STALLONE ON BOXING, BRAIN TRAINING.. AND A BIG COMEBACK; I Will Fight to Get Rocky Back in the Ring
Byline: By JUSTINE SMITH in Las Vegas
AS SYLVESTER Stallone describes the punishing brain-training sessions he puts his three young daughters through every morning, I scrutinise him for any sign that he is joking.
But Botox and the scalpel appear to have joined forces to make his square, wrinkle-free face as expressive as granite, a tight smile curling around the edge of his lips and his eyes doing the talking from behind a wood-stain tan mask.
In his gravelly New York-Sicilian drawl, he tells me: "I get them up early in the morning and we have 40 minutes. They play piano for 10 minutes, then recite for 10 minutes, shoot billiards for 10 minutes, swing a golf club for 10 minutes, then punch mitts for 10 minutes."
As that makes 50 minutes, he might want to leave maths to the teachers. "Even the youngest?" I ask him - his fifth-born, Scarlett Rose, turns three this week. "Oh, yeah, all of them," he says.
"Some people might consider it extreme, but neurologists say by the time you are 10 or 11 you have formed a lot of habits. The more you open them up at a young age, the more stimulated their neurons become. I think it's great for a woman to play billiards, don't you?"
For the same reason, they are only allowed to watch TV in Spanish. He is being deadly serious. No time for fun.
"I just want to give them what my parents couldn't give me," he explains. "Options." However, he fears the hothouse training may be to no avail. "Unfortunately, I think they are going to go into the theatre, which is a shallow existence," he complains, shaking his head.
Acting has certainly worked for him, despite his limited repertoire, largely because of his admirable grit, determination and hard work.
Stallone is always quick to boast that it took him three days to write Rocky, the 1976 Oscar winner that made him an instant star.
He once said: "I'm astounded by people who take 18 years to write something. That's how long it took that guy to write Madame Bovary, and was that ever on the best-seller list?"
With a little dramatic licence, Stallone was writing his own life story: emotionally scarred working class kid overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to become an all-American hero.
He was born into adversity. His familiar drawl and drooping eyes are due to the partial facial paralysis he suffered in a traumatic forceps delivery. He is still sensitive about it, insisting he is photographed from his "good" side.
His dad Frank, a hairdresser, was a bully, who Stallone says left him with a lingering sense of inadequacy that might help explain his tunnel-vision drive to be the best.
As he moved between Frank, his chorus girl mum Jackie and foster homes, destiny appeared to have dealt him a losing hand.
He was expelled from 14 schools, and at 15 his classmates at a school for troubled boys voted him the one "most likely to end up in the electric chair".
But he won a scholarship to study drama in Switzerland and worked as a jobbing actor, including a porn movie that saw him dubbed The Italian Stallion.
Then he hit the big time as Rocky Balboa. He insisted on playing the role himself despite pressure from studios who wanted to cast an established star. Thirty years later, he returned to boxing for his successful foray into reality TV, The Contender.
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