The movie Rocky has been nominated and has won several awards from Oscars and Golden Globe, including Best Picture, Best Writing - Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, and Best Actor for Lead Role. It was in fact Sylvester Stallone’s brightest moment. But like Rocky Balboa - the protagonist of the said movie, Sylvester Stallone also had a tough and rough life before rising to the top.
You may have heard or watched the story of Rocky Balboa, but few know how it was made. Fun Fact: Sylvester Stallone wrote Rocky in 3 and a half days. See the full story below.
The moment he was born, Stallone already experienced a downtime when complications during his birth resulted in the forceps used to deliver him severed a nerve and caused paralysis in parts of Stallone's face, giving him his signature snarling look and slurred speech.
Growing up, life has always been too hard for Stallone, his parents got divorced, he spent most of his childhood and teenage years in foster care, he struggled emotionally and academically. He dropped out of school to build a career in acting in New York, working left and right, even accepting odd jobs. He became homeless and was forced to sleep in Port Authority bus stations for three weeks. And out of desperation, he had accepted a $200 gig in a porn film. Desperate times call for desperate measures. As what Stallone said, "it was either do that movie or rob, someone, because I was at the end – the very end – of my rope"
He continued the pursuit of his acting career, only to face non-stop rejection from casting directors. He then found an interest in screenwriting, but that is not a smooth sail either that Stallone found himself so broke that he was forced to sell the only thing he had closest to family, his beloved dog, a bullmastiff - Butkus for $50. Most would’ve given up this point but not Stallone.
“And then one night, I went out to see Muhammad Ali fight Chuck Wepner. And what I saw was pretty extraordinary. I saw a man called 'The Bayonne Bleeder' fight the greatest fighter who ever lived. And for one brief moment, this supposed stumblebum turned out to be magnificent. And he lasted and knocked the champ down. I thought if this isn’t a metaphor for life.”
Stallone regarded this rare occurrence as a symbolic victory, even if it wasn’t a technical one. That was the catalyst for his idea of Rocky - a man who was going to stand up to life, take a shot, and go the distance. He was so inspired that words poured out of him and just 3 and a half days later, the 90-page script was done. (though only about a third of it was used in the movie)
During one of his casting calls, he realized that he wasn’t right for the part he was auditioning. On his way out he told the producers about the script he wrote and they told him to bring it later. Stallone did, and the producers read the script and loved it. They offered him $125,000 for the script - to which Stallone had declined. They increase the offer to $250,000 - and Stallone declined that too. Then they offered him $360,000 with the condition that he wouldn’t play Rocky. The thing is, Stallone is not all about the money. He wanted to play the lead - to play Rocky’s part. So, he once again declined.
“I thought, ‘You know what? You’ve got this poverty thing down. You really don’t need much to live on.’ I sort of figured it out. I was in no way used to the good life. So I knew in the back of my mind that if I sell this script. and it does very very well, I’m going to jump off a building if I’m not in it. There’s no doubt in my mind. I’m going to be very, very upset. Laughs. So this is one of those things when you just roll the dice and fly by the proverbial seat of your pants and you just say, ‘I’ve got to try it. I’ve just got to do it. I may be totally wrong, and I’m going to take a lot of people down with me, but I just believe in it.’”
Finally, the producers agreed to his term and gave him $35,000. The first thing he did with his money is to find the man who bought Butkus, and buys him back for a hefty amount of money. Butkus later made an appearance in the movie.
With just 1 million as budget, and a 28-day rushed production schedule - Rocky came to life. When the movie started getting screened around Hollywood, it started to get a lot of positive reactions from the crowd. Audiences and critics alike loved the film and Rocky instantly became a hit.
Rocky went on to receive nine Oscar nominations and got three wins, including Best Picture and grossed over $200 million, and the rest is history. Now, it became one of the most successful movie franchises with 8 installments on its name.