“Going in one more round when you don’t think you can. That’s what makes all the difference in your life” – Rocky Balboa
So anyone that knows me well knows that I am a huge fan of the amazingly successful Rocky movie franchise. Obviously there are other super fans out there because the movies generated over $1.4 billion at the box office. The movies are inspirational, motivational, and encouraging which was also part of what I hoped to accomplish when I started this blog.
A lot of people don’t realize that the rags to riches storyline of Rocky Balboa also mirrored the real life of the actor portraying him; Sylvester Stallone. It’s important to note for those who have not watched any of the movies that it was about a washed up, down and out on his luck amateur fighter who ends up fighting for the coveted world title.
Prior to the first Rocky, Sylvester Stallone was an unknown aspiring actor in a movie called The Lords of Flatbush which didn’t generate much money at all for Sly. He was beyond broke, to the point where he actually attempted to sell his own dog because he was concerned he wouldn’t be able to feed both of them.
Everything changed one night when Sly caught a Muhammad Ali fight. The opponent was a guy by the name of Chuck Wepner or otherwise known as “The Bayonne Bleeder.” Keep in mind that even in that time, Ali was one of the greatest fighters to ever grace the ring.
The fight was supposed to be easily won by Ali, and although a real fight, the perception was more of an exhibition for a guy who was no match for Ali. The fight turned out to be great and not only did Chuck go the distance, but he knocked the champ down.
Sly thought metaphorically that this applied a lot to life realizing that when people get knocked down, they have to get back up. In his own words came an idea, “A man who was going to stand up to life, take a shot, and go the distance.” Sly took this idea and wrote a movie script in three days. He pitched the idea and the big time movie executives loved it, but with one exception.
Sly wanted to play the lead actor and they wanted a well-known Hollywood star to play the lead role. Remember that Stallone was literally at a point in life where he was living out his car on the streets and even with an offer of 360k for the scripts and rights, he turned it down. A man who was living in poverty who had the ability to change everything in his life at a time in the 70’s where this was “change your life forever money!”
He figured he pretty well had the concept of being down and out, living in a gutter figured out and things couldn’t get much worse. He believed in his script enough and his dream to play the lead role so much that he turned down the mega offer and decided to roll the dice, not knowing what the final outcome would be. I venture to say that given the same situation, the majority of us would have taken the money and never looked back.
After a lot of steadfast persistence, eventually they gave into Sly and gave him the budget to make the movie and the opportunity to play the lead role he desired. In order to keeps cost down, they opted to use family and friends as cast members. When the movie was screened at The Directors Guild in front of 900 movie buffs, the movie played horribly. The quiet reactions were not what Sly expected and his perception at that moment was utter letdown.
Sly was horribly embarrassed and really thought he blew it. As he walked down the stairs feeling defeated, everyone was standing at the base of the stairwell applauding and congratulating him. The original Rocky movie went on to receive nine Oscar nominations and three wins including Best Picture and grossed over $200 million.
The film eventually made it into the National Film Registry and even had props placed in the Smithsonian Museum. Needless to say, it was life changing for a man who had but a few cents left to his name. Some of the most inspirational quotes ever created came from this franchise.
So now you know the story, in case you didn’t know. I have seen all of them many times over, but my favorite is from the one used in the picture post up top. Can you guess which part it’s from?