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Sylvester Stallone’s New Role in “Samaritan” Reminds Him of His Odd Jobs

During the casting of Superman (Richard Donner, 1978), Sylvester Stallone was considered for the role among hundreds of actors. Ultimately, then-unknown Christopher Reeve was cast in what became a landmark role for both him and superhero movies.

Now, Stallone’s role in Samaritan brings him back to the Superman universe more than 40 years later.

In Samaritan, Stallone plays Joe Smith, a modest garbage man who hides a big secret from the world. Following a series of events, a boy discovers that Joe is actually the superhero known as Samaritan, who disappeared decades ago.

The level of superhuman strength and invulnerability is reminiscent of Superman although Joe, in his old age, is somewhat more susceptible to injury and pain.

While Joe’s identity as Samaritan doesn’t draw a parallel between him and Kal-El, it is a curious coincidence with the Man of Steel, coupled with the fact that Stallone is headlining a superhero movie with similarities to Rocky and Rambo.

Stallone could have been the last child of Krypton. At 78 years old, Stallone has shown no signs of slowing down. His recent film credits include The Suicide Squad, where he voiced King Shark, as well as the first two Creed films, in which he reprised one of his most famous roles as boxer Rocky Balboa.

Along with Samaritan, Stallone’s upcoming movies include The Expendables 4 and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. We interviewed Stallone via Zoom.


What intrigued you about this universe to which Samaritan opens the door for you?

The atmosphere of the film is almost a reflection of what is happening today. An important part of being a hero is taking care of yourself so you can take care of others.

So, it’s kind of a cautionary tale. When you get rid of your hero, sometimes you need him back because you’re just not ready to take responsibility.

But in this particular case, my character has a very personal issue: he can’t face the facts. All that questioning about what it means to be a hero is what drew me to this project. So did the reason Joe disappears and decides to do the world’s anonymous job, a garbage man.

Nobody pays attention to these people. However, when you think about the work they do, without them, we’re in big trouble. So, there are all these metaphors in the story.

Before becoming an actor and director, you had many unusual jobs. Did you remember those experiences when you were filming Samaritan?

You are not far from the truth. In Samaritan, there is something of my experience of being on the ground. I’ve been everything from doorman, bartender, fish cutter, and movie usher where you wear the same tuxedo for weeks to working in lion cages.

I understand how the whole process works. You have to be a little humble and do your share of the work with humility, to get through all of this. But you learn, you really learn.

Now, I enjoy acting more than when I was 30 or 35 years old. When you are young, you think you know everything and you know nothing.

I think the soft spot on a man’s head doesn’t harden until he’s 41. You are still learning. You think you have it under control but you don’t. You never have everything under control.

There are some intense action sequences in this project. Can you talk about the training process and some of the sequences on set? Which ones did you really enjoy?

There’s a moment where you say, “I can’t do the 29-year-old Rambo” because you also have to honor who you are at this age. That’s the part where you’re not who you were anymore but you’re still there.

In fact, there is a line about where you start to fall apart and when you stop caring about everything about life, yourself, everything. So I thought that this character’s defining trait would be his resolve.

And, although Joe still has great physical power, he is not jumping through the air. He is no longer that kind of man.

Joe is a very powerful individual who lives in reality. He can’t fly, he can see through walls but fire doesn’t come out of his mouth.

He’s kind of a unique superhero, almost like a modern-day Hercules, the mythical kind of hero. They are the ones that you can identify with, the ones that are eternal.

Why did you decide that a superhero was going to be your next role in Hollywood?

I hate to say it but in a way, we became a brand or a product. The public wants to see you and you want them to see you. A superhero is one reason why you will see this movie.

Some actors are unique. They can be superheroes and then get award nominations. They’re character actors and they’re really good at it.

And I thought, okay, people see me as Rambo, Rocky, or Demolition Man so why not take this new character, a very good one, and add some of all of them into this character?


What made you take a chance on a young director like Julius Avery?

I’ve directed a few things, too, and it’s like having your spleen pulled out of your nose with a tractor (laughs). It’s not fun, it’s hard work. People say, “Oh, it’s so glamorous,” and it’s not. It’s brutal.

It takes a toll on your private life. Forget about sleeping. You answer 8,000 questions a day. It’s hard.

And then you have post-production. So you don’t have a life. I know there’s a certain point where I’m not up for those jogs (laughs).

But young directors – they’re hungry, anxious, they live for these things. It’s their time. Testosterone is coming out of their ears. They’re going to stay up late at night and they’re going to deliver.

If you’re going to make that kind of movie, you need that kind of energy. I’ve done it the other way and it hasn’t worked very well.

What would you tell superhero fans about what they can expect from Samaritan?

You can expect a hero who will be very irregular and do irregular things. That’s what he is. It’s not as if Rocky is a superhero. He is a character who lives on the street.

The film is not set in a super-fantasy universe. Rather, it is set among bricks, concrete, and relatable situations that we see in every neighborhood we live in. That’s what I liked about the story.

What was your approach in exploring this through your character and performance, especially in the fight between good and evil?

The battle between good and evil is eternal. It always takes place within each person. We are deceitful. We can be the highest of angels and the lowest of demons and all in the same body. We are always wondering how we were raised, what are our ethics, what turns us on, and what breaks our hearts.

Joe finds broken objects in the garbage, which is symbolic for him. He tries to fix them because he can fix everything except himself.

Then a boy comes and fixes him immediately, not knowing how but he drags it into the light. Joe realizes that the boy is very vulnerable, that he needs a father, and that he has adopted him as an adult. And he has no choice. Here comes the hero.

Translated by Mario Amaya