Sylvester Stallone on Side Career as a Painter: "I Am Trying to Prove John Rambo's Subconsciousness"

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The actor, whose works were recently feted with a retrospective in France, has painted everyone from James Dean to Michael Jackson.

A version of this story first appeared in the June 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Longtime painter Sylvester Stallone is being feted with a retrospective at the Galerie Contemporaine du Musee de Nice, which celebrated the 68-year-old with a reception with the mayor on May 16.

Days later, Stallone told THR that the exhibit is "humbling" even if it was a bit unusual to be toasting his canvas work while the Cannes Film Festival was happening nearby (his Expendables 3 premiered there in 2014). Stallone says he paints every day, and though he's painted everyone from James Dean to Michael Jackson, there's a fictional franchise character he himself played that he's most obsessed with using as a source of inspiration.

"Don't take this sarcastically, but I am trying to prove John Rambo's subconsciousness," Stallone said. "It's like being lost in a haunted forest, so that's always a source of cinematic inspiration."

However, there's another channel of creativity that the artist says has since dried up. "Celebrities live two lives: the personal life and creative life," he explained. "Toward the end of a celebrity's career and fame, it becomes somewhat sad because you still feel vital but the opportunities tend to be minimalized. So there is a career death that many of our most celebrated stars experience, which is a dark subject I used to explore — but not anymore."

Stallone covered a few more subjects with THR in a brief Q&A. 

How was it to be honored in Nice for your work as a painter?

I would have to say, for lack of a better word it was humbling — and also gratifying.

You've been an artist for decades now. Do you have a piece that you've created that is most special to you?

There are several pieces that mark very significant and transitional times in my personal life that I would never part with.

How often do you paint?

Usually I am doing something every day. 

Where do you find inspiration?

Reality provides a constant source of evolving themes. 

Who is your favorite artist?

I am drawn to early Russian and German expressionism. I am captivated by the boldness of [KazimirMalevich and by Francis Bacon

Cannes is unlike any place in the world. What's the one thing you like to do when you're here?

I like experiencing the contrast of the serenity of the ocean and the people of the festival totally engulfed in utter chaos. 

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