The Real Reason Behind Sylvester Stallone’s Distinctive Facial Features

Stallone facial paralysis
Sylvester Stallone / Wikimedia Commons/Wikipedia

Fans of Rocky, Rambo, and many other action movies have come to know and love the distinct snarled lip and tough facial features of Sylvester Stallone. They are seen as unique aspects of a successful actor who frequently depicts rough and tumble characters. However many fans are unaware that Stallone’s facial features are the result of complications during his birth. The physician delivering Stallone had to use a pair of forceps to deliver him. This process severed a nerve and caused paralysis in parts of his tongue and chin.

Stallone has managed to turn the effects of this mishap into an advantage in his acting career. His permanent scowl fits in perfectly with the action movie characters he depicts such as Rambo. Furthermore, Stallone’s slightly slurred speech doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem. It even adds to his depiction of characters like Rocky Balboa, who famously wasn’t much of a brain.


Stallone and Balboa

Still, the narrative of Rocky may give a bit of insight into Stallone’s difficult early life. Stallone stated to the Chicago Tribune that growing up with facial paralysis made him feel like, “Mr. Potato Head with all the parts in the wrong place”. He suffered bullying as a child and was told that his brain was “dormant”. These events are what inspired Stallone to start bodybuilding.


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In a similar way, Rocky Balboa was unfairly deemed as unintelligent early on. At the ice rink, Rocky reveals to Adrian that his father told him, “You weren’t born much of a brain, so you better start using your body”. Since no one believed that Rocky was smart he started fighting to make money.  Physical strength became his career.

A different story in the making

While at face value it doesn’t seem to bother Rocky that people see him as unintelligent, Rocky II tells a different story. While shooting a commercial, Rocky is called out by the director for having trouble reading the teleprompter cards. Rocky tells the director, “I ain’t punchy it’s just the way I talk”. He quits the commercial, obviously frustrated and embarrassed. Later Rocky is seen reading to Adrian, showing that he really does care about his ability to read and his intelligence.

Like Rocky, Stallone grew up underprivileged and underestimated. He didn’t believe he would make it in the film industry because of the way he spoke. Growing up being seen as unintelligent could only have been detrimental to his self-esteem. However, also like Rocky, Stallone turned his disadvantages into strengths and is now one of the most beloved actors of all time.

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