Turkish bodybuilder turned actor Serdar Kebapcilar passed away on March 24. Fellow actor Osman Cavcı announced the news on Instagram. Kebapcilar was at the forefront of a momentary rise in the popularity of Turkish cinema that saw some of his films gain international recognition. While his fame didn’t last, Serdar Kebapcilar seized his moment in history, impersonating action icon Sylvester Stallone.

Kebapcilar, who passed away at 65, was born in 1958 in Izmir, Turkey. The actor was into sports as a kid and picked up Olympic weightlifting when he was 12. While Kebapcilar showed promise, winning multiple regional and national weightlifting events, he found glory elsewhere. The Turkish weightlifter turned to bodybuilding and found fame internationally.

The bodybuilder who became an actor


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Serdar Kebapcilar competed in bodybuilding during its golden age. The Turkish bodybuilder rose through the ranks and bagged titles on his way to the international stage. While he never qualified for the Mr. Olympia or Mr. Universe, Kebapcilar ranked among the top 10 at the World Bodybuilding Championships. In 1978, he ranked 6th in the show and even caught a glimpse of his favorite action hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Although the bodybuilder didn’t clarify if he was ranked under the IFBB, he competed in London twice. In an interview with Neon Harbor in 2015, Kebapcilar claimed to have met Arnie. While Schwarzenegger was yet to star in the late bodybuilder’s favorite Hollywood film, The Terminator (1984), he had already won a Golden Globe in 1976.

While Serdar Kebapcilar didn’t know it yet, he would follow a similar path. During his bodybuilding prime, Kebapcilar also posed in muscle magazines, but his opportunity to star in films came out of the blue. Unlike his idol Schwarzenegger, the bodybuilder didn’t go looking for a career in acting. The 80s coup strangled the golden age of Turkish cinema. Yet somehow, the Turkish Rambo led a brief B-movie revolution in his home country.

The Turkish Sylvester Stallone

With the local Turkish film industry in shambles and the rise of home video, director Cetin Inanc resorted to selling VCRs. Fortunately for Inanc, the late bodybuilder started frequenting his home video shop. The cult director was incredibly impressed with the bodybuilder’s physique and offered him a role in a low-budget film.

However, during his interview with Neon Harbor, the bodybuilder said he refused the offer. That’s because Inanc had offered him a side role. However, when the director came to him with a lead role offer, the champion bodybuilder accepted. Thus began Kebapcilar’s journey as the Turkish Sylvester Stallone. In Hollywood, by then,  Stallone had established himself among the top action stars.

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He had already starred in the icon Rocky and Rambo franchises. Thanks to the global appeal of Sly’s iconic films, Inanc directed Kara Simsek (1985), aka Black Lightning, with Serdar Kebapcilar as the lead. Heavily inspired by Rocky, the bodybuilder described it as the first Turkish film on boxing. Although there was no binding that the film was a Rocky knock-off, it became a massive hit. 

Ironically, the bodybuilder who idolized Arnold Schwarzenegger earned fame portraying Arnie’s Hollywood rival. As the Hollywood heavyweights competed for supremacy, Kebapcilar starred in three more films. In 1986, the late bodybuilder-turned-actor earned the name The Turkish Rambo after starring in Korkusuz (Rampage).

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After finding success as the Turkish Rocky, Inanc took inspiration from Rambo: First Blood Part 2. However, instead of Stallone’s iconic M60VN machine gun, the Turkish Rambo wielded an RPG. The same year, the bodybuilder would star in two more films, Asi Kabadayi (The Killer Man) and Intikamci (Commando). In 2009, Kara Simsek re-released with English dubbing. However, after 1986, Serdar Kebapcilar’s film career came to an abrupt end.

Fading into obscurity


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Amidst the scarcity of roles in an industry that was barely surviving, the former bodybuilder hunted for lead roles. “Since I was the leading actor, I wanted to play the leading role in new projects, but since the offers were not for the leading role, I had to take a long break,” said the actor long after he stopped acting.

Although the Turkish Rambo said he acted in two more TV films in the Neon Harbor interview, he never became popular again. After his short-lived fame, the bodybuilder returned to his roots. Serdar Kebapcilar opened his gym and ran it successfully for years. However, in 2012, Kebapcilar revealed that he had to sell his property and gym due to financial woes.


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The late bodybuilder kept a low profile for the past few years, occasionally posting on social media. Despite fading into obscurity, Serdar Kebapcilar captured lightning in a bottle as the Turkish Sylvester Stallone.

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