We've seen Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone in a boxing ring. But never together. Until now. As 'Grudge Match' brings together two of Hollywood's longest-serving A-listers to the canvas, we ask - which of these two is actually the bigger star?
It was one of the biggest shocks in the annals of Hollywood when Sylvester Stallone stole the Best Picture Oscar in 1976, with his boxing epic 'Rocky'.
Stallone was also - oddly to think now - nominated for Best Actor that year, for his title role. Alongside him in the shortlist, such luminaries as Peter Finch, who won, William Holden and Robert De Niro.
De Niro and Stallone back in the ring for 'Grudge Match'
For De Niro, this was at the height of his purple patch, when his name was synonymous with commitment to gruelling, vanity-free roles, and portrayals of complex, solitary anti-heroes with almost audible internal monologues. He'd already won an Oscar for his unique, still presence to The Godfather Part II ( 1974) and formed his partnership with Martin Scorsese in 'Mean Streets' (1973). By the time Sly was polishing his Oscar, De Niro was ready for his career-defining position as Marty's Muse.
Scorsese took him under his wing and steered performances from him that still set the bar today. In 'Raging Bull', 'Taxi Driver', later 'Goodfellas' and 'Casino', he proved a master in depicting the underbelly of the American dream, with every tic and nuance rooted in an authentic, hard-earned observation of the minute, the localised and specific, and the disappearance of Robert De Niro as we knew him.
Robert De Niro making it look painful in 'Raging Bull'
Meanwhile, Sylvester Stallone was treading an altogether different, but no less committed, path. Both 'Rocky' and 'Rocky II' - with scripts entirely penned by Stallone, the first one in 20 straight hours - were a pleasing meeting of fact, fiction and self-fulfilling prophecy. What Stallone brought to the screen with his hero Mr Balboa - a plucky man in need of a break, risking it all on one last throw of the dice and coming off a champion - he achieved equally off-screen, the outsider making good with an Oscar in his hand and a five-sequel franchise that went on to scoop more than a billion dollars at the box office.
With this winning formula, why change it when a simple tweak to suit the politics of the day would suffice? Whether by intuition or not, this self-believing self-creation managed to tap into the zeitgeist of a cinema-going generation. In the fourth instalment, Rocky went to Russia at the height of the Cold War, breaking bread with the Reds and Brigitte Nielsen after he'd broken the spirit of Dolph Lundgren.
Then Stallone upped the ante, decanting his action-man skills into combat veteran, former Green Beret John Rambo, a man who evolves from post-traumatic stress disorder after Vietnam to one-handedly taking on the Soviets in Afghanistan and later dispensing humanitarian aid in Burma. The result of this franchise... another $726 million dollars at the box office.
Sylvester Stallone doing his bit for East-West relations in 'Rocky IV'
Since then, whether it's been as a jail-breaking policeman ('Tango and Cash'), an arm-wrestling father ('Over the Top'), or a bomb disposal expert ('The Specialist'), he has been painting the broad brush-strokes of general truths (man will always help one friend, man wants to impress son, man is lost without good woman, man needs to lift logs not machines) with every nuance, every tic, remaining unmistakably that of Sylvester Stallone.
But two great levellers have come to bear on these great dichotomous careers - age, and presumably the need to feather ones nest with high-pedigree down that comes with it.
For De Niro, this has necessitated a succession of comedy roles and cameo appearances, recognising and playing on his unique screen persona, one which seems to lend it self all too easily to such staple screen tropes as enigmatic guru ('Limitless') and threatening father-in-law ('Meet the Fockers').
In Stallone's case, keeping the show on the road has seen him elected to chairman of a brand new club - the self-aware ageing heavies. And a lucrative gig that is too, with the 'Expendables' already up to three films in four years, and a helpful $786 million at the box office.
In a (double) word for both: lucrative self-parody. And 'Grudge Match' is where these two worlds meet. The pair appeared together in 'Copland' but that wasn't in a boxing ring, so not quite as self-aware.
A quick glance at the respective booty...
Total acting entries on IMDB:
Robert De Niro - 103
Sylvester Stallone - 72
Oscars and other acting awards:
Robert De Niro - 2 Oscars, 2 Golden Globes, 45 other major wins at Festivals around the world
Sylvester Stallone - Oscar for 'Rocky', French Cesar Award, multiple People's Choice gongs, multiple Razzie Awards including one for worst actor of the decade
Robert De Niro - $150 million
Sylvester Stallone - $400 million
However, this chart doesn't tell us the whole story - for that we need to decide what being a true film star is, whether it's someone who can disappear completely into one role after another over an impressively long career, or whether it's someone whose charisma and self-belief allows him to remain himself through film after film, and enjoy the same kind of longevity. It looks like there's a clear winner to be found, whichever way you decide to go, and whatever going to the cinema means to you.
Meanwhile, in the final reckoning, when the respective curtains call for these two, they will both be considered screen legends in the true and deserving Hollywood parlance. And we will no doubt be treated to footage of each of them in a boxing ring.
'Grudge Match' is available on Sky Movies. All TV data referred to in this article has been supplied by Virgin Media, which provides access to up to 260+ channels including Sky Movies, Freeview, Fox TV, Virgin Movies and Netflix.