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"You'll never make it to college": how rejection and bullying exploded in 'Rocky', the movie that forged the myth of Stallone


This week Sylvester Stallone lands twice on the screen: today with the premiere of his series 'Tulsa King' and this Friday with a new installment of 'Creed', which continues the legendary legacy of a film that nobody bet on

That the old action heroes do not think about retirement is corroborated by cinemas and platforms, brimming with premieres in which men (and women) who are over sixty continue to distribute swords.

And leading the band, none as active and current as Sylvester Stallone (New York, 76 years old).

After recycling himself into a working-class superhero in


he returns this week twice: as the absolute protagonist of

Tulsa King

, one of the premieres with which SkyShowtime lands in Spain today, and as producer of the third part of


, the successful


of Rocky, an unlikely jewel in the crown of a million-dollar career that no one could have predicted.

The script for


came to the table of producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff with only one condition: the writer would also be the main character.

By then Stallone's only credentials were limited to a role in

The Lords of Flatbush

(1974), an independent film about a Brooklyn street gang.

The producers saw it and enthusiastically accepted the clause, believing the writer to be Perry King, the square-jawed, handsome blonde.

Their illusion was broken when they clarified that Stallone was the dark one, the mass of meat with the coily look.

They refused.

The film would be shot, they warned, only if it starred Ryan O'Neal.

Stallone was offered $180,000 and told to stay home.

An irresistible deal for someone in his situation.

He only had $106 in the account, his wife was pregnant with his first child (Sage, the protagonist of the fifth installment of the saga who died in 2012) and he had to sell his dog Butkus because he couldn't keep it. .

He said no.

Realizing the potential of that well-intentioned fable set against the backdrop of boxing, they went up to $360,000.

He said no again.

“I told my wife that I'd rather bury the script in the backyard and let the caterpillars play Rocky.

She would have hated me for selling me out.

The New York Times

after the premiere.

Sylvester Stallone and Talia Shire in 'Rocky'. Avalon (Getty Images)

The story had appeared to him as if by magic after seeing a fight between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner, an ordinary boxer who counted his fights by


and on the verge of retirement had the opportunity to face the legendary champion, an unequal battle in the one that he managed, to the astonishment of the audience, to throw him once to the canvas.

"I was watching the fight and I said to myself: that's what I'm going to talk about, about pent-up ambition and people sitting on the sidewalk watching their dreams go down the drain."

He locked himself in his house and Wepner became Rocky Balboa after boxer Rocky Marciano and Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa.

He wrote 90 pages in three days;

that tale of heroes facing his own destiny was also his own story.

Things went wrong for Stallone from birth, when after a mistake with forceps the doctor involuntarily cut his facial nerve, leaving his lip, chin and half of his tongue partially paralyzed for life.

This caused him a speech impediment and made him the scapegoat for all the bullies in the neighborhood, who made fun of his appearance, his voice and even his name: to ridicule him, they called him Sylvia .

Strangers weren't his biggest nightmare.

His family environment was just as turbulent.

His mother, Jackie Stallone, was a force of nature, for better and for worse: an astrologer, a trapeze artist, a businesswoman, an ass reader of fate, and a contestant on

Big Brother.

, and his father Frank Stallone, a polo player with aggression problems.

According to his mother, “he was the rudest, sadistic man God has ever allowed on this earth.

He would take a polo whip and whip Sylvester until he bled.”

The worst abuse was not physical.

“Why can't you be smarter?

You will never be anything.

You were born with paralysis, why don't you join the Navy?

You will never make it to college, ”his father told him.

One of the cruelest lines ended up creeping into Rocky's script: "You weren't born with much of a brain, so you better start using your body."

He only half listened to her.

He had an epiphany after seeing Steve Reeves playing Hercules in an old

peplum on television.

The next day he went to a junkyard and turned a car axle into his first weights.

He shaped his body into a perfect machine, but the boy who recorded himself reciting Walt Whitman to correct his speech defect also wanted to prove that he had a brain.

An already legendary image from 'Rocky': Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa jogging through Philadelphia. Silver Screen Collection (Getty Images)

They had always underestimated him.

When his mother, suspecting (like all mothers) that her son had a great hidden talent, took him to a counselor for future employment advice, the answer was very specific: "Your son is suitable to be an electrician's helper, mainly in the area of ​​elevator operations.

He was not in his plans.

He rented a hovel in Manhattan and began to hang out in theaters.

He made his debut playing a minotaur in the only play that Picasso wrote.

He wanted to be an actor, but above all he wanted to be a screenwriter.

"A writer creates work for 300 people and entertainment for 3 million, so who is the most important person in a movie?"

