At a time when Americans felt frustrated and down—whether at the gas pumps and check-out counters or viewing the nightly news—Sylvester Stallone had the nerve to be cornball and Panglossian. Every other Hollywood sequel bombed last year, including Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, Airport ’79 and More American Graffiti. Yet Stallone’s Rocky II may well out-earn the original and is the No. 1 grosser of 1979. Most of all, though, it was a redemption for Sly, 33, whose punchdrunk excesses of the year before, F.I.S. T. and Paradise Alley, had the industry prematurely droning a requiem for a lightweight. “God must be looking out for me,” says Stallone of the rematch (which he directed). “My life has never been better.”
Partly that’s because the star has come to terms with his celebrity. “You don’t see that madness, the eyes darting around the room,” observes a friend. “Sly knows who he is now. He’s centered.” And secure (or calculating) enough to fire manager Jeff Wald. At the same time, he traded in his long-suffering wife, Sasha, for fellow movie jock Susan (Goldengirl) Anton, 29. Un-threatened by the fact that she’s 5’11” to his 5’10”, he philosophizes that Susan has the look of 21st-century woman. Marriage? “There’s a strong possibility,” confides Stallone.
While Anton soothes the pectoral Sly injured during filming and both wait out divorces (Sasha gets $5 million and custody of sons Sage Moonblood, 3, and Seth, 7 months), they hang out at Stallone’s new Santa Barbara and Bel Air spreads. With $2 million each for his upcoming Attack!(opposite Star Trek’s Persis Khambatta) and Escape to Victory for John Huston, housekeeping funds are no big deal. And before hitting 35 Stallone is determined to shoot Rocky III.