Rambos blown away by Hollywood 'wimps'

The testosterone-charged tough guys of the 80s are ageing - and no one wants to replace them, writes Tim Cornwell

A cultural shift of no small significance took place here last week: Sylvester Stallone announced that he will play no more "overblown super action heroes".

The 50-year-old former Rambo, whose tunnel disaster movie Daylight opened on Friday to predictably scathing reviews, said his conversion took place as he kept vigil during his infant daughter's heart surgery. "I said that if the baby would just be OK, I would change. I would do different kinds of movies. I would no longer play these guys with big muscles and shoulder- length hair blowing in the wind who run through burning flames and wipe out 200 heavily armed mercenaries with only a pistol."

Stallone plays a "humanistic" taxi driver-cum-emergency medical worker in Daylight, and is taking a big pay cut for his next movie. Meanwhile the 49-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger is making another effort at cuddly comedy in Jingle All The Way, which has just opened in Britain. But John Travolta, nobody's idea of an action man, is reported to have done an eight-picture deal that will earn him $130m (pounds 81m), which would make him the world's highest-paid actor. It crowns a comeback that started with his role in Pulp Fiction, for which he earned a mere $140,000, and is helping to prompt a typically Hollywood debate: where did all the action heroes go, and who is going to replace them?

Olivier Gruner, for one, would love to. In his latest film, Mercenary, he wipes out a roomful of seedy crooks, armed only with a pen and a credit card. The French former commando and kick-boxing champion's Gallic good looks, large shoulders and Mohawk haircut are being promoted by Avi Nesher, an Israeli veteran of the Yom Kippur war and maker of science-fiction and action films, mostly for television. "He - how shall I describe him - he's a very intense man, he is not as large as some of the previous super heroes, he's very quick, he's a great athlete," Mr Nesher said at the unprepossessing ground-floor office of his company, Mahagonny Pictures, which is some distance away from Hollywood on Beverly Boulevard. "There's something so realistic about the way he fights and handles weapons, he takes you back to the movies of your childhood."

But even Mr Nesher echoes what seems a common complaint: that action movies have lost their way since the heyday of the Rambo, Terminator and Die Hard series. Not just their greying stars but their man-with-a-gun plot-lines need an injection of younger blood. "I'm a great fan of them, but I had a tough time sitting through a lot of them in the last 10 years," he said. "They don't seem to be about characters and stories and issues, they seem to be about stunt men and pecs. It just really has worn thin." Stallone's last two pictures, Judge Dredd and Assassins, scored only lacklustre returns at the US box office, though these films typically collect most of their profits in overseas markets, particularly the Far East.

"Wanted: Actor to Take Action," ran a Los Angeles Times headline recently. There are many younger candidates, some of whom have delivered solidly macho performances, such as Nicholas Cage in The Rock, Wesley Snipes in Money Train and Keanu Reeves in Speed - though Reeves turned down $11m (pounds 6.8m) to appear in the sequel, saying he did not want to do back-to- back action movies. And that is the point. While producers might say none of the younger pretenders boasts the lethal larger-than-life qualities of a Schwarzenegger or a Stallone, they probably don't want to. Why restrict yourself to a fading genre?

Instead there are two new trends in popular movies: disaster epics on the one hand, such as the forthcoming Flood, and two rival volcano movies, and cultural extravaganzas on the other, from Romeo and Juliet to Portrait of a Lady and The English Patient.

"If you look at people who excite the younger audience," observed one Hollywood insider, "it's wet drips - like Brad Pitt, Leonardo Di Caprio, Christian Slater - being mobbed everywhere. These are all slightly hang- dog, small-penis kind of guys. Part of the publicity push for Bruce Willis and Stallone is that they are incredibly well-endowed testosterone figures. These new guys have never picked up a barbell in their life. It's a gentler, more foppish, younger thing.

"If you look at Speed, the girl drives the bus. Stallone would have said, 'Budge over, baby'."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss