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Why Sylvester Stallone Tried to Buy and Destroy ‘First Blood’

Sylvester Stallone recalls the first time he watched a rough cut of First Blood as a harrowing experience, revealing that he and his manager nearly became physically ill and even contemplated buying back the movie to destroy the negative.

Based on David Morrell’s 1972 novel, First Blood follows John Rambo, a war veteran forced into a violent confrontation with a small-town police force.

“It was so bad,” Stallone confessed to Howard Stern about the movie’s initial edit. “We tried to buy it back and burn the negative. Originally it was three hours long; I stayed an hour and a half in the woods chasing guys. Plus, I was pontificating throughout the thing. For instance, I shoot an owl, and the owl drops, and I go, ‘Take that you mouse-munching mother…'”

Watch the ‘First Blood’ Trailer

Fortunately, Stallone devised a simple, albeit drastic, plan to rescue the movie. “I said, ‘here’s a good idea, cut out all my dialogue, every line.’ Let other people talk about you—which, by the way, is not a bad way to live in general. Let other people fill in the blanks, like a Greek chorus. I think it works. It went from three hours to 90 minutes.”

The now-trimmed First Blood turned out to be a resounding success at the box office, raking in $125 million. Amazingly, Stallone’s other 1982 film, Rocky III, earned a similar amount. The success of First Blood eventually led to four more Rambo movies, contributing to a franchise that has grossed over $800 million in total. The latest installment, Rambo: Last Blood, was released in 2019.

It started out with good intentions, then swerved into something entirely different.

Gallery Credit: Michael Gallucci

Source: David Morrell, Howard Stern