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Sylvester Stallone Isn’t Ranting, He’s Winning At Twitter With His “E3” Play-By-Play

When Sylvester Stallone dissed Bruce Willis on Twitter, it wasn’t another celebrity social meltdown, it was part of the actor-director’s ongoing, Tweeted account of the production process behind The Expendables 3. Stallone, it turns out, is his own social marketing machine.

Sylvester Stallone Isn’t Ranting, He’s Winning At Twitter With His “E3” Play-By-Play

When Sylvester Stallone announced to his 920,000-and-counting Twitter followers that Harrison Ford was replacing Bruce Willis in The Expendables 3–the third installment in his aging-badass franchise due out next summer–it seemed as though yet another star had lost his grip of the social media wheel.

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He tweeted with the diplomacy of a rabid gorilla:

Then, lest anyone wonder how he really felt about Willis, he followed up with:

It felt like the kind of raving outburst perfected in recent months by Amanda Bynes. Or any other celebrity who’s turned to social media as a way to engage fans, only to find that the unbridled freedom of being able to express your thoughts (or post your selfies) to hundreds of thousands of people with a few key taps can be a recipe for disaster.

Naturally, the twittersphere went wild over Stallone’s rant, and stories immediately appeared on entertainment websites about the casting switcheroo, with the Hollywood Reporter explaining the backstory: Willis was offered $3 million for four days of consecutive shooting. He wanted $4 million. People involved with the film, including Stallone–who cowrote and stars in all three Expendables, and directed the first one–said no.

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But the truth is, Stallone is far from a loose cannon when it comes to social media, Twitter in particular. He’s actually quite brilliant about using the forum in a way that not only delights his fans, but includes them in the process of moviemaking. And rarely does he ever veer into the personal, except in the most benign way (“Took the girls riding. They are loving horses like their folks.”) In other words, he’s an exceptional marketer, a quality he’s honed over the years as someone who isn’t just a star for hire but the creative force behind his projects. For those who’ve forgotten (or are too young to know): He wrote all of the Rocky and Rambo films and directed most of the Rockys. And that’s not counting films like Cobra and Cliffhanger, which he similarly wrote and starred in.

All this is to say that Stallone thinks more like a filmmaker than a star. He’s very, very aware of what it means to build awareness for a film early on and knows exactly how to do it. The Willis outburst, if anything, felt perfectly calibrated to make the world start thinking about a movie that isn’t due out for another year.

As for fans who were already invested in E3, Stallone’s Twitter account is a case study of how to pull them in tighter by sharing behind-the-scenes anecdotes about everything from writing to casting to location scouting. Unlike some celebrities, whose attempts to do this can feel scripted and publicity-approved, Stallone’s tweets feel unapologetically and charmingly like Stallone. Lots of exclamation points, all caps, and macho shout-outs to compadres like “SEAGAL” and “WESLEY.” As well as more controversial musings, such as wondering if Mel Gibson would direct E3.

“Mel is a MAGNIFICENT director! Pure passion on every level. we’d be blessed to have him.. A REAL long shot, but LIFE is a long shot -right?” Stallone Tweeted back in April.

Soon following up with: “Sorry, tried hard, Mel’s living his own life….”

Here’s a more complete sampling of how Stallone has been carefully conducting bread-crumb-style marketing for his movie:

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March 12:

April 20:

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April 23:

May 15:

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May 18:

May 19:

July 17:

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(*DOLPH LUNDGREN right sly?)