The battle over whether Philadelphia or Baltimore can lay claim to macabre author Edgar Allan Poe has been raging for years, but if Sylvester Stallone gets his way with a project that has long been in the works, we’re guessing Poe will have to be considered a Philadelphian by proximity to Rocky himself.
Sly, of course, is currently hard at work on the script for an Edgar Allan Poe biopic — one that he claims to have started work on several decades ago in what he called “a never-ending journey” in a post on Instagram earlier this month.
“I would hate myself if I don’t continue it at least to the best of my ability and try to see it actually come to fruition,” Stallone says in the clip. “To be able to go out there and say, ‘I accomplished it. It may have taken 45 or 50 years, but it’s done.”
Eagle-eyed Stallone fans, however, may remember that he previously teased the Poe pic in another Instagram post in Sept. 2017, writing that the script was his “first serious screenplay.” What’s more, Stallone even saw himself in the 19th-century author enough to want to play him on screen, and even shared an image of himself mocked up as Poe to prove it.
“I realized I wasn’t really right for the part, so this is all that remains,” Stallone wrote, adding that one day he might still direct the movie. As Stallone previously told HuffPo in 2013, he had also been eyeing actor Robert Downey Jr. for the part.
The director’s connection to Poe is an artistic one, with Stallone seeing the author as an iconoclast of his time who could still inspire people today.
“His work was too hip for the room…but he developed the modern mystery story,” Stallone said in 2013. “He was just an extraordinary guy.”
That may explain why Stallone has stuck with the project for so long. As the Instagram video from earlier this month shows, Stallone has a slew of previous drafts of the film’s script that date back to the 1970s. In that sense, Stallone said, the movie is “one of the great challenges of my life.”
“But like Poe used to say, ‘I promise to take life by the throat and I shall not let go until I succeed,’” Stallone said.
If it gets a release, Stallone’s Poe flick may help put to to bed the argument that Philadelphia has long had with Baltimore over which city can claim the author as its own. After all, while Sly is not a Philadelphian technically, he did write and star in Rocky, so we’re comfortable claiming him — and Poe, though Baltimore does have a good argument there.
A Boston native, the author actually died and was buried in Baltimore in 1849, called the city home for several years in the 1830s, and had familial connections to the city, leading Baltimore to call him one of their own, right down to naming their football team the Ravens after Poe’s most famous poem. However, Poe also lived in Philadelphia from 1838 to 1844, a period during which he published beloved horror stories like “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and “The Gold-Buy,” among others, and his former home on North 7th Street has been preserved as a National Historic Site.
As NPR reports, the battle over who owns Poe’s legacy started around 2007, when the now-defunct City Paper published a story dubbing the Poe situation a form of “literary grave robbing.” In reply, The Baltimore Sun published an editorial titled “We Have the Body, and We’re Keeping Him,” resulting in something of a cross-city journalism dust-up online, as the Inquirer reported at the time (and in the form of a poem, to boot).
Now, more than a decade later, little has changed, but it could all end soon thanks to Stallone.
“Yo, Poe,” Stallone said on Instagram this month. “Keep punching.”