Stallone defends ageing Rocky: 'Not as bad as you think'

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When Sylvester Stallone first suggested making yet another Rocky movie, the studio executives he pitched to all but laughed in his face.

Now that the movie, Rocky Balboa, is a reality and due out in US cinemas next week, the derision has spread to late-night comics and internet gossip columnists cracking jokes about a 60-year-old actor still trying to pass himself off as a muscle-bound contender in the boxing ring.

Stallone, though, is undaunted. For him, the derision is a by-product of Hollywood's prejudice against older performers. Like Rocky, he's positioning himself as the underdog steeling himself against the odds.

"There is this incredible resistance to anyone who seems to want a second shot," he told one interviewer. "My hope," he told another, "is that people that have screened [the film] have enjoyed it and say, 'You know what? It's not as bad as you think'."

Rocky Balboa is Stallone's sixth outing as the Philadelphia boxer, and the first since 1990. He is in great shape for his age - belying some of the jokes about erectile dysfunction and memory loss. But why squeeze yet more juice out of a premise that lost its allure for cinema audiences at least 20 years ago?

Back then, Stallone was a laughing- stock for his endless sequels - to both Rocky and Rambo. Stunningly, the Vietnam vet Rambo is getting a revival too, in a release sometime next year.

Like all ageing action stars, Stallone had to reinvent himself. And, like many, he failed - witness embarrassments like Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot or the remake of Get Carter.