Celebrity Studies Special Issue: Where’s the Star?
Sylvester Stallone and the Economics of the Ageing Film Star (Forthcoming).
‘Sylvester Stallone has been widely understood as the embodiment of 1980s Hollywood action cinema and of Reagan-era masculinity’ (Gallagher, 2014:97). For a star whose identity has been so defined by a particular period, and inexorably linked to notions of youthful masculinity, how Sylvester Stallone negotiates the realities of ageing and the impact this has on the roles available to him, and his ability to endure the physical requirements of these roles has been the subject of much academic interest (Tasker, 2014, Donnar, 2017). However, less visible, but no less valuable is an economic reading of the star and an examination of the ways in which the veteran actor has sought to extend his celebrity in a contemporary global digital marketplace.
Though iconic, outside of Stallone’s signature characters of Rocky and Rambo, Stallone’s films are rarely considered successful domestically. Nevertheless, the star has remained visible; active as television producer, performer, and public speaker, and can increasingly be seen harnessing the power of social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to publicise new projects and to capitalise on earlier screen successes. However, what might on the surface appear to be the futile attempts of an ageing star to retain relevance in a global marketplace, is revealed to be more complex when we consider Stallone’s recent economic successes in the Asian film markets. In China’s highly profitable, but usually impenetrable marketplace, Stallone’s films are consistently among the 34 selected from the American film industry. This chapter will consider Stallone’s continued economic capital and the ways in which he manages and extends his celebrity global image.