Every year the Academy Awards are a big deal watched by hundreds of millions of people around the world. It’s like the Super Bowl of celebrities dressed up all fancy. This year, however, the controversy over the lack of diversity in the nominations has threatened to overshadow the awards themselves, with many prominent members of the Hollywood community even threatening to boycott the awards ceremony later this month. It’s a complicated issue, but one nominated actor who will be there when the Oscars are handed out is Sylvester Stallone, and he has a very good reason to show up.
One of the movies from 2015 many point to as evidence of the Academy’s bias is Creed, written and directed by Ryan Coogler and starring Michael B. Jordon, both of whom are African American. The Rocky spinoff was a huge success with critics and garnered praise for both, yet the only Oscar nomination it received was for Sylvester Stallone’s supporting role. Like I said, it’s a big issue that reaches far beyond the entertainment industry, and everybody has their own feelings. Stallone recently revealed to EW that he was actually ready to boycott the awards ceremony until he talked to Coogler. Stallone said:
I remember I spoke with Ryan Coogler when this [#OscarsSoWhite controversy] happened. I said, ‘Ryan how do you want to handle this? Because I really believe you are responsible for me being here. … [Coogler] goes, ‘Sly, just go there, try to represent the film, and we feel you deserve it. Eventually things will change.’ I said, ‘If you want me to go I’ll go, if you don’t, I won’t.’ He said, ‘No I want you to go.’ That’s the kind of guy he is. He wants us to go and represent the film.
So if you watch the Academy Awards ceremony on February 28 and see Sylvester Stallone sitting in the audience, possibly walking away with an Oscar—he already won the Best Supporting actor trophy at the Golden Globes—it’s largely because of Ryan Coogler’s encouragement and blessing.
Ever since the nominations were announced, everyone from actors and filmmakers to voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the Oscars, have been quick to share their opinions on the state of diversity in Hollywood. The Academy president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, even hopes to implement big changes in the voting and membership procedures to create a more representative process. It’s cool to see someone, especially an actor who is something of an elder statesman in the industry, reach out to get a different perspective and broaden his understanding of the issues at hand.
Controversy aside, Sylvester Stallone is fantastic in Creed, playing an older, wiser, world-weary version of his iconic Rocky Balboa. And his journey is an interesting story to boot. He’s been nominated for an Oscar twice, for playing the same character, almost 40 years apart. Last time he was up for an Academy Award was in 1977 when he introduced the world to the Italian Stallion. People have been hollering, "Yo, Adrian," ever since.