Exploring: The Unmade Films of Sylvester Stallone

Every creative force has projects that they either turn down or work hard to get made, but ultimately never make it to light. Sylvester Stallone is no different, as there have been several films — some a long time in development — that have never made it to the silver screen. I was inspired by the list on Craig Zablo’s Stallone Zone and decided to do my own research into some of these unrealized movies.

Bartholomew vs. NeffThe July 30, 1990 L.A. Times reported that “Carolco Pictures Chairman Mario Kassar announced today that John Hughes will direct Stallone and Candy in a comedy about feuding neighbors entitled Bartholomew vs. Neff. An original story by Hughes about two neighbors whose friendship disintegrates as they battle to the finish, the film is scheduled to begin production in the summer of 1991, shooting in the Chicago suburbs.”

All that exists of the film is the unproduced script and this board that announced that it would soon be filming. Stallone would move on to appear in another Carolco film, Cliffhanger. Sadly, Candy would pass away in 1994, so we’d never get to see those two stars team up.

The ExecutionerThis adaption of Don Pendelton’s famous paperback novel hero almost happened, with Stallone starring as Mack Bolan and either Burt Reynolds or William Friedkin directing. The June 23, 1988 issue of the Chicago Tribune reports that Friedkin was delaying the film until May of that year. Over the last few years, this movie has also been rumored to be a Bradley Cooper project. If you can’t wait to see one of Mack’s adventures, you can always watch one of The Punisher comic adaptions or The Exterminator movies, as they pretty much stole the idea whole cloth.

I realize this is from the new Rambo and not Gale Force, but it’s the only photo I could find of Sly in the rain.

Gale ForceDescribed as Die Hard in a hurricane, this movie was a mess from day one. Made back in the days of Hollywood big spending, the October 4, 1991 Entertainment Weekly article describes the film as the first project where “the new Hollywood austerity has finally hit Carolco.” Renny Harlin spent over $1.75 million dollars on scripts alone and had a $3 million dollar pay or play deal. The studio elected not to play; Harlin would go on to further deplete the coffers of Carolco with Cuthroat Island and Cliffhanger, which required other studios to finally get made. And hey — Joe Eszterhas made a cool half-million just for coming and writing whatever he wanted. Hollywood in the 1990’s was pretty awesome if you liked to get paid.

There are no pictures of this movie, so how about Stallone with some bodyguards?

The Bodyguard: No, not the Kevin Costner/Whitney Houston movie. This unproduced script was written by Stallone in the 1970’s and concerns a bodyguard who fails to protect a millionaire’s wife and child, so he must go after the killers for revenge.

No photos of the following film…you get the idea by now.

The Bogus Kingdom/Till Young Men ExitStallone told William Baer in the book Classic American Films: Conversations With the Screenwriters, “I was always the mugger, the intimidator, which actually seemed quite strange to me since I’d never perceived myself in that way. So I wrote a whole pile of scripts…trying, in every case, to create possibilities for myself as an actor.” I’ve seen both of these movies listed on several unmade Stallone ideas and they seem similar: a group of performers who are tired of being passed over kidnap several high-ranking movie execs (or Broadway producers) and use their make-up and acting skills to take over. Much like how Stallone used parts of his real life for other films, you can see him channeling exactly where he was in his life.

FatalisCreated by Jeff Rovin, who also wrote Stallone! A Hero’s Story, this movie was optioned by Universal, according to the October 23, 1998 edition of Variety. It’s all about saber-toothed tigers — that were frozen in glaciers — coming back to life thanks to climatic shifts of El Nino and making their way to Los Angeles. Stallone would have played Jim Grand, an academic expert who love ancient weapons, yet attempts to stop their attack without making them extinct all over again.

This came from the podcast Screenplay Archaeology.

Dead Reckoning/IsobarThere’s an entire chapter in David Hughes’ Tales from Development Hell about this film, which would have been the first to team Ridley Scott with HR Giger since Alien. Written by Jim Uhls, who would go on to script Fight Club, this movie was all about what happens when “an altered form of life gets loose on a high-speed runaway underground train. The creature was a humanoid with a genetically-altered brain that was intended to be used as the hard drive in an artificial intelligence project.”

