1982 Film “Rambo” has Penn State ties

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WTAJ) — Every once in a while, an artists’ hard work pays off, and sometimes, if you’re lucky, a masterpiece is born.

That’s exactly what happened for an award-winning author, David Morrell, who attended Penn State University. This is the story of the creation of “Rambo.”

It’s a movie known by millions around the globe. Rambo is the man, the machine, the tough guy played by award-winning American-actor Sylvester Stallone.

Before the movie was ever created or thought of, you have to travel back to 1966 when David Morrell began to write his novel “First Blood,” all while attending Penn State University.

“Penn State was a major change in my life, I spent four years there, it was extremely rewarding,” Morrell said.

Morrell, now 77 and with nearly five decades as an award-winning published author, lives in New Mexico, but it was the terrain around Penn State University that Rambo was born. Even though he first had his eye on Kentucky.

“As a lowly poor graduate student, I didn’t have the money to travel to Kentucky, so I used the environment around Penn State to double for Kentucky, so the mountains that Rambo rushes through are the mountains, the Allegheny mountains of central Pennsylvania,” Morrell said.

“There’s a character in the novel named Shingleton, there’s a small town near PSU called Shingleton, in particular a town called Bellefonte, doubled for the town in the novel, and in the novel, there’s an old schoolhouse that is the police station and that schoolhouse existed in Bellefonte,” Morrell said.

The NYT best-selling author said he had a very tough childhood, and at times, Morrell said he would sleep under his bed when he was orphaned as a child. “And while I slept under the bed, I told stories to myself in which I was the hero rescuing people, I was four or five years old, so in a sense, in my youth, my upbringing channeled me to be a writer,” Morrell said.

In 1972, “First Blood” was released, and Rambo was about to take center stage. It took ten years for the right movie studio to pick up the book and turn it into a screenplay.

Morrell was able to spend time with the actor who would go on to star in numerous legendary films later in his career, Sylvester Stallone. “The obvious question is what’s he like, a very personable, very smart, what you would take away most key is his sense of humor that he’s very funny, a lot of jokes often at his own expense,” Morrell said.

Morrell credits his ability, determination and good luck for his successes.

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