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Sylvester Stallone seemed almost overly eager to talk about his latest project, in part perhaps because it’s the kind of part he’s been denied for his entire professional career: “I went up for ‘The Godfather,’ as an extra,” he said. “And I didn’t get it! They said, ‘You don’t look Italian enough!'”
But now, at the age 76, the “Italian Stallion” is earning his chops as a real mafioso.
“Tulsa King,” the latest streaming series out next Sunday from our parent company, Paramount, follows an aging goodfella fresh out of federal prison.
But instead of celebrating with coffee and cannoli, his New York crime family shuts him out, and sends him West to set up a racketeering and gambling operation on the plains of Oklahoma. 
“Take ‘The Sopranos,’ put them on a stagecoach, and see what happens!” Stallone laughed.
Correspondent Lee Cowan asked, “It’s not a comedy, but there’s a humorous element in it, in that you are this East Coast guy coming to kind of figure out what the west is all about, right?”
“Yeah, it is. There’s a whole different kind of culture out here, which is really what forged a lot of the country. And then generation after generation, you know, they meld into the tapestry of America, but they don’t get the kind of attention you would think.”
At Oklahoma’s National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, he showed Cowan his custom Roy Rogers boots. “How come you never did a Western?” Cowan asked. 
“Look at me!” Stallone laughed. “Hey, how ya’ doin’? You got any Indians that need, like, spumoni?
Still, when “Rocky” first made him a star, he said it was none other than John Wayne who was among the first to welcome him to Hollywood. “And he goes, ‘You’re new in the business, kid.’ I go, ‘Yeah, I just started.’ He goes, ‘Welcome. My name’s John Wayne.’ Duh!”
Even the Duke knew that “Rocky” had tapped into something. It wasn’t really a boxing movie – it was more a love story. It resonated for all sorts of reasons, and so did Stallone.
“I don’t give a damn who it is; you can’t buy fame,” he said. “You can’t manufacture it. It has nothing to do with good looks or muscles or anything. It’s an unknown, mysterious virus that some people are lucky enough to catch.”
Stallone has written one in every three movies he’s appeared in – some featuring characters that he admits he may have resurrected one too many times. But consider this: he’s had a #1 box office hit in every one of the last six decades – even voicing a shark in 2021’s “The Suicide Squad.”
“Of course, I’m not as relevant, I’m not this, I’m not that,” he said. “But the one thing I do really stand tall and proud of is longevity.”
Cowan asked, “How do you think you’ve changed as an actor over all these decades?”
“I got better,” he replied. “Yeah, I did. You know, you think you have a peak. There’s a peak in energy. And there’s a peak in perhaps volatility … But when you’re younger, it’s like, when in doubt, shout. But when you get older, there’s just gravitas.”
And yet, after all that time on the big screen, “Tulsa King” is Stallone’s first foray into television. He’s not nervous per se – but to watch him on set, he’s treating the small screen with a level of respect that he never imagined when he was coming up.
“Is it weird doing TV now?” Cowan asked.
“Yeah!” he said. “At one time, when you were on TV, you were, like, ‘Oh boy. I got something genetically flawed.’ But things have changed now. Now it’s just the opposite. Your best actors are streaming.”
Before streaming, there were just a few studios, and when it came to the sixth installment of the “Rocky” franchise – “Rocky Balboa,” in 2006 – basically all of them thought Rocky was on the ropes.
“Matter of fact, I wanted that to be my last film,” Stallone said. “I said, ‘I just wanted Rocky to come to the rescue, prove a point that it’s never over ’til it’s over. No one, I mean no one, wanted me to make it. And boy, Rocky, goddamn, it came through!
That said, you might be surprised to learn that Stallone doesn’t own “Rocky.” The rights belong to the studio and the producer of the franchise, Irwin Winkler. And while Stallone says he’s hardly suffering financially, judging from his now-deleted Instagram slams at Winkler recently, it’s clear it still stings.
Stallone said, “It bothers me. It does. it’s not about the money. It’s, like, it’s part of my soul belongs to someone that has very little. That’s all.”
Winkler has not responded (to us or anyone), but the tabloids soon moved on to another target: Stallone’s marriage. His wife of 25 years, Jennifer Flavin, announced she was filing for divorce, some outlets even suggesting Stallone’s new Rottweiler, Dwight, may have sparked one argument too many. “Right now, I’m revved up, and no one can be around me. That’s why I bought a dog!” he said.
Not long after “Tulsa King” wrapped, he and his wife – and Dwight the dog – all made up and agreed they’d give it another shot.
That’s the kind of final scene he might write himself. He said he’s a sucker for happy endings.
Cowan said, “It doesn’t strike me that you’re ever gonna give this life up, to be in front of a camera somewhere, doing something?”
“Yeah. You know, I thought I could. I thought I could. But I’m sort of obsessed with it.”
“Yeah?”
“Yeah. I wanna prove things.”
“Still?”
“Yeah. I just think, you know, like, ‘Sly, I know everyone thinks you can’t. Do you think you can’t?’ And it just keeps me going.”
No telling where “Tulsa King” will take us, but now more than ever, Sylvester Stallone seems intent on playing the underdog – whether it’s a boxer or a mobster. “I just think the world is so miserable at times, [not] the way you wish it could be. People always want hope. It doesn’t cost a dime. It’s free. It’s four-letter word. Give it to ’em!”
For more info:
Story produced by David Rothman. Editor: Lauren Barnello. 
First published on November 6, 2022 / 9:49 AM
© 2022 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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