CS Interview: Frank Stallone talks documentary Stallone: Frank, That Is
ComingSoon.net had the opportunity to speak with Golden Globe nominee Frank Stallone about the new documentary Stallone: Frank, That Is, which gives an inside look into the fascinating life, career, and survivor of the most unknown famous entertainer in Hollywood. You can check out the interview with Stallone below and pick up your copy of the movie by clicking here!
Frank Stallone has remained one of the most versatile talents in Hollywood for over four decades. His music career has earned him three Platinum Albums, ten Gold Albums, five Gold Singles and seen him top the charts worldwide. His movie soundtracks have audiences across the globe gripped by some of the most iconic movies, including The Expendables 2, Rocky I, II and III, Rambo II, Paradise Alley, Over the Top, and the Saturday Night Fever sequel Staying Alive, which earned him Golden Globe and Grammy nominations. All the while Frank’s on-screen career has seen him act in over 60 films and TV shows, including Tombstone and the cult hit Barfly. So why does Frank remain one of the least known famous faces in Hollywood? Find out as we go behind the scenes of Hollywood’s elite, in this fascinating documentary, told by Frank himself and those that know him best.
Written and directed by Derek Wayne Johnson, the film features special appearances by Frank Stallone, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Billy Dee Williams, Billy Zane, Joe Mantegna, Talia Shire, Geraldo Rivera, Danny Aiello, Burt Young, Frankie Avalon, Richie Sambora, and John Oates.
Stallone: Frank, That Is was produced by Emmett James, Chris May, David Polemeni, Frank Stallone, and Johnson, and executive produced by Ronald Zamber. Charlotte Fantelli and Simon Dolan serve as co-executive producers. The project is a Cinema 83 Documentary Films production in association with Visionary Media Group.
Frank Stallone: So Max, what did you think of the documentary? Did you like it?
ComingSoon.net: Yeah, it was really cool. I thought it was a lot of fun, there was a lot of candor, which I appreciate. There was a lot of good footage, a lot of stuff I’d never seen.
CS: I’d have to say the biggest thing I was surprised about was, I had no idea that you had worked with [Harry] Nilsson.
Stallone: Oh, oh he’s one of my dear, dear friends and my next door neighbor, yeah. I was into Harry since 1967. Yeah, I mean, and I first met him on – my band flew out here. We were on RCA Records. And that’s where I met him. The office in California was our first trip out as Valentine. And I couldn’t believe it because we all idolized Harry. I mean, I still listen to his music constantly. And then all of a sudden a few years later, I moved to California and my brother tells me, you know who lives next door? I go, who’s that? He said, Harry Nilsson. I go, oh come on. I go, are you serious? So from that point on we became like buddy buddies. I was like, the first guy he ever – I was the only guy he ever produced.
CS: That’s amazing.
Stallone: Yeah, he was really a wonderful man. Gone too soon, for sure. A great songwriter and Ringo’s been trying to get him into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And I have no idea why he’s not in and people like, Joan Baez are. I don’t get it.
CS: That’s mind-blowing that he’s not even being considered for that.
Stallone: Nina Simone. Yeah, she’s in but Harry’s not? Okay.
CS: Yeah, “Nilsson Schmilsson” and “Son of Schmilsson” those two are some of the best.
Stallone: Oh it’s great. Yeah, he was a dear, dear friend. And like I said, we’re next door neighbors and spent a lot of time together.
CS: Yeah. I know that he kind of had issues where his manager took all his money and all this stuff.
CS: Were you guys buddies like all through that sort of rough period towards the end?
Stallone: What happened was, it wasn’t his manager, it was kind of like his assistant secretary who’s like, godmother to his kids. Her and her husband absconded with all the money. And one day he got a call from Lee Blackman, who was his attorney. And he said, Harry, I have bad news. What happened? He goes, you’re broke. He goes, what? You’re broke. And Harry had thought he had like, $9-$10 million dollars. So he was extremely generous, but on the other hand, he was also very frugal because he came from a very poor background. And that blew his mind. You know, he had seven kids. And he had this house in Bel Air. And then, he finds out he’s broke and betrayed, totally ripped off. And so, he had to move to another house. And then from there he just got sick. And he was dead at like, well, he was 53 going on 54.
CS: Yeah, it was around the mid-90s.
CS: But it’s interesting because I was reminded when you were talking about your Staying Alive experience, you kind of got fleeced out of your publishing rights there, too. You had a similar –
Stallone: Oh yeah. And I’m not the only one. Those guys get fleeced out of publishing – yeah. It was something I never quite understood, Max. Who takes 100 percent of anything? I mean, no one goes into business and goes, okay, listen, this is how it’s going to be. You’re going to work your butt off, we’re taking 100 percent. I mean, yeah, sure, that sounds like a good deal to me. Yeah, I mean, but that’s what was going on then. And I’m not the only one. We all got ripped off.
