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Aging actors can predict their golden years with some certainty.
They’ll play supporting roles, coaching much younger co-stars to victory, if they’re lucky. Otherwise, they’ll work the Comic-Con circuit peddling autographs tied to their glory days or just hope the phone will ring one more time.
Tell that to Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Stallone, 77, and Schwarzenegger, 76, once went head-to-head at the U.S. box office. Now, they’re still going strong, landing lead roles and flexing the star power that first lit up decades ago.
They even have dueling documentaries that capture their larger-than-life careers.
It’s almost like the 1980s never ended. But why can’t we let go of the pair and bond with younger stars still in their industry prime?
Nostalgia plays a part, no doubt. We can’t quit these superstars, much like the public mourning that followed fellow action star Bruce Willis’ forced retirement due to his aphasia diagnosis.
It helps that both Stallone and Schwarzenegger have worked very hard to stay in shape, far better than most of their audience members.
There’s something else in play. The actors are keenly aware of their image, and that hasn’t ebbed over time. They’re populist figures who win the day by the third act. They rarely cast themselves against type, knowing audiences expect a certain performance from them.
Stallone is still licking his professional wounds from comedic duds like “Oscar” and “Stop, Or My Mom Will Shoot.”
They’re loathe to disappoint the very fans that kept their careers afloat for more than 80 years, combined.
And, most shocking of all, few modern stars can compete with these senior citizens. They’ve been neutered by cries of “toxic masculinity,” something Stallone and Schwarzenegger would never let happen.
Schwarzenegger’s comeback may be the more surprising. He ditched Hollywood for politics as his A-list status was fading, becoming California’s last Republican governor in 2003. He left politics after his second term and went back to Hollywood.
Except his fan base wasn’t eager for his return, at least not yet.
Films like “The Last Stand” ($12 million), “Sabotage” ($10 million) and “Escape Plan” ($25 million) hardly lit the box office ablaze. Even his two “Terminator” sequels, “Genisys” and “Dark Fate,” drew modest crowds.
He kept plugging away, turning in credible turns in the indie horror movie “Maggie” and “Dark Fate,” despite the latter reducing him to a secondary role. He stole the film anyway.
Then a funny thing happened to the former Mr. Olympia. Netflix gave his career a second life. The combination of a three-part documentary, efficiently named “Arnold,” reminded America just why he became the biggest star in the Hollywood galaxy.
The docuseries came on the heels of the action-comedy series “FUBAR” put him back on the Hollywood map. Variety reported the show generated 88.94 million hours viewed after hitting the streaming service for just four days.
Now, he’s got more gigs lined up and a second season of “FUBAR,” assuming the actors ever end their current strike.
Stallone hasn’t stopped working, at all, but he’s recently seen an uptick in high-profile gigs. Not only has he played Rocky Balboa again in two successful “Creed” films, he’s kept busy with both “Rambo” and “Expendables” sequels. The fourth film in the latter series drops in September.
Last year, he headlined the Amazon Prime original “Samaritan,” but his best role in ages came courtesy of “Yellowstone” overlord Taylor Sheridan. The writer/director’s “Tulsa King” cast Stallone as an aging New York gangster farmed out to Oklahoma to stay far, far away from the rest of the mobsters. Except Dwight Manfredi tames Tulsa in short order, causing new problems for his old “family.”
Sheridan is known for avoiding woke storytelling tics, but his “Tulsa King” brings something else to the TV landscape. Stallone’s anti-hero could be the poster child for toxic masculinity. He gets what he wants, when he wants, and he often doesn’t care who he needs to shove aside to make it happen.
Those characteristics, while often brutish in nature, aren’t condemned in any 21st century fashion. We can’t help but admire his brio. It’s infectious, and while we don’t condone his illegal antics it’s comforting to see him flex his power.
That he often does so to protect women, especially his grown daughter, makes that masculinity even more appealing.
How many younger stars could pull that off?
The actor earned sold notices for his performance in the show along with a second season renewal, and he’s about to get another blast of fame. Netflix will debut “Sly,” a documentary capturing his colorful career, on November 3.
Stallone and Schwarzenegger aren’t the only aging stars the public craves. A recent poll of stars who can still draw a crowd featured fellow veterans like Denzel Washington (68), Brad Pitt (59) and Tom Cruise (61) in that bracket.
The younger generation just doesn’t cut it, at least when it comes to putting fannies in seats (or drawing streaming eyeballs).
Stallone and Schwarzenegger, both closer to the big 80 than they’d like to admit, may never go out of style.
Christian Toto is an award-winning journalist, movie critic and editor of HollywoodInToto.com. He previously served as associate editor with Breitbart News’ Big Hollywood. Follow him at @HollywoodInToto.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.