Stallone was an unknown actor in 1975. After he watched a Muhammed Ali fight, he went home and wrote a screenplay in three days. His first screenplay! He wrote Rocky in three days. At that point in his career, he had nothing to lose. He was so broke he had sold his dog to make ends meet.
A short time later, he had the chance to let a few Hollywood producers read what he had written. They loved it. The only problem it was written with himself in mind as the character Rocky. The studio said no. The offer was for $360,000 for the script, and that was it.
He stuck to his dream, and eventually, the studios gave him one million dollars to produce the film and let him play the central character. This was not a lot of money to produce a movie; however, he used friends and family to fill in when needed and filmed on location in the gritty streets of Philadelphia. Including the now-famous “Rocky Steps” filmed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Interestingly enough, he was “only using one take to film most of the footage.”
I believe the story of Rocky is not about the character winning a fight, but about Stallone winning a match. He won—both onscreen and off. The stories of Rocky and Stallone interweaved throughout the film.
The film also featured Talia Shire as Adrian; you may remember her from The Godfather as the oldest sister, Connie. An original review from 1976 predicted that “In many ways, Rocky is a picture that should make movie history.” It was right. Among the films many nominations and awards, it won an Oscar for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing.
Rocky was a fighter. He knew what he wanted, and he went after it. Stallone was a fighter. He knew what he wanted and he went after it. Ebert said it best, “There’s that exhilarating moment when Stallone, in training, runs up the steps of Philadelphia’s art museum, leaps into the air, shakes his fist at the city, and you know he’s sending a message to the whole movie industry.”
You won Stallone. And all of us other fighters, look up to you.
FUN FACT: Remember that Sylvester had to sell his dog because he could not afford food? He got to buy back his dog, his best friend after he made the film. He reportedly paid $15,000 to get his dog back.