195 lbs Muscled Hunk Sylvester Stallone’s Weight Gain Made Studio Nervous About $15 Million Film After 3 Out of 500 People Laughed at His “Huge Gut”

195 lbs Muscled Hunk Sylvester Stallone's Weight Gain Made Studio Nervous About $15 Million Film After 3 Out of 500 People Laughed at His "Huge Gut"
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To the majority of the movie-going population, Sylvester Stallone has always represented a particular image; a specific brand. When you think about the acclaimed Hollywood star, you are bound to associate with him over-the-top hyper-violent action sequences, monumental athleticism, and a physique that is simply to die for. He was pigeonholed as the undisputed face of the action genre in the 1980s and 1990s because of the roles in his filmography that restricted the actor within that particular classification.


With James Mangold’s 1997 crime drama film, it was time for the actor to do something different.

Sylvester Stallone in Cop Land (1997)
Sylvester Stallone in Cop Land (1997)

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To pioneer a change in the audience’s perceptions, Stallone was required to completely transform himself. In Mangold’s Cop Land, the actor, typically renowned for his well-built, Hercules-esque frame, embodies a character who contradicts the aforementioned physical traits. For the role of Sheriff Freddy Heflin, Sylvester Stallone was required to gain an additional 40 pounds. While this was a remarkable feat; a testament to the actor’s dedication, it triggered a level of skepticism in the minds of the studio backing the movie, making them anxious and doubtful about how well-received it would be.

In an interview, the director of the endeavor revealed what exactly generated the uneasiness exhibited by Miramax, the production and distribution company responsible for supporting the film.

James Mangold Was Uncertain About Casting Sylvester Stallone

Versatile filmmaker James Mangold
Versatile filmmaker James Mangold

For someone like James Mangold, who is notable for his versatility, casting someone like Sylvester Stallone, who had yet to transcend beyond the public perception of a hunky, muscle-man action star, would naturally prove to be a challenging task. Talking to The Playlist, the highly-venerated director shed light on his initial ambivalence surrounding the Hollywood star. Mangold was hellbent on not wanting Stallone. However, things changed for the better when the actor reassured the director of dedicating himself completely to the project without exerting much of an influence over it.


Following was James Mangold’s statement:

“I didn’t want him. When he was first brought up to me, I was like, ‘Please God no!’ My whole perception of Sly at that point was, and he’s a friend and he would understand, but it was like he’d made this series of slightly-less than his best tentpole movies that weren’t very taxing for him, and he was just kind of an indestructible force in one picture after another. And I was looking to cast a vulnerable guy who was soft, who can’t quite pull the trigger – and I’m getting Judge Dredd?”

Despite his justifiable apprehension, Mangold was proven wrong by Stallone. In the interview, the Logan alum recounted having asserted certain conditions that the Rambo star needed to meet. For the former to make the 1997 movie and have it feature the action talent, the latter was required to do three things: not take control over the film, not incorporate changes in it, and finally, gain weight to personify Freddy Heflin and subsequently, retain the authenticity of the material.

Cop Land (1997)
Cop Land (1997)

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To these stipulations, James Mangold remembers Stallone having the following to say:

“Sly in each case was like, look, it’s your movie, it’s your script, so we’ll do exactly what you wrote, and also, I’ll gain weight – I’d love to. And he was an angel about it in a way that a lot of other actors I’d approached before him were not angels about it. They were not happy about playing the unsexy or hesitant hero at the center of the movie, and here was this guy who was really into it. And I decided to take the leap with him, and for many reasons, I’m glad I did.”

The 1997 film was therefore ready to start production after Sylvester Stallone persuaded the director of his willingness of wanting to do the film. However, it was later revealed that after the test screenings of Cop Land, Miramax harbored uncertainty against the metamorphosed on-screen depiction of Stallone, who put on a considerable amount of weight for the role. This ultimately resulted in the production company disapproving of a scene that showed the actor’s “huge gut” exposing itself.

The Studio Was Paranoid About Sylvester Stallone’s Physique

Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone’s physique in Cop Land contradicted his usual frame

As per several reports, Stallone weighed around 195 lbs. at the peak of his stardom. The actor was highly regarded for his sculpted figure. To imagine the Rocky alum without it must have come off as a shock to many at the time. Putting on weight for the role was an agreeable assignment for him. However, whether or not the audience felt the same was a question of worry. This was exactly where Miramax found its basis of perturbation and anxiety.


Discussing the differences between the Blu-ray cut of the film and that of its theatrical release, James Mangold’s statements seemed to suggest that Miramax had implemented multiple modifications to Cop Land. These changes occurred primarily because of the test screening reactions and the studio wanting a box-office hit.

One particular scene that Miramax had a problem with involved Sylvester Stallone’s character waking up from his sleep and rolling out of his bed to sit up. This sequence, however, ended up exposing the actor’s “huge gut”, as claimed by the director of the 1977 film. This had reaped a seemingly unfavorable reaction from certain people during a test screening of the film, who happened to have chortled at Stallone’s transformed physique. 

The following is what James Mangold had to say about the matter:


“There was a great piece that for some reason the studio got very nervous about … You see his (Stallone’s) huge gut just kind of unveil itself as he kind of rolls out of the bed and sits up in the morning. And when the movie originally came out and Sly was still a huge mega-action star, when we first previewed it, like three guys out of 500 at a test screening giggled when they saw Sly fat, and it immediately made the studio paranoid that people are laughing at that.”

The difference in Sylvester Stallone's physique made some people "giggle"
The difference in Sylvester Stallone’s physique made some people “giggle”

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The sequence succeeded in making the studio anxious even though only a small number of people had this reaction. Mangold stated that the audience members who laughed may have been fans of Rambo, who were not used to seeing their beloved action star contradict his prototypical public perception. However, Miramax was still skeptical about the actor’s physique posing potential troubles in garnering audience approval.

This is how James Mangold recalled it:


“And it was like, well, three ‘Rambo’ fans might be (laughing), but it was like, ‘You’ve got to get that shot out.’ But the reality to me was that moments like that were such a tribute to the fact that really part of the weight gain was to play the role, and part of it was also to signal to the audience that ‘I’m not that guy – I’m not going to be that guy.’”

Despite the studio’s uncertainty, Cop Land ended up being a project that successfully demonstrated Sylvester Stallone’s departure from what he had previously been associated with on-screen. His embodiment was complex, sophisticated, and profound. Stallone’s acting abilities were expanded by the James Mangold-directed film, which helped to establish him as a skilled performer who is capable of going beyond the limits of an action hero.

The movie amassed $63.7 million at the box office, against a budget of $15 million. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film also enjoys an approval rating of 75%. The movie in itself may have reaped reviews that were mixed in nature, but Sylvester Stallone’s deep dive into the exploration of vulnerability and turmoil became one of the highlights of Mangold’s cinematic pursuit. As it turns out, the studio had not much to worry about when it came to the action star’s intriguing portrayal.

Cop Land is available on Prime Video via buying/renting.


Source: Indie Wire


Written by Debdipta Bhattacharya

Articles Published: 659

Debdipta Bhattacharya is a content writer at FandomWire, where she has written more than 500 articles on various topics of interest. She possesses a sincere passion for popular culture, anime, film production, and the evolving world of YouTube and streaming culture which has allowed her to be a devoted and well-informed writer. Debdipta holds a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication. She has honed her skills and expertise in content writing with over two years of experience and strives to learn and grow daily.