Every hour seems to bring on another wave of nervousness about the next four years, but there’s finally one bit of news that might not be that bad. According to the Daily Mail, President-elect Donald Trump intends to nominate Sylvester Stallone as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.
According to the Mail: “Donald Trump has drawn ‘first blood’ in the search for his incoming administration’s senior arts role—by tapping up Rambo legend Sylvester Stallone. Sources have told DailyMail.com the president-elect sees Hollywood icon Stallone as the perfect choice to make art great again.”
To be sure, this is a weakly attributed story, even if it does open with a decent Rambo pun and a cheap allusion to Trump’s campaign slogan. And the rest of the Mail‘s story is just backfill on Stallone’s support for previous Republican candidates like John McCain in 2008. But, man, do I hope it’s true. Here’s why:
For starters, Stallone wouldn’t really be an unconventional choice to head up the National Endowment for the Arts, which has thrived, perhaps not unsurprisingly, when its been led by arty types. Its founding chairman, Roger Stevens, was a Broadway producer, was President Obama‘s first appointee to the post, Rocco Landesman. The actress Jane Alexander ran it during Bill Clinton‘s first term. George W. Bush‘s appointment, California poet Dana Gioia, was able to fend off congressional hacks more interested in the budget-cutting and armchair censorship favored by the chairmen appointed by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Perhaps Stallone, as a director and producer familiar with managing eight-digit movie budgets, would have an easy transition to a $146 million agency that makes grants.
As far as potential Trump appointees go, Stallone would actually be a fairly predictable one. Consider Trump’s choices of several retired generals. Trump’s love of military brass is often couched in comparisons to General George S. Patton, to whom he’s compared his designated nominee for defense secretary, James Mattis. Yet there’s also evidence that Trump’s Patton-idolatry is informed not by reading history but from the 1970 film Patton. For all we know, the president-elect actually believes that in nominating Stallone to head the NEA, he would be getting a real-life two-time heavyweight boxing champion, a Vietnam veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and an aging mercenary whose best friend is Handsome Rob from The Italian Job.
Stallone is also kind of a local. His family moved to Washington in the early 1950s—although he moved to Philadelphia by the time he entered high school—and his brother, Frank, still lives in Potomac. (Frank Stallone’s Twitter photo also depicts him wearing a camouflage “Make America Great Again.”)
Being appointed to lead the NEA would also give Stallone something of a capstone after a mostly laudable film career that has slid off in recent years. Aside from Creed, last year’s excellent Rocky reprise in which Stallone passed on his most famous creation to Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan, Stallone’s latter-day roles have been pretty rough. To be fair, Grudge Match is as much on Robert DeNiro as it is on Stallone, but it still happened. Surely, Stallone’s taking a big government job would spare the world from The Expendables 4.
And film is not the only medium in which Stallone is established. He also has a proven track record in sculpture, as any resident of the fighting city of Philadelphia will proudly tell you.
The Daily Mail‘s story may not bear out in reality, but I really hope it does so we can see Trump nominate Sylvester Stallone to lead the National Endowment for the Arts, only for the Senate reject him. After all, Rocky is supposed to lose.