“An Open Letter To Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis”
August 7, 2013
Dear Mr. Stallone and Mr. Willis,
Speaking on behalf of millions of Americans, I am writing to let you know just how troubling I (we) found today’s news of a growing rift between the two of you which has resulted in Mr. Willis dropping out of “The Expendables 3″.
Gentlemen, this is no good.
Two of America’s few remaining legitimate action heroes – nay, ICONS – should not be feuding at a time when the action movie landscape is so bleak. Today’s kids are being brought up to believe that the term “action movie” means a bunch CGI robots and “action hero” means Shia LaBouf running around screaming like a little girl. It’s a shitshow out here, fellas. We need you.
I know. Business and money and egos are important. Really, I understand. Movies are a business, your careers and images are a business, and when two people don’t see eye to eye on what is best or fair in a business relationship shit gets sticky. I get it. As much as we true believers like to romanticize movies as purely an art form – a means of escape and place where dreams can come true – I understand that at the end of the day getting a movie made boils down to lots of complicated decisions and negotiations. It’s hard to imagine now, but there was I time – when I was kid – where my friends and I would all sit around and say things like, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger where in the SAME MOVIE?!”, or, “Who would win in a fight: Stallone or Schwarzenegger?” Adults would always inform me that it would never happen because it would be too expensive, or the stars’ egos would clash, or neither one would want to be the loser, etc.
Well, it might have taken a while, but thanks to “The Expendables” franchise, all of us ’70s and ’80s kids finally got to see that cinematic dream come true. And I thank you for finally making it happen, Mr. Stallone – sincerely and wholeheartedly. But you didn’t just stop there. Oh no. You brought along Mr. Yippi-Ki-Yay himself. If there was ever a crazier dream for young action movie fans in the 1980s than putting Stallone and Schwarzenegger in the same movie, it was adding Bruce Fucking Willis too. Two big-time action movie stars in one movie was too much for anyone to realistically hope for; three was something only crackheads and SNL writers could envision.
I hope you both will indulge me in a girly little story here for a moment: When I was in 8th grade, circa 1993, I had to design a poster for an art class. I chose to design a movie poster. All I did was write the names of all my favorite action heroes in big, black magic marker, and then slap a title and a tagline at the bottom (Title: “No Man’s Land”. Tagline: “Don’t Cross”. Rated R.). My homemade one-sheet looked something like this:
and ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER
a RICHARD DONNER film
I scribbled the title of my fantasy movie on there in a smaller font than any of the names, almost like it was an afterthought (because it was). I just wanted to see all those names I so adored come together on the same movie poster, even if it was one I was making myself at my kitchen table. The fact that I would be handing it in to be graded somehow made it seem less like a fantasy and more like something that might actually happen. And be honest, guys; you’d go see that fucking movie! You wouldn’t even have to look past those names for a title. Nope. Doesn’t matter. What’s it about? Shut the fuck up, that’s what. It’s about Eastwood, Stallone, Gibson, Willis, Seagal, Snipes and Schwarzenegger IN THE SAME MOVIE!!! BOOM! No explanation necessary.
I don’t remember the grade I ended up with for that assignment, not that it mattered. I made that thing for me, not for some silly grade. So imagine how excited I was – and how brilliantly prophetic I felt – when I saw the first poster for the original “Expendables”. What did it look like? That’s right, a long list of names with the title squeezed in at the bottom! Wow. Just wow. Great minds, Stallone. Great minds.
So, now I’m 34 and it only took a little over the same number of years later from the age I was when I made that poster (got that?) to see my dream (basically) realized. Now I know what you’re thinking: “34? Pfft. I’m not making movies to please 34 year-olds. I’m done reading this.” I can totally relate. It’s like when I try to reminisce about the cool shit I grew up with like Rambo and He-Man and “Predator” and “Born In the USA” and “Die Hard” and “Purple Rain” and “The A-Team” and “Lethal Weapon” with some Millennial kid and they have no idea what I’m talking about – but The Spice Girls, “Titanic”, Pokemon, and “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” were, “like, totally the shit, bro”… God, these kids today are the fucking worst, you guys. To be clear though, fellas; I’m not just sitting here saying, “Yeah, I love Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis! Rambo and “Die Hard” 4EVA!!!!” Oh no.
