Today: June 20, 2024

Grudge Match – Stallone And De Niro Talk

Last week Sky Sports took over the ballroom of London’s plush Dorchester Hotel to host a press conference for boxing comedy Grudge Match. There, heavy weight stars Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro and Director Peter Segal were joined by a host of British boxing stars who were eager to quiz them. FilmJuice regular Christa Ktorides braved the heady stench of testosterone to report from the ringside …

Londoner George Groves took part in his own grudge match last month against Carl Froch and wanted to ask the panel if they had a favourite grudge match in boxing. Stallone answered, “To me it has to be the Ali/Fraser thing because I knew both of them really well. Actually I was going to use Fraser in one of the Rocky’s and … he came across the ring and bang that was it [laughs]! Eleven seconds! So I thought “I’m gonna use an actor instead!” Recently there was a fantastic war with two Hispanic fighters that was just fantastic. It just keeps evolving. De Niro adds, “I guess I would say the one I am most aware of which is the Duran/Leonard fights. I’m playing Ray Arcel, Duran’s trainer. They were great fights.”

Super Heavyweight gold medallist Anthony Joshua wants to know who would win in a fight between Jake LaMotta and Rocky Balboa – the two fighters played by De Niro and Stallone in Raging Bull and the Rocky series of films respectively.  A bullish Stallone states, “Me! Only because I’m writing the script.” He then concedes that, “Rocky would have a real tough time against the real life Jake La Motta. My money’s on Jake. My money’s always on the real fighter.”

Luke Campbell who also won gold at the London Olympics is interested in who the pair have been most privileged to share the ring with. Stallone: “I sparred with Duran, Ernie Shavers, who promised not to hit me but he hit me with his shoulder and literally knocked me across the ring and out of the shot. So I’ve had the mis-fortune of sparring with some really good guys.” De Niro simply states that, “I have a great respect for fighters. It looks easy. It’s not. It’s not nice to get hit.”

The darling of the London Olympics, gold medallist Nicola Adams asks De Niro; “Robert is this first time you’ve laced up your gloves since Raging Bull?” The Oscar winning actor answers, “Yeah. From time to time I would just train for the sake of it. When I started on the movie with Sylvester he had a great trainer, Rod Sulley, who trained me and he taught me the choreography that Sylvester created and he was just terrific and inspiring this guy.”

Welterweight Kell Brook wants to know if the two tried to outdo one another in training. “When I was training I was in New York and Sylvester was in LA then we finally got together in New Orleans he came in and took over the whole thing!” laughs De Niro. Stallone adds, “I was training very hard because I really want to beat up Jake La Motta so badly. We started sparring and I noticed that his best movements were very much like it was for Jake La Motta and Rocky’s like that same kind of fighter. But I prefer to back up and counter punch for real so we decided this time to let him be the Rocky-esque/Jake La Motta, let him come forward and I’d be the one always trying to slip and do my best but I didn’t realise that takes a lot of energy!”

Darren Barker won the world Middleweight title in August 2013 and is interested in what sparked their interest in boxing. De Niro answers, “I’m not into boxing as much as Sylvester is but I’ve always been interested since I was kid watching boxers like La Motta who I’d see around. He was like a bouncer in a club. What amazed me was that he was so overweight.” Stallones interest came from childhood, “Mine was a little more dramatic and traumatic too. I was in school and there was this big bully and he was coming after me then I just started to move around and I was just starting to pepper him like “Bam, bam, bam” and I thought, “Wow I like this!” I started to really study the sport because I’m not overly gifted or anything. I just know the dynamics of it and the science and physics of it. I am enamoured with it. I’m surprised I didn’t end up marrying a referee.”

Director Peter Segal is a boxing fan and when asked about why he chose Stallone and De Niro to star in Grudge Match he said, “I grew up in what I call the golden age of heavyweights with Ali, Fraser 1976 [Rocky] there was a movie that particularly caught my eye and inspired me to go and try and make that kind of movie. Then in 1980 another movie came along [Raging Bull] also about boxing and a particular person played by these two gentlemen. It was really dream casting, we could not have made this movie if we couldn’t get these two guys here to participate.”

How does Stallone feel now compared to back in the 70’s? “I was really happy with Rocky Balboa, he said farewell and sort of disappears into the distance and I thought that would be it and when they said, ‘Hey let’s do this movie Grudge Match’. I thought it was going to be a skit. I was being precious about what we’d built up over the years but Bobby [De Niro] kept calling and … he convinced.” De Niro adds, “The only way the movie would work was if we did it and if Sylvester wasn’t part of it there’d be no reason to do it. Everybody realised that. “

On working with the two legendary actors, Segal said, “Both these guys are very different from what you imagine. Sly has a great sense of humour and Bob is shy. The first time they came to New Orleans and set foot in the same ring I was not a director that day I was a kid. I just took out my cellphone and started taking pictures.”

When quizzed about social media Stallone admits that, “I get in trouble! I think George Clooney said it best, “You’ve got to be an idiot when you’re a celebrity and you use Twitter when you wake up in the morning when you’re sober and realise your career is over!” [laughs].

With the subject of Grudge Match being older boxers getting back into the ring Stallone believes that in real-life boxing professionally past 40-42 is, “pushing it”.

Have the pair been looking for a project since working on Cop Land together since 1997?  “Always”, begins Stallone, “He’s got a little talent, he’s got a few days left and I’m trying to use them up as fast as I can. Guys like this come along once in a generation or even longer. I’m always looking for something. He says he doesn’t feel the same way.” [Laughs]. De Niro adds, “If something had come along we would’ve done it and you never know in the future..Absolutely.”

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