Jerry Glick reporting: What happened to Rocky after the latest installment, “Rocky Balboa”? He made a comeback in a delightful movie called “Grudge Match” co-starring Sylvester Stallone (okay, he’s not exactly playing Rocky), and Robert De Niro, two veterans of boxing based movies, plus Kim Basinger, Alan Arkin and Kevin Hart.
The movie pits two former champion boxers, Henry “Razor” Sharp (Stallone), and Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (De Niro), who split a pair of fights some thirty years earlier and never had a rubber match. There was no love lost between them, and an enterprising promoter, played by Hart, decided to make a media event out of an improbable third meeting between these, now 60 plus, ex-fighters.
There is, of course, a love interest (Kim Basinger as Sally), and a grizzled old trainer (Alan Arkin as Louis “Lightning” Conlon), plus a cast of comedic to dramatic characters. There’s plenty of drama to go along with watching these stars create a sort of funny geriatric Rocky movie.
A press conference was held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in lower Manhattan on Saturday, December 14th, to let the media hear what the stars, director/producer Peter Segal, and producer Bill Gerber had to say about the movie.
It was a lighthearted press conference. Those in attendance watched the major players involved in the making of this film banter about each other and the various elements of putting it all together.
Kim Basinger said it was a great experience that didn’t start out that way, “It was quite a ride. They work very differently. We all hated each other at the beginning,” she explained. “But we wound up not hating by the end of the movie.” She added to the delight of those in attendance, “Stallone’s a jokester, and De Niro is quiet and sneaky.” All said in good humor.
Stallone talked about the casting of Kevin Hart (as Dante Slate Jr.), no not another geezer, but a funny, energetic young actor who played the promoter, who at the end of this film, is a part of a surprise epilogue that will make audiences sit up in their seats and cheer at an unexpected final scene. Stallone called the casting of Hart, “Inspired.” “You bring in a whole new demographic,” said Sylvester. “It’s one thing to see grumpy old men fight. You bring in Kevin Hart, I said ‘Wow’. Of course Kim Basinger brings in sensuality, so I thought it was very clever.”
Hart was happy, he said, to play a jackass. “Fast talking con artist,” he exclaimed. “Almost myself,” he added provoking laughter. “I cussed at Sly a couple of times. It felt good. I think I said sh*t to his face.” Over all, Hart brought the same humor to the press conference that he so naturally brought to “Grudge Match.”
Academy Award winner Robert De Niro said that being an actor playing a fighter was one thing, but to be one is another, “Tough sport,” he explained. “I’m an actor, not a fighter.” Stallone pretty much echoed those words when they were asked if they would trade their careers to be a boxing world champion.
When they were young men playing boxers in the movies, neither Stallone (“Rocky”) nor De Niro (“Raging Bull”) envisioned doing a similar role past the age of 60. When this reporter asked how they would have reacted back then to the question; can you see yourself in this sort of role when you are past 60? Stallone said “I would have punched him. There was Rocky one; I didn’t know there would be 90.” De Niro, who claimed to have lost 20 pounds to prepare for “Grudge Match” said “I didn’t know if I’d be around (at 60+).”
The movie opens on Christmas day.