Hope B.C.’s new Rambo carving is Sly-approved

Hope’s first chainsaw carving of John J. Rambo, in red cedar, is installed at Memorial park on Aug. 14, 2020. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)Hope’s first chainsaw carving of John J. Rambo, in red cedar, is installed at Memorial park on Aug. 14, 2020. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
Carver Ryan Villiers puts finishing touches on the lifelike chainsaw carving of John J. Rambo (played by Sylvester Stallone) before it was installed at Hope’s Memorial Park Aug. 14, 2020. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)Carver Ryan Villiers puts finishing touches on the lifelike chainsaw carving of John J. Rambo (played by Sylvester Stallone) before it was installed at Hope’s Memorial Park Aug. 14, 2020. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
Hope’s first Rambo statue stands at the edge of Memorial Park, the exact spot where the town’s first ever carving was positioned. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)Hope’s first Rambo statue stands at the edge of Memorial Park, the exact spot where the town’s first ever carving was positioned. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
Brian McKinney said Hope is lucky to still have much of the same ‘look’, the same geography and even some of the original structures, as when Rambo First Blood was filmed in 1981. A chainsaw carving of John J. Rambo stands facing Wallace Street in Hope Aug. 14, 2020. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)Brian McKinney said Hope is lucky to still have much of the same ‘look’, the same geography and even some of the original structures, as when Rambo First Blood was filmed in 1981. A chainsaw carving of John J. Rambo stands facing Wallace Street in Hope Aug. 14, 2020. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
The Aug. 14, 2020 unveiling of a John J. Rambo statue in the town in which the Rambo franchise started, Hope B.C. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)The Aug. 14, 2020 unveiling of a John J. Rambo statue in the town in which the Rambo franchise started, Hope B.C. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
The Aug. 14, 2020 unveiling of a John J. Rambo statue in the town in which the Rambo franchise started, Hope B.C. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)The Aug. 14, 2020 unveiling of a John J. Rambo statue in the town in which the Rambo franchise started, Hope B.C. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
Hope’s first Rambo statue stands at the edge of Memorial Park, the exact spot where the town’s first ever carving was positioned. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)Hope’s first Rambo statue stands at the edge of Memorial Park, the exact spot where the town’s first ever carving was positioned. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
The raw wood stage of the John J. Rambo carving was sent to Sylvester Stallone’s agent. “I just showed Sly the pictures, he loves it” was the reply to carver Ryan Villiers. (Submitted/Ryan Villiers photo)The raw wood stage of the John J. Rambo carving was sent to Sylvester Stallone’s agent. “I just showed Sly the pictures, he loves it” was the reply to carver Ryan Villiers. (Submitted/Ryan Villiers photo)
The finished product, six weeks later, in Villiers’ shop. (Submitted/Ryan Villiers photo)The finished product, six weeks later, in Villiers’ shop. (Submitted/Ryan Villiers photo)

The town where one of Hollywood North’s first blockbusters was filmed now has a permanent red cedar reminder of the industry’s beginnings. And the carving, of Sylvester Stallone’s character John J. Rambo, is officially Sly-approved according to the man himself.

On Instagram, Stallone posted that he was very proud of the “massive” Rambo statue installed in Hope, “exactly where we shot First Blood.” He also gave a shout out to carver Ryan Villiers, who was commissioned to take on the reincarnation of Rambo’s iconic look in red cedar.

Villiers, an Edmonton-based chainsaw carver, has made a name for himself in the industry by taking on lifelike carvings of Don Cherry and Norm from Cheers. It was these carvings that caught the eye of Hope councillor and leader with Communities in Bloom Victor Smith, who commissioned Villiers for this project.

The process began with a lot of Googling of Rambo in different angles – Villiers estimates he had two to three hundred screenshots on his phone. Then it was about scaling, getting the proper proportions which he has modeled on his own frame.

Throughout the creative process, Villiers heard from Sly’s agent after he had seen his progress on the piece. Stallone was shown the photos of the carving when it was still just bare wood, and loved it his agent said in a text message. “So that was icing on the cake for me,” Villiers said.

The only question the agent had, allegedly from Sly himself, was around the stature of the art piece. The carving, Villiers answered, stands 6 foot 1 inch tall.

“First Blood fans have been waiting for this moment for almost 30 years,”said local tourism promoter Bryan McKinney on the day of the unveiling of the piece Aug. 14. Fans of the franchise always wonder when they visit Hope and its many chainsaw carvings, McKinney said, where the Rambo carving is.

And with the piece now installed, McKinney is also able to push back against the digs from his friends in Philadelphia who have their own bronze statue of Rocky Balboa in their city.

“This day is for the fans, the millions of them, that are around the globe and I’m not lying, it’s a little bit of an emotional day for sure,” McKinney reflected on the unveiling. “We often like to say, you know what, the co-star of this film is Hope, B.C. and a lot of the fans they come to our town because of the way the town looked on screen.”

For more on the carving and Hope’s history with the Rambo franchise, pick up a copy of The Hope Standard Thursday, Aug. 20.

Read more:

Goodbye to Sheriff Teasle

Large crowd celebrates First Blood’s 35th

Rambo fever boosts Hope business

Farewell to Rambo bridge

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
emelie.peacock@hopestandard.com


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