“Robert Balboa, Jr.”
Appearing in: Rocky V
Born on May 5, 1976, Sage Moonblood Stallone is the eldest of Sylvester Stallone’s four children and portrayed Rocky Balboa’s son in the fifth sequel.
With a lifetime of visiting his father on the sets of his films, it was inevitable that Sage would gravitate to the film industry. “I grew up around making movies and it drew me into it,” Sage said. “Also my love of films and watching movies left me with a sense of ‘I can do this’.”
For Sage, finding the right emotional pitch for his first movie role – as the embattled teenage son of the Italian Stallion in 1990’s Rocky V – came all too easily. “When I was screaming, ‘You never spent time with me! You never spent time with my mother!’ – that was true,” says Sage, who was raised by Sylvester Stallone’s first wife, Sasha, after his parents divorced in 1985. “I was looking into my father’s face and really saying that.”
It was cathartic. After a few tears and a lot of straight talk, he recalled, “everything changed.” In the intervening years, Sage and Sly remained close offscreen.
“At the time of Rocky V, I was very young,” he explained. “I had no acting experience. I had no idea what I was doing – I was a little kid . I’d memorize my lines, I’d go on the set and my father or the director would give me some advice and then I’d go ahead and do it.”
While never particularly interested in acting, Sage was, however, enthusiastic about film directing and was highly influenced by men like Roman Polanski. He chose to drop out of an unsatisfactory (by his account) directors course of study in order to make Daylight in 1996.
Sage played what is essentially an ensemble role, a white-collar criminal on his way to jail and one of the survivors of the explosion that is the catalyst for the plot – basically an updated version of the disaster classic The Poseidon Adventure. Sylvester Stallone stars as the hero who risks his life to save the hodge-podge group of survivors trapped in a New York City tunnel.
Sage maintains it was preferable that he didn’t have any big scenes opposite his father, the star. “In Daylight I tried to be my own guy. I’d stay away so that I was just another character actor. I wasn’t hanging with my father all the time – everyone knew I was his son – and we were all good friends. I don’t think it changed anything. When you’re together on a set for five and a half months, people tend to forget sometimes.”
Sylvester Stallone jokingly commented on working with his son during Daylight’s production: “He’s fired after this movie! He’s too good-looking! I can’t work with him anymore. I tell you, he’s like this handsome clock with hair, a reminder of time going by real fast. He wants to work on his own. The key to his success is that he works very hard at keeping his distance, so he’s his own man.”
In the late 1990’s, Sage founded a Los Angeles based company called Grindhouse Releasing, which is dedicated to the restoration and preservation of quality exploitation feature films. Along with his partner and editor Bob Murawski, Sage has restored and digitally remastered classics like Make Them Die Slowly, Lucio Fulci’s horror masterpiece The Beyond and Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust.
Lucio Fulci is revered as one of the unholy trinity of Italian horror directors, along with Dario Argento and Mario Bava. Until Sage came along, the Fulci films were available only in grainy, third-generation bootleg videos.
”My father was never home when I was young, so I could get away with watching movies like Fulci’s Zombie,” the young Stallone recalls. ”I would just send the handyman out for videos.”
At 15 Sage had journeyed to Italy and became friends with Argento, Bava and Fulci, and returned a few years later to act in a film.
“I was there for six months, hanging out with Fulci a lot,” he says. “I found out who had the rights to his movies, called the producer and bought the rights.”
“It had been cut, the original soundtrack had been thrown away, entire sequences were thrown out,” Stallone said. “It was butchered. Americanized. It was totally lame.”
Stallone spent two years in the restoration. Fulci died of complications from diabetes in 1996, but Stallone says Fulci knew re-release was imminent. “He was thrilled. He was so excited,” Sage said. “We had even recorded his commentary to go on the laser-disc version.”
In between his work at Grindhouse, Sage wrote and directed a short film titled Vic, which was released in 1999. Some of his final Rocky-related public appearances included his attendance along with his family at the 2006 premiere of ‘Rocky Balboa’. Sage was also featured in the 2011 in-depth television documentary about the series.
Tragically, Sage’s life was cut short on July 13, 2012 at the age of 36. His father released a statement to the press shortly therafter which read: “This agonizing loss will be felt for the rest of our lives. Sage is our first child and the center of our universe and I am humbly begging for all to have my son’s memory and soul left in peace.” He was laid to rest in Brentwood, California on July 21, 2012.