The legendary actor Sylvester Stallone has successfully established himself as one of the most iconic Hollywood stars, known for his unforgettable work on franchises like Rocky and Rambo. While Rocky is often cited as one of the most inspirational American films of the last century, Stallone’s struggle to make the film is also a motivational one.
Before Rocky, Stallone was a struggling actor who got his first starring role in softcore porn. He worked all kinds of odd jobs – ranging from a film theatre usher to a zoo cleaner – while trying to work on his skills as an actor and writer, but he failed to get anything more than bit parts in forgettable productions.
In an interview, Stallone revealed that he had even auditioned to be an extra for Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. The actor said: “I couldn’t even get casted as an Italian. I said, ‘If there is one movie I can definitely get into, it would be The Godfather because there’s a party scene and there’s three hundred guests. They said no.”
It all changed when Stallone released his 1976 boxing flick Rocky which became an unprecedented success. Before he began working on Rocky, Stallone only had $106 to his name. However, he was inspired to write one of the most beloved screenplays of all time after watching the fight between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner in 1975.
Stallone wrote the screenplay for Rocky in just three days, focusing on the rags-to-riches journey of a small-time, working-class boxer who gets a shot at a world heavyweight championship title. While talking about his position in life before Rocky, Stallone added: “I just didn’t understand how the rules of life were played at that point, but this character I understood.”
Made on a relatively small budget of $4.83 million (adjusted for inflation), Rocky crossed the $1 billion mark in gross revenue. It wasn’t just a commercial success since it received widespread praise from critics and fans who recognised Stallone’s passion for his art. It ended up winning multiple Oscars, including the coveted Best Picture Award.
Regularly cited as one of the greatest sports films ever made, Rocky had an important impact on the genre due to its specific and optimistic vision of the American Dream. In recent years, Stallone has often emphasised his love for the Rocky franchise, but he has maintained that he could have reached greater heights without the interference of producer Irwin Winkler.
Watch Rocky on Netflix now.