Sylvester Stallone has been one of the most successful actors in the last 30 years. He is best known for starring in the movie, “Rocky.” If you haven’t heard the story behind how “Rocky” was made, you are in for a real treat. Enjoy!
Stallone’s career started out like many actors – trying to make a living. Everyday he went out and tried to get acting jobs. No agent would sign him. In fact, every agent he ever saw said he should give up and quit the dream. “You look dopey and you talk out of the side of your mouth. You will never be taken seriously as an actor. You have NO FUTURE in acting.” Stallone heard this almost on a daily basis, but he knew what he wanted. He would not give up. He purposely did not go out and get a “real job” because he felt that it would kill his hunger. By refusing to get a “real job” he would always have that hunger inside to push him forward. This belief caused many arguments with his wife. They had little food on the table and no heat in their apartment. Stallone was going nowhere fast. He had a bad relationship with his wife and nothing to show for his career. The only things he felt he had were a dream and his best friend, his dog, Butkus.
One day Stallone went to a library (not because he was looking to read anything in particular, but because it was cold outside and the library was warm). It was while he was there that he had an “A-ha!” moment. He would start writing screenplays. This may be another avenue to gain notoriety in the movie business. Stallone was able to sell one of his screenplays, “Paradise Alley.” He sold it for $100.00. The screenplay never led to anything and after paying his bills he was back to being broke again. He was at another low point. He decided to pawn his wife’s jewelry to keep them afloat. Obviously, this did not make his wife happy. She couldn’t bring herself to forgive Stallone. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back and she left. As time went on, Stallone was so broke that he couldn’t feed himself or his dog, Butkus. He went to the local liquor store in hopes he could sell his dog, his best friend in the whole world, for $50.00. A man negotiated with Stallone to buy his “best friend” for $25.00. This was the lowest point in Stallone’s life. He cried. He had finally hit rock bottom.
Stallone may have hit rock bottom, but he did not quit. A few weeks past and Stallone was watching a fight in a bar. Chuck Wepner vs. Muhammad Ali. Wepner kept coming after the champ even though he was getting bludgeoned. Round after round, punch after punch, Wepner kept coming towards Ali. Stallone stood there and watched in awe. He had an idea for a screenplay!
He went home and starting writing. In fact, he wrote for 20 hours straight until “Rocky” was complete. Stallone knew he had something special. He shook with anticipation of what he had accomplished. Sly went out and started to find buyers for his screenplay. Again Stallone was faced with much resistance, rejection after rejection: “The story is too predictable. Too sappy. It just won’t work.” One day he got a yes! Stallone was offered $125,000.00 for the screenplay. Sly could barely rub two quarters together and now he was being offered $125,00.00! Stallone asked for one stipulation. He had to play Rocky. He was again met with resistance, “No way!” they said. “We need a star. We are not going to pay you, an unknown, to play this role. We want Ryan O’Neal.” They told Stallone to either take their offer of $125,000.00, or leave it. Stallone knew what he wanted. He walked away. They came back and doubled their offer to $250,000.00 for Stallone’s script and for him NOT to be in the movie. Stallone again said no. They came back one more time and offered him $325,000.00 for the script and for him NOT to be in the movie. “No way,” Stallone said. So what happened?
They came back one more time and offered him $35,000.00 for the script, but the role of Rocky was his! Stallone had finally done it! Want to know the first thing Sly did with that money? He went to find the guy who bought his dog and made him an offer he could not refuse! Not only did Sly put his dog in the movie, but part of the deal to get his dog back was to give the guy a part in the movie as well. Wow!
The movie “Rocky” is an all-time classic, but I think the real American success story is how Stallone persevered to get what he wanted. We can ALL learn from that. When you know what you want in life, go after it with bulldog persistence. It can be yours as long as you are willing to pay the price. You may not get rewarded after the 1st time or the 37th time. You just need to Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome UNTIL you get it!
To honor both these stories, the Keep On Keeping On Foundation and Slam Internet Radio have teamed up to bring “Rocky” back to the big screen. On Monday March 5th at the Portage Theater located at 4050 North Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago, Rocky Balboa will face the Champ, Apollo Creed. Showtime is 7:30pm. Admission is $5. Come support your favorite charity and your favorite online radio station! Hope to see you there!