The town where one of Hollywood North’s first blockbusters was filmed now has a permanent red cedar reminder of the industry’s beginnings. And the carving, of Sylvester Stallone’s character John J. Rambo, is officially Sly-approved according to the man himself.
On Instagram, Stallone posted that he was very proud of the “massive” Rambo statue installed in Hope, “exactly where we shot First Blood.” He also gave a shout out to carver Ryan Villiers, who was commissioned to take on the reincarnation of Rambo’s iconic look in red cedar.
Villiers, an Edmonton-based chainsaw carver, has made a name for himself in the industry by taking on lifelike carvings of Don Cherry and Norm from Cheers. It was these carvings that caught the eye of Hope councillor and leader with Communities in Bloom Victor Smith, who commissioned Villiers for this project.
The process began with a lot of Googling of Rambo in different angles – Villiers estimates he had two to three hundred screenshots on his phone. Then it was about scaling, getting the proper proportions which he has modeled on his own frame.
Throughout the creative process, Villiers heard from Sly’s agent after he had seen his progress on the piece. Stallone was shown the photos of the carving when it was still just bare wood, and loved it his agent said in a text message. “So that was icing on the cake for me,” Villiers said.
The only question the agent had, allegedly from Sly himself, was around the stature of the art piece. The carving, Villiers answered, stands 6 foot 1 inch tall.
“First Blood fans have been waiting for this moment for almost 30 years,”said local tourism promoter Bryan McKinney on the day of the unveiling of the piece Aug. 14. Fans of the franchise always wonder when they visit Hope and its many chainsaw carvings, McKinney said, where the Rambo carving is.
And with the piece now installed, McKinney is also able to push back against the digs from his friends in Philadelphia who have their own bronze statue of Rocky Balboa in their city.
“This day is for the fans, the millions of them, that are around the globe and I’m not lying, it’s a little bit of an emotional day for sure,” McKinney reflected on the unveiling. “We often like to say, you know what, the co-star of this film is Hope, B.C. and a lot of the fans they come to our town because of the way the town looked on screen.”
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