For those who are not familiar with the Schwarzenegger – Stallone rivalry back in the 80’s and early 90’s, the action heroes had an ongoing feud as to who was the best between them. In Demolition Man which starred Stallone, Wesley Snipes, and two relatively unknown actors at the time – Sandra Bullock and Benjamin Bratt – a reference was made to Schwarzenegger becoming president by the Constitution being amended and afterwards, a presidential library was built in his honor.
You can see the clip here
Both men have crossed the age 70 mark, so they are neither as muscular or good looking as they were back in the 90’s. But there are always stories to tell. In an interview Schwarzenegger tells the story of how he one-upped Stallone in reverse. He was the first choice to star in the movie Stop! Or My Mother Will Shoot and after reading the script he saw it was so bad that he had no interest in it. But he decided to take advantage of the media and use them to print he was very interested in the film. To add to the hype he asked the producers for an outrageous amount of money. That lured the producers to search for a much cheaper action hero, namely Stallone.
Stallone got wind of it and decided he would try and steal the role from Schwarzenegger, apparently unaware of Schwarzenegger’s over the top money demands. He did. And Arnold was right. Stallone’s theft resulted in a movie that has a gross box office take of only $28 million after spending $45 million to make the movie. You will have to look long and hard to find any notable Hollywood star or future star in the movie except for Ving Rhames. That should have told Stallone something.
Stop! Or My Mother Will Shoot was released in 1992, a year before Demolition Man which makes the 1993 reference a sign that the competition had at least cooled off. Schwarzenegger would go on to become governor of California 10 years later and serve two terms as a Republican. In recalling the rivalry which got really heated, he said that everything got bigger in their movies, including the guns and knives. The iconic Rambo knife was one result of the competition. (Schwarzenegger mistakenly said that nobody has a knife that big, but there are a number of models available today that are a definite part of the basic gear of hunters and fishermen.)
We can all look back on these times now and have a good laugh, but are there these kinds of rivalries that exist in the business today? Gal Gadot has no equal as Wonder Woman, and looking back at the history of the Batman franchise, the part was shared by a number of popular actors. The same holds for Superman. Robert Downey Jr. has Iron Man locked up. It seems it is the role of the villains that is sparking much of the competition among actors. But does an actor actually want to ramp up their persona of being more evil than the competition? That seems more than a bit shaky.
Whether competition increases the quality of the movies or the performance of the actors is up for debate. What we do know is the return of Stallone and Schwarzenegger as allies in the Expendables franchise has worked well enough to fuel audience demand for one more try. Eliminating competition may be the beginning of the end for action heroes as we remember them.