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‘Grudge Match’ stars would rather be actors than boxers

Dennis King Published: January 9, 2014
Rocky, Raging Bull
Rocky, Raging Bull

NEW YORK – As actors strongly identified with boxing culture, Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro are slyly winking at their iconic status in the ring their new pugilistic comedy “Grudge Match.”

But when the stars of “Rocky” and “Raging Bull” were posed with a fantasy proposition during a pre-release press conference hosted by Warner Bros., each actor seemed slightly taken aback.

One journalist proffered the nutty question: Would either of the actors trade his Oscar glory (Stallone garnered acting and writing nominations for “Rocky,” De Niro earned an acting Oscar for “Raging Bull”) for a legitimate boxing championship?

After a bit of hemming and hawing, Stallone addressed the question straight up and quite diplomatically:

“It’s a tough sport, tough professionally, and actually after being in the ring with a couple of professionals I made the right choice,” he said. “No, there’s not a chance, because it’s great to be able to interpret it and try to get the feelings. For example, when you meet Mike Tyson or any of these fellows, there’s so much drama going on, and to be able to play that but then get rid of it and not live with it the whole time is good. Because it’s a very heavy, heavy traumatic psyche these guys life with.”

De Niro chuckled at the question, then said, “I have great respect for fighters because it is what it is. It’s a tough sport, and you pay a price. And if you really want to do it you do it. But I’m an actor. I’m not a fighter.”

Perhaps De Niro’s “Raging Bull” character Jake LaMotta summed it up best with a bit of barroom doggerel he recited late in that film:

“Though I’m no Olivier/ If he fought Sugar Ray / He would say/ That the thing ain’t the ring, it’s the play/ So give me a … stage/ Where this bull can rage/ And though I could fight/ I’d much rather recite/ … that’s entertainment.”

- Dennis King


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