CS: Yeah, you hear horror stories, like Badfinger. That was a horror story.
Stallone: Oh that was – I mean, they hung themselves. I mean, that’s pretty bad management when you hang yourself from the barn, you know?
Stallone: I don’t know. Like in my documentary, I think what it kind of talks about is perseverance. It’s almost like a baseball movie, the love of the game. In other words, all the bad stuff, you’re in it because you love it and because, listen, there’s a lot of people, most people in this business that you know don’t really make a living. I mean, it’s very hard to make a living in this business. So it’s interesting, when you see that happen, you know? And listen, I’m very flattered and very blessed to have had a movie made about myself and getting all this wonderful reaction. We’re having like, a really good reaction. And it’s like, to me, it makes me feel really good.
CS: Yeah. Well, I mean, and it’s also, it’s a testament to the fact that you’ve had ups and downs and stuff.
Stallone: Oh my god.
CS: But you’ve stuck it out, and just by the sheer act of sticking it out, like now you can do this kind of retrospective and look back and people can be like, oh, well, like, this is actually pretty incredible.
Stallone: Well, you know what it is? I think it also is a thing where anything that you go through in life, whether it’s what I went through in my periods of mental stress, I think the worst feeling to feel is that you’re alone, that no one else feels with you, because everyone does think their problems are the worst. And so, sometimes people will go to group therapy or something like that and they find out that there’s tons and tons of other people who have the same issues they do. So you’ll feel like, isolated. So I kind of felt isolated because no one talked about, you know, anxiety and panic attacks. No one addressed those things in those days, so that was the different world. But I came through it. I mean, thank god I had music. I came through. If I didn’t have music, I don’t know what would have gone on.
Stallone: But I came through it and I mean, if you told me in 1970, which is ’69 to ’74 were pretty bad for me, so that one day they’d be making a film, a documentary about me, I would say you’ve got to be out of your mind. I mean, it’s crazy. But they did and I think that they did a great job directing it. You know, with what’s going on now, I mean, I’ve got a great publicity team of Lee Meltzer and Rogers & Cowan and PMK and Emily and everyone that works, Rachel, that are working on the team. I mean, it’s really great. It’s almost like when I had hit records. Like when you had a real team out there pushing for you, a real top-notch operation. It’s a really good feeling to have. Most of the time, you’re not getting any of that.
CS: Right, exactly.
Stallone: What did you get out of the movie for yourself?
CS: It was just cool to see that –
Stallone: The inner workings.
CS: Yeah, it’s like, I love all the backstage stuff, obviously you’ve been kind of like a Forrest Gump in the way you’ve been around all these amazing people and you’ve had all these crazy experiences. And actually, what’s interesting to me is you’ve been in Terror in Beverly Hills, but you’ve also been at the top of the machinery. You’ve done Tombstone and Rocky and all this stuff. So my last question I wanted to just ask you, is there one film project that kind of got away that you’re always like, ah, I was so close, I could’ve really done something with that?
Stallone: Well, I had a movie I was doing called The Good Life, and that went into a horrible tailspin with court cases and people suing. And I had a great cast. I had my brother. I had Dennis Hopper. I had all these people in it and the people I was working with were just I’d say less than stellar, the producers. And they put me in court, my brother in court for no reason and basically almost destroyed my life. As far as emotionally and financially, it took me almost 15 years to kind of get myself back.
And that’s what happens when you deal with certain unsavory people and that’s why I’m going to write a book, which I had started to write. I copyrighted it. And it’s about all is not perfect in Hollywood. I mean, there’s people that killed themselves out here, because they didn’t get a movie part or something and they go home and they jump off the Hollywood sign or something like that because they take it to heart. You know, and I love mentoring people. I love to go on tour talking to young people. Then the bottom line is you better expect to probably get rejected 97 percent of the time.
CS: No, no, exactly.
Stallone: This is a vicious town. I mean, you read Otto Friedrich’s book called City of Nets, you realize how many fatalities have been in this town since Hollywood – how many people that were big stars that ended up working at a hot dog stand killed themselves. I mean, there’s tons of them. You know, Karl Dane. I mean, going back to the silent era. There were a lot of tragedies that were now coming out, but they were covered up in those days because the studios owned all the rag sheets and –
CS: Yeah, they had the fixers and stuff.
Stallone: Oh of course they had fixers. If someone was gay, you’d lose your career overnight. But even though the studios knew this person that was of this persuasion, they would cover it up because that was their investment. And then, when unfortunately something would come out about that, like William Haines, that career is done. And the studio would just abandon him, oh, we never knew that. So I mean, it’s a pretty cruel business, you know?
Stallone: As great as it is, it’s as bad as it can be as well.
Stallone: Frank, That Is is available now on VOD and Digital.
(Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)