The Unknown Stories of Rocky I

Rocky (or Rocky 1) is the first movie of the movie saga Rocky that now includes 8 movies. Released in 1976, it is directed by John G. Avildsen (Karate Kid, Save the Tiger), and written by Sylvester Stallone. Sylvester also plays in the film alongside Talia Shire, Carl Weathers, and Burgess Meredith. The first Rocky movie of the saga tells the story of Rocky Balboa who works for Tony Gazzo, a loan shark, and occasionally participates in boxing matches for a few dollars under the name of the Italian Stallion. However, Mickey (his coach), owner of the boxing club where Rocky trains, decides to hand over his locker to a more talented boxer putting down Rocky’s dreams of becoming a world-recognized boxer. One day, a boxing superstar named Apollo Creed launches a fight against the unknown outsider Rocky, hoping to revive his career as world number one. Rocky accepts the fight but will have to train hard to hope not to be humiliated by Apollo. 

While Rocky is a worldwide known Hollywood success, a few crispy anecdotes that will make many cinephiles shiver and unknown to many are still hidden in the depths of the film but will be revealed to you today through this article.

In 1975 Sylvester Stallone wasn’t in the best situation. He was unknown, rejected from every movie audition he went to, and had to stay in train or bus stations overnight with the company of his dog. One day having only $56 left in his pocket he heartbreakingly had to sell his dog for only $50 in order to buy food to stay alive. A few days later Stallone watched a boxing game from the outside of a bar opposing Muhammad Ali and the (at the time) unknown Irish boxer Chuck Wepner. Surprisingly, Wepner managed to hold 15 rounds against Ali and even succeeded in bringing the legendary champion to the ground once during the game. This is an event that changed Stallone’s life forever. The day after the game, he had a meeting with producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff, he told them about his idea (strongly inspired by the game he had watched the night before)  and the two producers seemed quite interested. Stallone then wrote the script in only three days and Winkler and Chartoff were ready to buy it for $250,000 and make Robert Redford star as Rocky Balboa. Stallone declined and said, “I’m the one who’ll play Rocky otherwise there’s no deal”. The rest of the story is known to everyone.

Coming back to Sylvester’s dog mentioned earlier. Shortly after being paid by the producers, Stallone went back to see the man to whom he had sold his dog. He proposed $100 to get the dog back, but the man refused. He then came back with a $300 offer to get the dog back, but the man refused a second time. Stallone tried again with a $500 offer but the man wasn’t set on letting the dog leave. Sylvester comes back the next day with one last offer, $3000, and a minor role in Rocky. The man finally accepts and Sylvester gets his dog back. The dog got to play a role in the movie as you can see him as Rocky’s dog. The man from whom Stallone bought his dog back plays the role of the man that holds the spit bucket in the boxing gym.

The budget for Rocky was really low as it was quite an amateur-made film. To give you an idea there weren’t any costume designers on the movie set so the director and Stallone asked the actors to bring their own clothes for the film (meaning that the clothes you see in the film are actually owned by the actors which is pretty cool!)

A few of the scenes filmed for the movie weren’t supposed to appear in the original scenario. For example when Rocky is sprinting on the city docks while training for the fight. This scene was actually an idea on the go from the director that thought it might look pretty with the boats behind and filmed it in a few minutes. Same story for the scene where Rocky runs through the market and where we can see a man throwing him an orange. The director didn’t have official authorizations to film there so they had to shoot the scene really quickly before police officials came to verify the inexistent authorizations. The market we see in the film is an actual market that took place that day. It isn’t anything organized for the film and the people we see in the market weren’t paid to stare in the film, they were just there at that time and ended up in the film. Another scene with a similar story is the one where Rocky and Adrianne are ice skating. Originally the scene was supposed to take place in the afternoon with lots of people ice skating around the two actors. Because the film’s budget didn’t allow them to pay for extras, they filmed it 20 minutes before the place closed in order for them to be alone on the rink. Sylvester rewrote the script quickly before the shot to make it seem more romantic and make it fit with the setting on the empty rink. Stallone later declared that the owner of the rink was ranting behind the director as “the filming was taking too long” and “he wanted to go home”.

To cloture the set of anecdotes, after the huge success of the film both Elvis Presley and Charlie Chaplin personally called Stallone to invite him in their respective houses to watch and discuss the movie together. Stallone refused both invitations as he says he was too intimidated by the charisma of the two personalities.

~ Stanislas for KIS Today

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