Why Sylvester Stallone Chose Not To Direct Rambo: Last Blood

Sly Stallone as John Rambo

Sylvester Stallone remains one of our industry’s most recognizable stars, a force in the action-movie world with titles such as First Blood, Cobra, Cliffhanger and Demolition Man on his resume. But casual movie fans who love going to Stallone’s sagas might not realize that he’s actually responsible for directing a handful of the most important films in his storied career.

Stallone took over directing duties on the Rocky franchise, his signature property, with Rocky II in 1979. He went on to helm the next three Rocky movies, and also helmed The Expendables and the most recent Rambo film, 2016’s Rambo.

Stallone did NOT decide to direct Rambo: Last Blood, however, and his reason was simple enough. Though in giving it, he opened up about what he saw in Last Blood director Adrian Grunberg as a collaborator. When asked by CinemaBlend why he didn’t helm this new movie, Stallone explained:

Yeah, it was just a matter of timing. I was working on something else. But with Adrian [Grunberg], I saw what he did before and I knew he'd be a good partner -- that if there were suggestions to be made as to, you know, this or that may not work. It was very good because obviously he worked very, very, very hard. But he was amenable to keeping it in the same, I guess, the same sort of look. I remember I had a problem when I had to take it over for John [Avildsen] in Rocky. So I'm directing Rocky II, and I realize I have to keep this similar style because it's this direct cut. Rocky leaves the ring and he’s in the hospital. So I directed kind of like John Avildsen. And then it worked fine.

There is something to be said for that continuity. The Rocky franchise certainly stayed true to tone. That’s probably why casual fans might not even have known that Stallone took over the directing reigns. The same can’t necessarily be said for the Rambo franchise, as the sequels significantly ramped up their ’80s-inspired action, which was totally different from Ted Kotcheff’s First Blood.

However, as Sylvester Stallone elaborated on the hiring of Adrian Grunberg, he stated:

With Adrian, he used his style but he stayed pretty close to the last one that was in Burma, which I think was good. I wouldn't want all of a sudden jump into some very dramatic change. Like a Darren Aronofsky. Who I think is a great director. But that would would've been like, ‘Wow, what a shock!’ You know what I mean?

Now all I want to see is Darren Aronofsky’s Rambo movie. For now, Rambo: Last Blood looks like this:

And the movie opens in theaters on September 20, so be sure to check it out.

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.