Arnold Schwarzenegger says rivalry with Sylvester Stallone got ‘out of control’

Amid their feud, Stallone later said, ‘even our DNA hated each other’

Isobel Lewis
Friday 27 October 2023 20:19 BST
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Arnold Schwarzenegger has admitted regret over his “out of control” rivalry with Sylvester Stallone.

At the height of their careers, the two action stars were often pitted against one other. Leading the Terminator and Rocky franchises respectively, the pair often attacked each other in the press, with Stallone later saying that “even our DNA hated each other”.

The feud lasted for two decades, coming to an end in the late Nineties. In the years since, the pair have become “inseparable” friends and often collaborate on projects together.

Appearing on Friday (27 October) night’s episode of The Graham Norton Show, Schwarzenegger recalled: “We were movie rivals, but we took the competitiveness to the extreme – we each had to have the best body, we had to kill more people in our films, and we had to have the biggest guns.

“It got out of control, and we tried to derail each other.”

Things changed for the pair, however, when they both provided financial backing for the themed restaurant chain Planet Hollywood in the 1990s.

Soon, Schwarzenegger, 66, recalled, “we started flying around the world together to promote it and we became fantastic friends”.

Schwarzenegger (left) and Stallone were pitted against each other

The actors have remained close ever since, with Schwarzenegger joining Stallone’s 2013 action thriller Escape Plan and Expendables franchise. “He is a great human being, and we are now inseparable,” added Schwarzenegger.

Schwarzenegger, who previously served as the governor of California, first met Stallone, now 67, at the 1977 Golden Globes. The pair were seated on the same table at the awards ceremony.

Stallone’s Rocky was nominated in six categories, but lost in five of them, while Schwarzenegger won for New Star of the Year.

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Stallone would later claim that Schwarzenegger had laughed at their the losses, leading him to throw a bowl of flowers at his fellow actor when Rocky eventually won for Best Motion Picture – Drama.

In the years after, the two were constantly trying to one-up one another. In interviews, they would sling insults, while trying to beat the other in their films when it came to the size of their characters’ weapons arsenal and number of on-screen killings.

Stallone told David Letterman in 2013: “After a while, I started to like this competition, this one-upmanship. He’d get a bigger gun. I’d shoot more people. He’d shoot more people.”

Schwarnezenegger also alleged that Stallone used body doubles in a number of his films – the ultimate insult to the action star. Soon after, in 1985’s Rocky IV, Stallone appeared against a fictional villain with an unidentifiable accent interpreted as a stand-in for Schwarzenegger.

The pair settled their differences in the late 1990s

After Schwarzenegger starred opposite Danny DeVito in the 1988 comedy film Twins (in which his character mocks a poster of Stallone as Rambo), Stallone decided to also step outside of his action wheelhouse and give comedy a go. Unfortunately for him, however, Stallone mistakenly picked the 1991 flop Oscar!.

Another comedic misfire arrived in 1992 with Stallone’s role in Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. This one, he squarely blamed on Schwarzenegger, which the latter admitted in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel.

“I read the script and it was a piece of s***. Let’s be honest,” he recalled. “I say to myself, ‘I’m not going to do this movie...’ Then they went to Sly, and Sly called me, ‘Have they ever talked to you about doing this movie?’

“And I said, ‘Yes, I was thinking about doing it. This is a really brilliant idea, this movie.’ When he heard that, because he was in competition, he said, ‘Whatever it takes, I’ll do the movie.’ And of course the movie went major into the toilet.”

The pair’s rivalry died down in the late 1990s, when both actors had less power in the box office. In the early Noughties, the actors began working together, and Stallone attended Schwarzenegger’s inauguration as governor of California.

In June, Stallone claimed that Schwarzenegger was always the superior of the pair. “He just had all the answers,” said the actor. “He had the body. He had the strength. That was his character.”

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