The 2023 Toronto International Film Festival will wrap with a documentary—and one of the biggest movie stars on the planet. Sly, a portrait of actor-writer-director Sylvester Stallone’s life and prolific career, will be the Closing Night Gala for this year’s festival. The Netflix doc will have its world premiere at Roy Thomson Hall on Saturday, September 16. Directed by Thom Zimny, who previously scored a TIFF Gala with the Bruce Springsteen doc Western Stars, Sly recounts a career that spans nearly 50 years and some of the most iconic roles in drama and action cinema.
“Stallone’s story is one of perseverance, triumph, and his indelible mark left on the world of film, and we couldn’t be more honoured to share it with our audiences as our Closing Night film,” said TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey in a statement from the Festival. “Celebrating the legacy of a true icon, Sly takes audiences on an intimate journey through the life of Stallone, a cultural touchstone whose impact on cinema spans nearly half a century. Sly offers an unexpected and heartfelt exploration of the man behind the action megastar.”
Sly marks a big get for the festival this year. Beyond bringing a major name to the red carpet, TIFF also lands a hot Netflix title in an overall line-up that’s lighter on studio releases than usual. The press release announcing the selection notes that TIFF will respect protocols regarding SAG-AFTRA members amid the actors and writers strikes, but that “Sly is a documentary film not covered by the SAG-AFTRA TV/theatrical agreements.”
An Underdog Story
The film appropriately offers an underdog story to leave audiences inspired by the end of the festival. Best known for his iconic role as boxer Rocky Balboa in the 1976 Best Picture Oscar winner Rocky, Stallone quickly became one of Hollywood’s top stars after his breakthrough turn. Stallone reprised the role in several follow-ups, including 2016’s Creed, for which he received an Oscar nomination and won a Golden Globe. Stallone also received two Oscar nominations for Rocky in the categories of Best Actor and Best Screenplay. But Sly also looks at the hard knocks that Stallone has faced with the critics, and projects that didn’t live up to expectations.
Stallone’s career is also immortalized in characters like John Rambo in First Blood (1982) and its sequels. His extensive list of credits as an actor includes Cliffhanger (1993), The Specialist (1995), The Expendables (2010), and the Paramount+ series Tulsa King, which debuted this year. Stallone also has several credits to his name as director, including Rocky II (1979), Staying Alive (1983), Rocky Balboa (2006), and The Expendables, all of which he wrote. Stallone serves as executive producer on Sly, along with Braden Aftergood, Bill Zanker, Sam Delcanto, Jon Beyer, Tom Forman, and Jenny Daly. Sean Stuart serves as producer in his feature debut after the Sundance-award winning dramatic short The Devil’s Harmony.
TIFF previously announced that Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron would kick off the Festival as this year’s Opening Night Gala. Docs previously announced include the rockumentary Hate to Love: Nickelback among the Galas and James Erskine and Rachel Ramsay’s COPA 71 as the TIFF Docs opener. TIFF runs September 7 to 17.