He painted the windowpanes black so he wouldn't know if it was night or day,

he cut off the phone and the electricity and wrote tenaciously by candlelight.

When he finished the


had already written a dozen more scripts.

The memory of those hardships helped him stay strong until the producers agreed that he would be the lead.

The numbers dropped dramatically in return: he only received $20,000 for the script and $625 a week for playing the part.

The six million offered became one, a tiny budget for a Hollywood production.

"The studio didn't want to make the movie," Winkler acknowledged.

“A fight movie was not something people would go see without a star in it.

Besides, they weren't the most attractive people in the world."

To cut costs, Stallone placed part of his family: his father Frank is the man who rings the bell before each fight, his brother Frank Jr. plays a street singer and his then wife Sasha appeared like a photographer.

The setting was immovable: Philadelphia,

Original 'Rocky' poster, featuring the silhouettes of Talia Shire and Sylvester Stallone.Movie Poster Image Art (Getty Images)

It was recorded in the streets in a guerrilla plan.

The surprise with which he is observed by those who pass him when he runs through the market is authentic, as is the moment in which a shopkeeper throws him a piece of fruit, which was not in the script.

If Adrian and Rocky's first date was on an empty ice rink, it's because there was no budget for extras.

The fluidity of the iconic training sequences was achieved thanks to a rudimentary


, an invention that had barely been used in two previous films and was set to change the way sports were filmed.

The upside was that the advance money allowed Stallone to get his dog Butkus back, who also became part of the cast.

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A post shared by Sly Stallone (@officialslystallone)

Everything ran like clockwork.

From the now iconic soundtrack composed by Bill Conti, chosen only for being the cheapest, to the chemistry between the leads.

Susan Sarandon had been the first choice to play her girlfriend Adrian, but she was too pretty.

Talia Shire, sister of Francis Ford Coppola, was chosen.

“I had just had a baby when the script came in the mail.

I had no idea who this person was who wrote it.

But it was brilliant: the language, the text, the poetry that Sylvester composed.

He had really created a popular myth."

As the premiere approached, a buzz began to emerge.

They began to think that perhaps it was not going to be the failure that everyone predicted.

“I thought it would end up opening in some Mississippi drive-in double bill,” said director John G. Avildsen.

"But when it came out I walked past a movie theater and saw a huge line around the block."

It was not just a popular success that was coming.

Criticism was also on his side.

“On paper, none of the characters seem appealing, but on screen they steal your heart,” Arthur Knight wrote in his review for the

Hollywood Reporter .


Producer Irvin Winkler believes that the key is to have arrived at the right time.

“Rocky, he offered us relief from everything that was going on in the 1970s: Watergate, the Vietnam War, the youth uprising.

He gave us an optimistic look into the future."

It grossed $225 million and received ten Oscar nominations, including two for Stallone, making him only the third actor after Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles to win both writing and acting nominations.

On Academy Awards night he was up against

Taxi Driver, All the President's Men


Unforgiving Network

, but the name Jack Nicholson spoke when he opened the envelope was…



If that narrative turn had been part of a script, it would have been incredible because it was excessively sweetened.


It also won the awards for best editing and best director.

Stallone did not take any statuette home, but he was the big winner of the night.

He had finally been able to prove his worth to everyone: ''I entered Hollywood through the service door.

Muscles denote stupidity: if you have a good physique, you cannot be brilliant.

It was the same thing that happened with Marilyn Monroe.

It has been my downfall,” he explained.

Sylvester Stallone and the producers of 'Rocky'' at the 49th Oscars, when he won the Oscar for Best Picture.Ron Galella (Ron Galella Collection via Getty)

The success had side effects.

Suddenly, everything named after him was worth gold.

Some theaters re-released Woody Allen's


, in which it barely appears for a few seconds, as "a Sylvester Stallone movie."

More controversial was the rescue of the pornographic film, by the standards of the seventies, which he had shot at his worst.

“I was starving when I made it.

I had been kicked out of my apartment and had spent four nights in a row at a bus station trying to avoid the police.”

With nothing to lose, he applied for a job that guaranteed him two hundred dollars for two days.

“The fact that I had to take my clothes off was not a big deal.

There was nothing harsh in the movie, so what did I care?

It was so bad that it was never released, but after the success of


the producers tried to blackmail him.

“I think they asked for $100,000, but I told my lawyer I wouldn't buy it for two dollars.

When you're hungry you do things you normally wouldn't.

It's funny how you can readjust your morality to survive."

Party at Kitty and Studs

, its original title, ended up being released as



, a pun on the actor's name, and turned out to be so innocent that unlike other career-destroying erotica it didn't provoke a


stain on the career of an actor whose name was beginning to be a legend.

Until today.

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2023-02-28

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