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Hollywood's humble hero

IN CONVERSATION: Sylvester Stallone [PIC CREDIT: PHOTO: Jonathan Brady / PA]

IF YOU'RE an Eighties child, action heroes like Sylvester ‘Sly’ Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis are bound to be amongst your most memorable big screen stars.

They epitomised the American dream, Hollywood alpha males and the dream buff body. Like most stars of their generation, they still hold a mystique. They’re not publicly available and never have been. Can you imagine these A-list heroes using Twitter to put up selfies? They’re mysterious and iconic.

So when I was invited to spend ‘An evening with Sylvester Stallone’ live on stage at the London Palladium, I was transported back to my inner wild kid, excitedly shadow-boxing in uncontrollable delirium after watching Rocky on telly.

Our host for the night was our own Brit legend and encyclopedia on all things showbiz and movies, Mr Jonathan Ross. He brought out a humble, adorable side of a living legend that no one was expecting. After all, that's what Sylvester is. He’s gone from being the meat-head action hero, to one of the last truly A-list actors that still evoke an intake of breath on sight.

The palladium was sold out, buzzing with excitement and full of movie buffs, boxing fans and a scattering of celebrities.

A mix of suited, black tie-wearing VIP men and fellas in jeans and hoodies mingled with the ladies who as expected were all dressed to the nines.

When Jonathan Ross introduced Sylvester to the stage, they actually cut to a live camera that was following Sly from his dressing room to the stage, like his boxer character in Rocky making his way to the ring. This only made us even more ecstatic and I couldn’t stop myself from shrieking with excitement.

Sly stepped onstage in an extremely well cut, perfectly fitted suit, complete with a crisp shirt and a red hanky in his suit blazer pocket. He was tanned and looked strong and well for his 67 years.

Jonathan guided him gently, treading carefully through the story of his acting life and Sylvester spoke humbly and movingly about his meagre start. It was unbelievable that this guy once lived in a hellhole of poverty before making the big time and his recounting of his experience with fame was inspirational. From the now legendary story of how he was so poor he had to sell his dog (which he then bought back for thousands after getting work), and his inner conflict of taking more serious roles as an actor as opposed to the ones that made him famous, he was mesmerising to watch and listen to.

Sylvester suffered nerve damage when he was born, hence the speech problems he has. Reminiscing about his early acting days, he described himself as “horrible”.

"I tried for a school play called [Sweeney] Todd Goes West – I was horrible,” he recalled. “My mouth was crooked, I had slurred speech. I was told not to bother with acting.”

Sylvester later had the audience roaring with laughter as he reminisced on how badly he reacted to his early fame. “The success affected me. I was horrible. I was an authority on everything. If I could go back I would have punched myself in the face. I was bad!”

Reflecting on his permanent tan, he blamed the filming process of Rambo.

“Rambo 3 is the reason. I was so burnt out in the hot sun shooting all day; that's why I'm permanently red. I'm burnt for life. But I loved that movie. It wasn’t just violence – it showed real atrocities from wars around the world.”

Again, the crowd was in stitches as Sly recalled meeting John Travolta whilst shooting the 1983 classic Staying Alive, which Sly directed.

“John was trying to eat well but I’d place a plate of fudge on the table and very soon the fudge was gone. John was dancing and at one point, he started complaining about chaffing. I laughed at him incredulously. In Rocky, we were stitching ourselves up in between shoots!”

As Sly left the Palladium for a private jet from Luton Airport to Los Angeles, his people carrier was chased down the street by screaming fans. As it reached a red light, it was surrounded by a mob that started chanting "Rocky! Rocky! Rocky!” It was only once the light turned green that he was able to make his getaway.

This was one night when Sly finished smiling and slick suited, without breaking a sweat.



ALL SMILES: Jas and Idris Elba

Adidas threw a party to celebrate the return of the classic Stan Smith trainer at the Truman Gallery in east London.
The Stan Smith shoe has grown to become the best selling shoe of all time with over 40 million pairs sold.

Friends and invitees of Adidas included Idris Elba, Dynamo, Ashley Walters, Wretch 32, J2K, Rudimental and many more.
The attendees spoke of their love of the classic shoe, as well as other topical issues like social media. Is it a platform for good or bad? Our London 360 reporters caught up with Idris, star of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, to talk about his experience with social media.

“I’ve seen pictures or read stories about me on social media which were so far from the truth and yet you’re getting people commenting like it’s the truth.

“Social media is impressive and very important, but the thing about it is, it’s not reality. The problem I have with social media is that people forget to talk to people in real life. It’s fine talking on Twitter but human contact is the best way to communicate your ideas. Ultimately I’m a big fan of social media but I do think that people need to talk to each other more.”

Every star had something to say on the issue of social media, proving why it’s the hot topic of the moment. The Jack Petchey Foundation, Media Trust and The Evening Standard's London Live are holding a panel debate on February 3 to give 100 young Londoners a chance to get their voices heard on issues surrounding digital media. Does social media give a voice to young people or just provoke vanity, violence and vulgarity?

The event will be chaired by ITV News presenter Charlene White and a host of media industry experts are due to attend.

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