Old School Americana & Nostalgia


‘Rambo’ Was Inspired by ‘About 20’ Real Life Vietnam Vets

‘Rambo’ Was Inspired by ‘About 20’ Real Life Vietnam Vets

When Sylvester Stallone created his iconic John Rambo character, he wanted to be sensitive to the experiences of those who actually served in Vietnam. So he studied the stories of around 20 real-life vets weaved their lives into Rambo’s.

The actor spoke about the project while starring in the Netflix document Sly. He explained that he went down several rabbit holes while perfecting the hero’s persona. While he wanted the movie to be a classic action film, he envisioned Rambo to be a real person dealing with true-to-life emotions and trauma. 

When Stallone began researching the movie, he found dozens of accounts of men who had served during the politically contemptuous conflict, and he was moved by their experiences. So he added them to Rambo’s backstory. For example, a man who went into Saigon with a rigged shoeshine box inspired Rambo’s final monologue. 

“I thought, ‘Wow, if I could put a couple of beats from about 20 different guys’ lives, jumble them up … Because Rambo hasn’t spoken in years so he’s not coming out fluid. It’s just this rush, this purging,” he said. 

Sylvester Stallone Was Sued Over His Commitment to ‘Rambo’

Sylvester Stallone’s dedication to real-life accounts even got him sued. Rambo: First Blood originally ended with Rambo either committing suicide or being killed by his friend, Colonel Sam Trautman. Stallone didn’t agree with the choice of plots, later telling Tom Power, “That’s not the message. The only way out is to die?’” So he told the writers to make a change, or he’d quit. 

Rambo director Ted Kotcheff sued Stallone for trying to break his contract. The actor finally gave in and filmed a death sequence. Fortunately, a test audience agreed with Stallone and gave the final scene horrible reviews. So Kotcheff caved. 

Thanks to the move, Rambo turned into a franchise with five installments. Sylvester Stallone fought hard to ensure that John Rambo survived all of them. 

Following the story’s conclusion, Rambo: Last Blood, Stallone explained why he was so committed to the vet’s fate.

“What I’m trying to show is how horrible war is and how you never get over it when you participate in it,” she said during a media event, via CineMovie. “And once you commit to it, you are now condemned by it.”