Sly. Can I call you Sly? Thanks. The Rambo movies aren’t even close to my favorite of your films. “Rocky” either. I love ‘em – naturally – but I’m not one of these dumbasses who say stupid shit like, “Well “Rocky” and Rambo were good, but that’s it”. Nope. Are you aware that I love “Oscar”? (Of course you’re not – how could you be? Stupid question – but now you know.) And I don’t mean in some sort of guilty-pleasure or ironic sort of way. No. I fucking love “Oscar”. You’re amazing in that movie. Go watch yourself it that movie right now. Go on. I’ll wait. See? You’re hilarious in that! A comic genius. I’m not kissing your ass; I actually believe that. Anyone being honest with themselves and not all, “Stallone can’t act” and “What’s an action guy doing staring in a comedy”, knows this. What’s Stallone doing in a comedy? Fucking WINNING, that’s what. “Rhinestone” was kind of a piece of shit, but I can watch you sing “Drinkenstein” for hours! “Demolition Man”? Epic. “Cliffhanger”? Epic. “Tango & Cash”? Epic. Remember “Assassins”? Sly, I fucking remember “Assassins”. I watch that gem all the time. I thought “Cop Land” was the best movie of 1997. Fuck “Titanic”. It was “Cop Land”. And I have gone to the mat several times in defense of “Get Carter” which, if nothing else, has one of the best movie posters ever. I’ve had that thing on my wall for 13 years now – through college, girlfriends, marriage and kids – “Get Carter” saw it all.
And Bruno. Can I call you Bruno? Oh, sorry. Look man, I know it sounds like I’m really just jerking Sly off here and you’re probably thinking, “What does this have to do with me?” Just between you and me, bud (and Sly and everyone reading this, I guess), you are one of the most consistently great actors around. People, I’m not just trying to butter Bruce up here. I mean that. I’m not necessarily talking about ‘great’ in an Oscar-winning sense (though I can think of plenty of movies where you should have had them hurled at you), but great in that you never, EVER let me down with a performance. The only way I can properly explain this is to compare you to Clint Eastwood. Clint is always Clint, but he’s always perfect. That’s you, Bruce. You get most of your kudos for “Die Hard”, “Pulp Fiction”, and “The Sixth Sense”; and deservedly so. “Die Hard” is maybe the best pure action movie all time. But you know what else is fucking amazing? “Hudson Hawk”. Look at me, Bruce. I’m saying that shit with a straight face. That movie is so insanely infectious that I just feel sorry for people who don’t like it. They must just hate joy or something. I don’t know how much fun you were having making that movie, but from the looks of things, it was a lot. That movie is insane. How about “The Last Boy Scout”? The only thing that big tumor of awesome cancer is lacking is a sequel. Why was there no sequel, Bruce? I really want to know. “Unbreakable”? You should make more movies with M. Night Shyamalan; that guy could use the help. Remember when you were a bunny in that fucking “North” movie? Let’s put it this way, Champ; thank God you were a bunny in that fucking “North” movie. Also, I’ve seen “Striking Distance” more times than probably anybody on the face of this planet simply because it came out when I was about 14, you were in it and you had a gun. That’s all it takes, Bruce. Still.
I’m just scratching the tip of the iceberg here with both of your filmographies. I could go on all night. The point is, I love you guys. Not just as some sort of fair-weather fan or when I need a nostalgia trip, but still. I’ll see any movie either of you make, and await their releases impatiently. Bruce, you working with directors like Terry Gilliam, Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino has been one of the joys of my movie-going life. And Sly, you directing again has resulted in a couple of my favorite movies of the last half decade or so (“Rambo” and “Rocky Balboa” were both such perfect epilogs for those characters).
Guys, the bottom line here is we can’t have you fighting. Jesus Christ Almighty, we can’t. The world can’t bear it. We’re already at a point where people are actually considering Channing Tatum as an action star. Channing fucking Tatum! Bruce, I remember when “Live Free or Die Hard” was set to come out and you implored everyone to have faith; that you wouldn’t let them tarnish the reputation of John McClane with a subpar entry in the series. And you were right. That movie was great (especially the unrated version which should have been the theatrical cut, but we don’t have to get into all that again – although a blu-ray release of that version would be nice already…). You obviously care (so I’ll give you mulligan for “A Good Day To Die Hard” and assume the studio fucked it all up in post). Sly just wants to deliver the best movie possible for fans like me. And not just the best movie, but the best package possible. That means you, and Arnold, and Seagal, and Cage, and Gibson, and (please, God) Eastwood, and whomever else he can enlist to keep making the dreams of my (and my generation’s) youth come true. You have to be in it, Bruce. You just have to. Forget money. This isn’t about money. These dumbass Millennial kids need to see what real action heros look like, not some flavor-of-the-day jackass poppin’ and lockin’ on the hood of a car in one movie and shooting a gun in the next.
I’m not going to pick sides, or say who is worth what amount of money, or what amount of money is unreasonable. That’s not my place as a fan – frankly, it’s for you guys to figure out. But please, do figure it out. This shit is like “Alien VS Predator”, guys: Whoever Wins, We All Lose. So please – for the kid who made the original “Expendables” poster at his kitchen table nearly 20 years ago – be men, and kiss and make up.