Arnold Schwarzenegger Reveals His Machiavellian Sabotage of Sylvester Stallone in TMZ Special

As two titans of Tinseltown in the 1980s and early 1990s, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger found ideal rivals in one another and grew so competitive that the Hollywood heroes resorted to Machiavellian tactics to gain status as the world’s top action star, they revealed on Tuesday in a televised interview from TMZ.

The septuagenarian stars, who are now close friends, sat down for an hourlong primetime special called TMZ Presents: Arnold & Sly: Rivals, Friends, Icons, which debuted on FOX on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET. With TMZ founder Harvey Levin taking on the interviewing honors, the two action flick legends discussed some revealing details of their past rivalry, the troubled childhoods both say they’ve overcome and the faces they’d place alongside their own on a hypothetical Mount Rushmore for action heroes.

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“Well, what is your body fat?’” Schwarzenegger recalled while discussing the multifaceted rivalry. “I was down to 7 percent. So I said I was down to 10 percent — it became a competition with the body. Then he started using machine guns that were like, huge machine guns. I was running after him. He was running after me … so this is how it went. Then he killed 80 people [in Rambo] and I had to kill 87 people.”

As their careers entered their peak era in the early 1990s, this sort of one-upmanship between the two box office sensations got so intense that Schwarzenegger made moves to sabotage Stallone’s trajectory. Specifically, he says he went about ensuring the Rocky Oscar winner was handed the lead in the movie Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, a mother-son buddy cop movie where Stallone starred opposite Golden Girls’ Estelle Getty. Through some trickery of agents, California’s then-future governor made it seem that he, not Stallone, was to be given the lead role in the project, which had been greenlit but seemed to have … questionable appeal, at best. For Schwarzenegger, losing the role to Stallone was a dream come true.

“I was, of course, absolutely in heaven. I felt like the only way that I could catch up with him was if he stumbled,” he revealed. “It was psychological. This is a whole thing about Hollywood. When you’re always as good as your last movie. So I felt kind of like, ‘OK, if Sly would stumble …'”

Stallone’s 1992 comedy crossover attempt has since been called “thoroughly witless and thuddingly unfunny,” per Rotten Tomatoes, but it did manage to bring in a healthy $72 million worldwide. Still, it’s not quite as memorable as Schwarzenegger’s Twins or Kindergarten Cop.

While TMZ’s special is rife with self-aggrandizing sentiments and back-patting from the actors, the two former megastars manage to make solid points about their roles in Hollywood as era-defining, box office record-smashing big screen heroes.

“We came along with a certain era,” Stallone says. “The movies were transitioning — there was no such thing as a real action movie. You saw a car chase, you saw gunplay. There was no action where you actually said, ‘OK, from beginning to end, this guy is in movement. He was doing things. He’s making action happen …’ So we kind of started something that I don’t think exists anymore, at least it doesn’t in the way it was — like a man against the world kind of a thing. Now it’s more, ensemble against the world.”

Asked by Harvey about who would be the two faces that accompany their own were someone to carve an Action Movie Mount Rushmore, Schwarzenegger went with a predecessor in acting and his contemporary as a director, Clint Eastwood. Stallone rounded it out with Bruce Willis, a star who lit up the screen as they both did in their era.

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