Sylvester Stallone Explains How A Failed Gangster Movie From The Creator Of The Godfather Led To The Birth Of Tulsa King

Sylvester Stallone in Tulsa King
(Image credit: Paramount+)

Seeing Taylor Sheridan’s name attached to a television series usually guarantees a level of quality, specifically in the contemporary Western genre. Looking over a list of Sheridan’s best movies and shows, you will see standouts such as Hell or High Water, Mayor of Kingstown, the current juggernaut Yellowstone, and its various spinoffs. One of those, Tulsa King, is available to audiences who have a Paramount+ subscription, and is really picking up steam in terms of its developing story, and the reasons why you need to be tuning into it on a weekly basis. And its star, Sylvester Stallone, says that a failed gangster project he was trying to get off the ground eventually led to him landing in the Sheridan universe of movies and shows. 

Sylvester Stallone leads an eclectic and colorful cast through Tulsa King, a fish-out-of-water dramedy focusing on Dwight Manfredi, a longtime mobster who lost 25 years of his life to a prison sentence because he refused to flip on a member of his “family.” Now that he’zs out, though, Manfredi has found that the “family” has moved on from old gangsters like him, so they exile him to Oklahoma, where he begins to build a crime syndicate of his own. 

Speaking to press as part of a Tulsa King media day, Stallone was opening up about his longtime desire to play a Mafia role – claiming that none was ever written for him, and he couldn’t get looked at for the top projects set in the world of Organized Crime. He came close to adapting a Mario Puzo novel, and when that project fell apart, Stallone was pointed toward Taylor Sheridan to continue to mine the idea. As Stallone puts it:

For an actor to get to play that kind of mysterious mystique that surrounds the gangster, for some odd reason, but we're just addicted to it. And I was absolutely shunned. I was left out of it. I couldn't even get a job as an extra (on those movies). And finally, about 45 years later, opportunity comes knocking on my door from (Sheridan), the guy that I was riding horses with. So you never know where it's going to come from. And actually the whole idea started probably about five years earlier when David Glasser, the producer, wanted me to do – I guess it was the equivalent to Godfather 3. It was a book called Omerta, written by Mario Puzo. And I wanted to do it. It was great. It was actually with the Weinstein Company at that time, and it just didn't go… it didn't happen. But David thought, ‘Wow, there's still something to this.’ So he calls Taylor Sheridan at about midnight and says, ‘You know what? Start thinking about something. A Mafia guy going west, and becoming a cowboy.’ Taylor put it into his brain, and about 48 hours later, we had a treatment.

Reviews for Sylvester Stallone’s Tulsa King got off to an incredible start, with critics making comparisons to Yellowstone (naturally), but also The Sopranos and the work of author Elmore Leonard (Get Shorty). We are only four episodes into the first season, and while Stallone is warning that a crossover with Yellowstone likely isn’t in the cards, the story that’s being served in Tulsa King alone makes this a series that needs to be on your radar, and your weekly viewing calendar.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Sean created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.