One of the things that defined Sylvester Stallone’s career is his determination to realize his vision. He convinced the producers of Rocky that the only way they could make the movie was with him in the starring role. While he was not the director of the first film, he would pull dual duties for Rocky II, then would go on to helm much of his own projects and even the Saturday Night Fever sequel, Staying Alive. The new Netflix documentary, Sly, is an intimate introspective on the action star’s prolific career and how his life evolved with it. And as much control as Stallone would prefer to have over his most personal films, he would allow the director, Thom Zimny, full control.
Zimny is no stranger to presenting portraits of larger-than-life icons, having made projects that focused on figures like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Bruce Springsteen. The Sly director spoke to Collider about Sylvester Stallone giving complete control to him during the making of this new documentary, but Stallone did provide a large number of previously unseen footage and photos for the movie. Zimny stated, “Sly’s involvement was just the interviews. He never gave me anything of any direction on what the film should have, what it couldn’t say, or what topics we couldn’t go near.”
When the edit of the film was finally done, Zimny explained further, “I screened the film for him a couple of times, and the only thing that he ever did was give me more imagery to work with. There was no notes, there was no discussion of holding back on a certain theme or an idea or something. He really gave me the freedom to create a story, and that was a great honor because I respect him so deeply as a screenwriter and also an editor and filmmaker, but he gave me the space to tell this story, and in it, his collaboration with me was the space of talking and unpacking his life.”
While interviewing Sly for the film, one project he was surprised to hear Stallone talk about as passionately as Rocky or Rambo is the film Cop Land. “I was really taken by his love of Cop Land in that scene that he describes; that was a great surprise. You know, Cop Land held a lot of promise, but it didn’t make it, and that continues the theme of Sly not being understood or appreciated. Hopefully, this doc is going to turn that, and people will see him as an artist and see the body of work differently.”
Sly is now streaming on Netflix and you can read our review of the film HERE.