Sylvester Stallone might be used to getting his own way but he met his match in Michael Caine.
Escape To Victory is back on TV screens and it is unclear which of its leading men is the more unlikely star of the World War II film about a plucky group of footballing prisoners of war.
Sylvester Stallone had previously said he believed “football was for sissies” while Michael Caine’s athletic abilities at 47 were summed up by co-star football legend Ossie Ardiles as, “Awful, and he couldn’t even run twenty yards.”
The two actors also clashed behind the scenes, with an unexpected victor.
The Alfie tough guy dealt a swift KO to the Rocky champ during a shoot that left Stallone with broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder.
The film hit headlines because it included an extraordinary array of famous footie players from Pele and Bobby Moore, plus Osvaldo Ardilles and numerous teammates from Ipswich Town, which was one of the biggest teams in Europe at the time.
During an interview to promote Victory, Stallone said: “I thought Rocky was tough, but I’ve never trained so hard. I thought soccer was a sissy sport until they kicked the ball into my stomach and I crossed the border into Austria with haematomas on both hips.”
In the first few days filming the football scenes for the film, the actor suffered a broken rib and dislocated shoulder. Another broken rib would follow and then a broken finger thanks to Brazilian legend Pele.
Stallone told the BBC: “That was one of the low points of my life. What a butt-kicking I got! I still have a broken finger from trying to block a penalty by Pele.
“He put on a pair of World War II shoes, which were steel-tipped, and the ball was like a cannonball – it was twice as thick and heavy as footballs are today… He was telling me he was going to take a shot and I thought ‘It’s soccer, what’s the big deal? It’s easy.’ The ball still flew past me before I could move…
“He did it again, and it ripped through the back of the net and broke a window in the barracks where we were filming. I went ‘Are you kidding me?’ I found a new kind of respect.”
Caine also demonstrated that respect needed to be earned behind the scenes, but used his wits, not his muscles.
Stallone had demanded that he was only called to set when a shot was ready to take, as he was busy writing the script for Rocky III at the time.
When he also started to turn up late, Caine told him he too had important things to do elsewhere (he didn’t really) and would henceforth turn up whenever he liked. The point was made and Stallone was always on time.
Caine later revealed he only accepted the role for the chance to meet and work with Pele.
Stallone, meanwhile, had not signed on for the story or his reputed $1.8million payday, but rather because the film was being helmed by the legendary John Hughes.
Stallone said: “There are some directors you just almost automatically jump at the chance to work with.”
Huston, in his turn, later distanced himself from the film and said he only did it for the money!
Caine and Stallone would go on to work together again in 2000’s Get Carter.
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