Under the working title The Train, Giger went crazy designing all manner of creatures and machinery for Scott, including “bizarre designs for trains, stations, passenger compartments — even a radical new kind of emergency exit in which passengers are ejected into a spontaneous ejaculation of soft foam.” Scott would soon leave the film and Giger would follow, using some of his sketches for Species.

Joel Silver stayed on as producer, renaming the movie Isobar, which means “a line on a map connecting positions having the same atmospheric pressure at a given time, or on average over a given period.” Uhls worked that into his script, renaming the train the Intercontinental Subterranean Oscillo-magnetic Ballistic Aerodynamic Railway.

Steven de Souza even came on board to do some rewrites, but he derided the project as “too much of a picture called It! The Terror from Beyond Space…So with ISOBAR, you had a rip-off of a rip-off.”

Dean Devlin came aboard as well as Roland Emmerich as director. Stallone and Kim Basinger were to star in the movie, too. An astonishingly high $90 million dollars was the budget for ISOBAR or Osobar in 1990 — around $177 million today — and there have been rumors as recently as 2006 that the movie could still be made, according to Den of Geek.

As for Giger, he grew obsessed with the idea of a ghost train and used it in Species, as well as bringing it into the real world, creating a home train that ran from his kitchen to backyard. Yes, really.

PoeFor nearly four decades, Stallone has wanted to make a movie all about Edgar Allan Poe. Again, yes really. “It’s a never-ending journey, and I would hate myself if I don’t continue it at least to the best of my ability and try to see it actually come to fruition,” Stallone said in an Instagram video. “To be able to go out there and say, ‘I accomplished it. It may have taken 45 or 50 years, but it’s done.” That’s what I’m working on. It’s been one of the great challenges of my life, but like Poe used to say, “I promise to take life by the throat and I shall not let go until I succeed.” Yo Poe, keeping punching.”

According to this Huffington Post article, Stallone has intended for this movie to star Robert Downey Jr. And just why does he love Poe so much? “His work was too hip for the room… but he developed the modern mystery story. He was also one of the great cryptologists; there were very few codes he couldn’t crack. He was just an extraordinary guy.”

Sinsilver: All the way back in November 1, 1976, Stallone told The New York Times that if he didn’t star in Superman or make his Poe movie that he’d do this film, about a Hassidic Jew in the Old West, and based on “a reinterpretation of the Communist Manifesto.”

Sad BluesStallone also wrote an unproduced script in the 1970’s about a pop singer with a life-threatening condition that requires that he eat bananas every day. And you thought Rhinestone was crazy.

There’s also a big list of films that Stallone was originally intended to star in, but ended up passing on, which includes Beverly Hills CopComing HomeThe Cotton ClubFrequencyInglorious BasterdsRomancing the StoneSuperman and Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever.

Also of note are two cancelled Stallone toys:

These were originally intended to be 6-inch Judge Dredd figures before the film underperformed. Mattel then released them as part of their Mega Heroes line, but at a much smaller size.

In the encylcopedic G.I. Joe: Order of Battle #2, Joe fans were surprised to see a new member join the team: Rocky Balboa. Coleco had already been having some success with their cartoon tie-in line, Rambo: The Force of Freedom. Yet one issue later, this disclaimer appeared.

So what happened? According to former Hasbro product manager Kirk Bozigian, in this Mental Floss article, “The reason Rocky was dropped from the G.I. Joe line is because his agents got greedy. While we were designing and sculpting Rocky Balboa, a competing toy company, Coleco, was introducing Rambo action figures and vehicles to compete with us. The decision to drop Rocky was an easy one.”

Despite all this, Rocky’s would-be nemesis, Big Boa, did end up joining the Cobra army.

Mock-up of an unproduced Rocky G.I. Joe.

Did I miss anything? Do you know anything about Charming Charlie, another unproduced Stallone script? Or how about the never made Cobra 2? Let me know!

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