It was 20 years ago this week that Sylvester Stallone made his return to high-octane action in the big-budget thriller Cliffhanger, and we've got vintage footage from the film's set as Sly readied for a rough-and-tumble, snowbound stunt – and had Domino's Pizza on his mind.
Shin-deep in the mountaintop snow, Sly jokes to the camera often, and in the middle of reminiscing about a gunshot effect gone wrong while shooting Nighthawks with Rutger Hauer, his cell phone rings (the giant, walkie-talkie type from the early '90s) and it's Northern Exposure co-star Janine Turner checking in to see how he's doing from a hotel suite in Venice…
"You want to know where I am???!" asks Sly on the phone. "I'm on Entertainment Tonight right now being rigged up to be shot, and you're ordering room service…"
The edge-of-your-seat action spectacular was a return to form for Stallone, whose previous two comedic outings – Oscar and Stop! Or MY Mom Will Shoot -- stalled at the box office. In Cliffhanger, Stallone plays Gabe Walker, an expert mountain climber who's lost his edge after he fails to save a friend. Almost a year later, he's tasked to help rescue a group of stranded people -- and soon finds himself battling ruthless criminals, led by John Lithgow, looking to retrieve $100 million in lost cash.
Amusingly, Cliffhanger director Renny Harlin recently confided to ETonline that before he shot a frame of film on the movie, Sly told him he had a fear of heights. "When he first arrived in the Italian Alps and came to look at the location for the first time, he looked up at this 11,000-foot peak that was in front of us," recalled Harlin. "I said, 'That's where our set is.' And he's like, 'So who's going to go up there?' I said, 'You are.' He looks at me and he says, 'You gotta be kidding. I have a fear of heights. The highest I will ever go is the heels of my cowboy boots.' And it became my task to trick him into wanting to be higher in the mountains, because he thought he would be done with trickery and stunt people."
The 53-year-old Finnish filmmaker continued, "I knew his psychology and I put him in a situation where it would have been embarrassing for him to, in front of the crew, refuse to get there. Obviously, I was able to get him there, and then once I got him to relax he was more than willing to do everything, and even more that I wanted him to do. The highest peak that we worked was 13,000 feet high, and there he was right on the edge, basically doing whatever it took."
So, how did Harlin coax Stallone into a helicopter in the first place to get airlifted to such lofty locations? "He was okay with a helicopter as long as the door was closed," quipped Harlin.