Sylvester Stallone He went from sleeping on the streets in 1976 to becoming one of Hollywood’s new millionaires thanks to a single movie: rocky. The story of overcoming the humblest boxer in cinema changed his life forever. And not only on that occasion. Throughout his long career, the boxer was always present, pulling him out of economic, personal and professional ruin on several occasions.
Without knowing it, that character that Sly wrote in three days and 20 hours became a kind of guardian angel. In previous years he had barely worked as an extra, debuting alongside Robert Redford and Gene Hackman in no place to hide (1969) or Capone(1975), among others. But in no one did she stand out by playing only dancers, bad guys on duty or extras. It was at that time that he was in total ruin. He was evicted from his apartment, he slept on the street and in the New York bus terminal with no money in his pockets. Desperation even led him to participate in a scene in the softcore film that would later be titled the italian stallion (1970) – to take advantage of the rise of Rocky’s nickname.
Who or what inspired Stallone to write rocky in less than four days no one knows. There have been rumors that point to the influence of the Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner fight in 1975 or the biography of Rocky Graziano. But Sly has denied this in the past (although Wepner sued him and they settled out of court).
But Sly was convinced that he had created a character that had cinematic potential. It was his ticket to Hollywood. His one-way ticket to the select universe of leading actors. He didn’t want anyone to perform the script, and he had to accept a budget cut to convince producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff to let him perform it in exchange for selling them the story. They ended up accepting… although they had in mind Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Jimmy Caan, Ryan O’Neal either Burt Reynolds.
The result was a hit of such magnitude that it catapulted Stallone to immediate stardom, making him an instant icon of sports dramas. It cost a million dollars to make and grossed $225 million at the worldwide box office.The public’s approval was joined by critics and the industry, receiving 10 Oscar nominations, including best actor and original screenplay, and winning the statuette for best picture.
Sly went from being a frequently unemployed extra to Hollywood’s hottest newcomer and earning $2.5 million, when he had just turned 30. “He was the luckiest man in the world,” Stallone told Varietya few years ago. “In that year before I did Rocky, my total earnings for the entire year were $1,400. He earned $35 a week working as a bouncer (or security guard). It was about $100 a month.”
The first script he sold to MGM for $35,000 when he had $100 in his bank account and had sold his mastiff dog to pay the rent.. (Don’t worry, she got it back with the winnings.) The second for $75,000 and the third for $120,000. And they were all a success. And so he made his way with other characters like Rambo, whose first film was released in 1982, expanding further sequels. By 1990, 14 years after Rocky, He already had three installments of the Vietnam soldier behind him and another five of the fashionable boxer.
Stallone had crowned himself an action hero, competing against another icon of the time such as arnold schwarzenegger. They experienced a confrontation on the billboard that was felt with each movie, making us witnesses of a fight to show who had the highest testosterone, who fired bigger weapons, who killed more villains, etc. Finally, with the passage of time, they became great friends. But the disappointment that Rocky V (1990) caused by turning the character into a depressed, marginalized and vain figure made everything change.
Because Stallone ended up spending the next 16 years waiting for someone to take a bet on him again. rocky. That same actor who had been able to create successful franchises and lead other productions such as Cobra (1986) or Tango and Cash (1989), suddenly he saw how his career lived unexpected ups and downs
The actor and director began to fall into oblivion. Rocky had been his one-way ticket to the firmament of the stars, but it was also the one back to the most painful hell in Hollywood: rejection and oblivion. There can be nothing worse for an actor who rises to fame than being dumped by the very industry that gave him wings because he starts to be worthless at the box office. And that happened to Stallone. Rocky V. It was the first disappointment of his career -although many more would come- with the disapproval of critics and the poor reception from the public.
His failed attempt at comedy with Stop or my mom shoots! (1992) only made things worse, and while he enjoyed other hits like full risk (1993), the wrecker (1993) or The specialist(1994), it was the international public that continued to bet on his films. In the US, the public began to turn its back on him.
And so, Hollywood followed suit. Given the bad choices and the lack of success, his CAA agents and his manager left him alone, renouncing his services (although they later signed him again). “It was the year 2002 and there was nothing for me in six years,” he told Variety stating that he now understands the decision his representatives made at that time.
Stallone believes that his career downturn happened because he wasn’t careful with his choices. “I think it happened because I wasn’t as diligent as I should have been in making certain decisions in my career,” he said. “For example, I made a movie called D-Tox, it had a good cast but a week after starting it the producers decided to change their tactics and from that moment it had a gray cloud. It was stored for two years and that was the beginning of “Stallone is finished.”
The 76-year-old actor recalled that the poor reception they had Day light (1996) and Copland (1997) only made things worse. He believes that those failures “promoted the view that my time had passed.”
But rocky came back to the rescue. Although the industry did not want to hear from him again, Stallone had not forgotten the character he qualifies as “a brother” in his life. He wanted to bring it back to cinematic life with one final redemption. “But when you’re a 60-year-old actor who wants to play an old boxer after a sequel that flopped 15 years earlier, you have zero chance,” Sly recalled.
Nobody wanted to do it. The then head of MGM, Alex Yemenidjian, rejected the idea. How did he convince them? Selling it as a story of pain and loss. “He has finally lost his love, which means the end of the equation for him. The only way he knows how to deal with it is through fighting.” Rocky VI became Rocky Balboa and it was a hit in 2006.
Rocky returned to save him, and what is most striking is that the experience was even more important to Sly than the one lived with the first Rocky.. “The fact that Rocky won once again was more iconic to me than Rocky I. This one was tough. There was no element of surprise, he was over the right age, and the audience that had come before didn’t show up. Those between 28 and 30 years old went to see her”.
Then I would make another redemption for Rambo with the 2008 film, finding that there was a young audience that had grown up with his films as well. That now he was a glory of the genre for a whole generation of viewers, such as Schwarzenegger, Van-Damme, Willis and others. She saw an outlet that had potential and came up with the saga of The indestructibles.
And while he continues to make other movies, Rocky’s flame has always been alive. He returned as a secondary in believe (2015) winning the Golden Globe for best supporting actor, and said goodbye to him passing the baton of this new saga to the son of Apollo Creed (played by Michael B. Jordan) with the 2018 sequel.
While Stallone today rails against the original producers who still own the rights to Rocky, the actor-director continually shares with his fans his love for the Philadelphia boxer and his constant desire to play him again. At the moment, after his passage through the world of series with Tulsa King and while sharing his family routine on the Paramount+ reality show, The Family Stallonewe will have to settle for seeing him dusting off his role as an action hero in The Expendables 4 along with other glories of the past.
However, at 76, Stallone is further from retirement than ever. And if he needs to get out of another rut or connect with the public, rocky is always a movie away.
This article was written exclusively for Yahoo en Español by Cine54.
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‘Rocky’ gave Sylvester Stallone more lives than a cat in Hollywood