terrible things, even with blanks. Filmmakers have, he feels, reached the point where actual "muzzle flare" and bullet holes can be achieved with special effects. To test how dangerous things were, he got himself a meat mannequin. In his words: 

"No one has shot more blanks than me. On 'Rambo,' I wanted to show what a .50-caliber could do to a human being. We took a dummy and filled it with 200 pounds of beef. I thought, 'When I fire, it will knock the dummy over.' There were no bullets in the gun. It was just the force of the compression in the shell. But it turned the dummy into mist. It blew it apart. Then I turned the .50-caliber to a row of bamboo trees and it literally cut them in half. This is without bullets!"

"Rambo" was the fourth film in the series, and was released in 2008. In it, Rambo was hired to trek into the jungles of Burma during a violent civil war, having to rescue kidnapped American missionaries. Things go poorly for just about everyone.

The holster mishap

After a fatal shooting on the set of the film "Rust" — when actor Alec Baldwin fired a poorly-prepared prop gun, he accidentally injured director Joel and fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins — the necessity of having functional guns on a movie set was called into question. Even with safety checks, blanks, squibs, and a great deal of preparation, fatal accidents can still happen. One's mind wanders to what might have been hundreds upon hundreds of "near misses" on film sets throughout the years, where prop guns nearly injured someone. Stallone knows how dangerous even prop guns can be, not just from his meat mannequin experiment, but from an accident on the set of "The Expendables." As he describes it: 

"I've had near misses. I've never said this before, but I had a pistol literally go off in my holster in 'The Expendables.' Bam! Right down my leg. I've used weapons that are incredibly dangerous at close range. I'm surprised I haven't lost a finger or something. It was only a matter of time and I agree: With special effects, there's no need to do this."

Stallone didn't mention any kind of new, expanded ethic when it comes to the depiction of guns in films. He makes no address of certain criticisms that gunplay is too enthusiastically glorified in too many movies. He does seem to explicitly feel, however, that if gunplay is to be featured in one of his movies, there's no reason to have actual explosive shells anywhere on set. Modern SFX can now take care of that, and people working on set can remain safe.