Sylvester Stallone challenges Myanmar junta

LONDON Sat Feb 2, 2008 3:56pm EST

Actor Sylvester Stallone poses during a photocall to promote the movie ''Rambo'' in Madrid January 28, 2008. Stallone stars in this film which he also wrote and directed. REUTERS/Susana Vera

Actor Sylvester Stallone poses during a photocall to promote the movie ''Rambo'' in Madrid January 28, 2008. Stallone stars in this film which he also wrote and directed.

Credit: Reuters/Susana Vera

LONDON (Reuters) - Not satisfied with slugging it out with Myanmar's military government on celluloid in his latest "Rambo" film, Sylvester Stallone wants to go there and confront the junta face-to-face over human rights.

Stallone, who said he was gearing up to make a fifth and final installment in the blood-and-guts series, told Reuters that media reports of his film becoming a bootleg hit in the former Burma, and an inspiration to dissidents, was a pinnacle in his movie career.

"These incredibly brave people have found, kind of a voice, in a very odd way, in American cinema... They've actually used some of the film's quotes as rallying points," Stallone, 61, said in a telephone interview.

"That, to me, is the one of the proudest moments I've ever had in film."

Residents in Yangon told Reuters this week that police had given strict orders to DVD hawkers to not stock the movie -- named simply "Rambo". Locals said fans had "gone crazy" over lines in the hero's brusque dialog such as: "Live for nothing. Die for something."

In the film, Vietnam War veteran John Rambo -- best known for mowing down enemies with an M60 machine gun in the 1980's -- comes out of retirement in Thailand to save a group of Christian missionaries from a sadistic Myanmar army major.

Stallone said that, rather than make a film about Iraq or Darfur, he focused on a lesser-known crisis before Myanmar suddenly grabbed the spotlight in September when the military junta crushed a pro-democracy campaign led by Buddhist monks.

Officials put the death toll from the crackdown at 15, but diplomats and aid groups say it is much higher and some media have reported hundreds -- or thousands -- were killed.

"People finally got the idea of how brutal these people are," said Stallone.

INVITE ME, PLEASE

Stallone's movie specifically focuses on the Karen tribe of eastern Myanmar. UK-based Christian Aid says the Karen and other groups have suffered half a million cases of forced relocation and thousands more have been imprisoned, tortured or killed.

Many ethnic rebel groups have fought Burmese governments for more autonomy since independence from Britain in 1948. Stallone said he was in communication with some, and several former freedom fighters acted in the movie.

And he hopes the film can provoke a confrontation.

"I'm only hoping that the Burmese military, because they take such incredible offence to this, would call it lies and scurrilous propaganda. Why don't you invite me over?" he said.

"Let me take a tour of your country without someone pointing a gun at my head and we'll show you where all the bodies are buried... Or let's go debate in Washington in front of a congressional hearing... But I doubt that's going to happen."

"Rambo" opened last month second in north American box office returns to the ancient Greek warrior spoof "Meet the Spartans", making $18.2 million in its first week.

Stallone said he was happy with what he described as "the bloodiest, R film (for) a generation" and hoped to make another.

"It will depend on the success of this one, but right now I think I'm gearing one up. It will be quite different," he said.

"We'll do something a little darker and a little more unexpected."

(Editing by Matthew Jones)