Man reveals how a pep talk from Sylvester Stallone changed his life

Man reveals how a pep talk from Sylvester Stallone changed his life

Sylvester Stallone really is one of the coolest celebrities in Hollywood: one of the biggest box office draws in the world, and an enduring symbol of sheer machismo and action heroism. Not only that, but he has the distinction of having played two of the most iconic protagonists in cinema: namely blue-collar boxer Rocky Balboa, and traumatised 'Nam veteran John Rambo. An actor, director, producer, screenwriter, and a folk hero to the city of Philadelphia, he remains a legend. But recently, an ordinary man with a tragic background revealed how pep-talks from Stallone changed his life forever.

Government adviser Mark Riddell, now 49-years-old, did not have a happy childhood growing up, coming from a violent and dysfunctional home in Aberdeen, Scotland, he was placed into care by social services when he mother died of a brain haemorrhage after leaving his abusive father. But when he left school at 16 and ended up working in a fish factory, he was depressed and suicidal.

Mark Riddell standing next to Sylvester Stallone while filming Rambo. Credit: Press Association

However, everything changed when he met a Swedish backpacker who convinced him to go travelling. At age 19 he began backpacking himself, heading to Greece, and subsequently Israel, working odd jobs like fruit packing. Co-incidently, he was in Israel at the same time that Stallone was filming Rambo III, and thus by chance ended up working as an extra on the shoot. This gave him the chance to get close to Stallone, who took a shine to him and passed on advice and motivation to the struggling young Scotsman.

Commenting on the fateful meeting, Mark said: "Sylvester Stallone was one of the two people who has inspired me the most in life. He showed me to keep things real and never to give up ... Sometimes, it just takes one person, who shows a little bit of interest to change your life. If I hadn’t met Sylvester Stallone ... I wouldn’t be sat, working in government today, with an MBE."

"I was standing in a bar called the Red Lion and bumped into a guy from Scotland, who was working as a casting agent for Rambo III, which was being filmed in Israel. At first, I thought he was joking, but he insisted he was deadly serious when he told me to come up to the set and work as an extra for a few weeks ... He walked in between us and it was one of those ‘wow’ moments. He patted me on the shoulder and I went to the front with 11 other people"

A contemporary photo of Mark Riddell. Credit: Press Association

He added: "When we had lunch on the set, we would all sit down together and Sylvester Stallone would tell stories.He said he was always going to do something great. He said he decided he would write a story and that was the Rocky story. I started to speak to him about my background and he told me about always having determination. He told me he wrote his story, went round the film houses and wouldn’t sell it unless he had the main part in it. He wanted it to feel right ... Despite everything, I still remember the conversations I had with Sylvester Stallone about being determined to succeed. It did change everything."

Happily, Mark's story has a positive ending. He has gone on to have a successful career working in children’s homes, and supporting people leaving care all across the UK. In 2017, he was even appointed National Implementation Advisor for care leavers. It's amazing how the encouragement of an idol can change your life. Thank god for Styveste Stallone.