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Sylvester Stallone prefers to be seen as a mythological hero instead of an "action star"

"I actually hate the word 'action' actor," says Tulsa King star and famed action hero Sylvester Stallone

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Sylvester Stallone prefers "mythology" over "action"
Sylvester Stallone
Photo: Ernesto S. Ruscio (Getty Images)

Hercules, Odysseus, Rocky Balboa: these are the great mythological heroes of history. You may never have thought to put Rambo in the same category as Greek demigods (and why not, by the way?), but Sylvester Stallone has been thinking about it all along. From writing the characters to bringing them alive on screen, Stallone has always had the classic hero’s journey in mind. Some may see his roles as violent, one-dimensional hunks, but he sees them as modern myths.

“I actually hate the word ‘action’ actor because I call it mythology,” he says in a new interview with The New York Times. These days, he seems to argue, the “mentality” of the hero’s epic isn’t passed down in oral tradition or written in verse, but seen on screen—because regardless of the era, “we need mythological heroes.”

This is not the first time Stallone has waxed poetic about creating new mythology. He has also attributed the term to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, speaking on the subject in a press conference for Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (via Inside The Magic). “Early on in my career I became fascinated with mythology. Joseph Campbell’s Hero With A Thousand Faces, and so on and so forth. When I started doing Rambo, [I came to understand] there’s an evolution that takes place,” he said at the time.

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“Every generation has to find itself, define its own heroes, define its own mythology. And [the MCU] is this generation’s—and maybe even the next generation’s—mythology,” the actor continued. “And when Kevin invited me on board I said, ‘This is interesting,’ because I haven’t gone here. I’m kind of Earth-bound. I’m terrestrial. This is something that takes place in a whole other sphere where James and the Marvel people have created their own world, their own reality.”

Whether it be a superhero story or a gangster tale like his upcoming television show Tulsa King, Stallone wants to stay in the business of myth-making, he tells the NYT, championing stories about “man against the system, woman against the system, modern mythology, rising above.” Your mileage may vary, but he does have an air of Achilles about him, doesn’t he?