Sylvester Stallone wears jeans and a black shirt and stands in front of a large window.

The Underdog

Sylvester Stallone tells the story of his expectation-defying career in Thom Zimny’s documentary Sly.

25 October 20234 min read

Born in 1946 in Hell’s Kitchen, New York, actor Sylvester Stallone’s early life was tumultuous, and his fierce love of movies began as an escape. Three beloved franchises (Rocky, Rambo, The Expendables) and many complex characters later, Stallone tells the story of his expectation-defying career in Sly, a new documentary from Emmy-winning director Thom Zimny (Springsteen on Broadway).

Featuring anecdotes from friends, fans, and former collaborators including Henry Winkler, Talia Shire, and Quentin Tarantino, Sly charts Stallone’s extraordinary rise from humble beginnings and how he overcame his rough upbringing to cement himself as a storyteller. After a series of background roles — interrupted by a supporting gig alongside Winkler in The Lords of Flatbush — and years of struggling to find work in both L.A. and N.Y.C., the actor, fed up with the lack of material he connected with, took matters into his own hands. What came next seems like it could only happen in a movie. 

Stallone wrote the first script for Rocky over the course of three days, and upon the film’s release in 1976, he was an overnight superstar. Rocky would go on to be nominated for 10 Academy Awards, winning three, including Best Picture. From there, his multifaceted career took on a life of its own, and almost 50 years later, Stallone still commands the screen as one of Hollywood’s most unconventional leading men.