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Rocky Facts! A Look Behind One of The Most Inspirational Movies Ever - Rocky!

Updated on March 5, 2017

In 1976, a movie about a down-and-out, club boxer who worked as a collector for a loan shark in the blue-collar city of Philadelphia was released and would capture the hearts of Americans and then later the world. That movie was Rocky, and this hub will take a look at how this amazing film was made and other interesting Rock facts.

Directed by John G. Avildsen, the movie Rocky starred Sylvester Stallone and was also written by him as well. Rocky won three academy awards, which included best picture. Rocky was a low budget, sleeper hit that made over $225 million. It was the highest grossing film of 1976 and is considered by Empire Magazine as one of the 500 greatest films of all time.

Although the story of Rocky has captured the hearts and interests of many worldwide, the story behind the making of Rocky is just as interesting and wonderful. With problems of budget constraints that led to many disadvantages and would be disasters, those intimate with the film used them to their advantage.

Producers would later admit that the people cast in Rocky had a lot to do with budget. They would also admit that this would be a blessing as no one else would be able to play the supporting roles in Rocky better. Stallone would say that Rocky is definitely an "ensemble piece" and wouldn't have worked without the amazing performances by Talia Shire as Adrian, Burt Young as Adrian's brother Paulie, Burgess Meredith as Rocky's trainer Mickey Goldmill, and Carl Weathers as the champion, Apollo Creed.

Rocky was and still is a hit on so many levels. A classic story about finding self worth, going above and beyond the odds, and a truly charming story about love. But what inspired this movie that would touch so many? How did this diamond in the rough come about, and who were the players who turned this gem into a reality.

The Inspiration For Rocky

Though Rocky was somewhat inspired by Rocky Marciano and the fight between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner in 1975, the core foundation to Rocky's story was a lot more personal to writer Sylvester Stallone. His personal experience and the trials he went through would be the theme and basis for the Rocky script.

Before the success of Rocky, Stallone was a struggling actor in both New York and later Hollywood. In New York, he had sold the script Paradise Alley for only a $100 when he had $50 bucks to his name.

His first starring role in the soft core pornography feature film The Party at Kitty and Stud's (1970) came about when he answered the casting call while being homeless for several days after being evicted from his apartment. Sleeping for nearly three weeks in the New York City Port Authority bus station prior to seeing a casting notice for the film, Stallone did the film out of desperation and would later recall, "it was either do that movie or rob someone, because I was at the end – the very end – of my rope."

He would later have other very minor roles in film and t.v., but realized his opportunities were very limited as he was often typecast by his looks. Hollywood didn't have much use for actors with his build and appearance. In the three part documentary featured in the 2 Disc Collector Edition of Rocky called In The Ring, Stallone recounts a visit to Robert Chartoff, a Hollywood film producer. Chartoff had no acting roles for Stallone. However, Stallone asked if Chartoff would read a script he had written, in which Chartoff said, "Of course."

As Sylvester Stallone pondered what to write about, he decided to write about his particular dilemma of feeling limited, without much opportunity to really present himself and what he can do. That spark was a universal theme that Stallone realized many out there probably felt, but he was greatly interested in what made certain people rise to the challenge after they are given that opportunity.

Actor Burt Young would remark in the three part documentary In The Ring, "Some would've thought it was a fight picture. I knew it was love story, where life and life's environment helped stray people stand up, stand tall."

Stallone handed the first draft of Rocky to Robert Chartoff, who loved the script and was charmed by the character. He immediately sent it to Irwin Winkler, who also fell in love with the story about an unknown who rises up far above what he is.

When a friend of director John G. Alvidson mentioned to read this new boxing script, he wasn't interested in doing a movie about what he called a "pretty stupid sport," but the friend convinced Alvidson to read it. Like with Chartoff and Winkler, Alvidson was charmed, realizing it was more than just a boxing movie, and agreed to direct it.

The Character of Rocky Balboa

Director John G. Avildsen would say about Rocky, "I was taken by the character of Rocky, and how he treated people. He didn't break the guys thumbs and came up with lame jokes for his unrequited love in the pet shop. So I was very charmed by the guy."

Born Robert "Rocky" Balboa in 1946, the self-proclaimed "Italian Stallion" took his father's words to heart:

"You weren't born with much of a brain, so you better learn to use your body."

Growing up in the mean streets of Philadelphia, Rocky discovered a talent for boxing at age 16. However, nobody would take him seriously.

Even worse, local amateur boxing fights didn't pay enough for Rocky to survive, so Rocky became an enforcer for loan shark, Tony Gazzo. His innate kindness and strong sense of right and wrong constantly conflicted with his career as a collector, often refusing to break the thumbs of those who owed as instructed by his boss.

Having a job that he hated and was at odds with while also knowing he was a million-to-one shot in the boxing world, Rocky was the embodiment of "the every day man", whom Sylvester Stallone puts it "lives in quiet desperation" while yearning for the opportunity to rise or fall on his own abilities.

Producer Robert Chartoff would say about the character, "With everything he does, even when he's collecting money for these creeps, he's above them. There's an honesty and integrity to the guy that's just so totally appealing and so completely relatable."

Rocky Gets The Green Light

United Artists picked up the script, but with the idea that it would be a great vehicle for more established actors like Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, or James Caan. Stallone convinced producers Chartoff and Winkler to give him the chance to star in the film.

Stallone also knew the film would be green lit by the studio with him in the lead if the film's budget was kept low enough. He would have never forgiven himself if the film became successful with another actor in the lead.

Rocky ended up being made on a budget less than $1 million dollars, and had major problems with casting other important and vital characters in the script such as Adrian and Apollo Creed, whom was largely based on legendary boxing champion, Muhammad Ali.

Carl Weathers was not the first choice to play Apollo Creed. Real-life boxer Ken Norton was originally supposed to step into the famous role, but he pulled out. Also, actress Carrie Snodgress was originally chosen to play Adrian, but producers had to look elsewhere when money disputes arose.

One of the most interesting Rocky facts was that Susan Sarandon auditioned for the role of Adrian. She didn't get the part, because everyone felt she wouldn't make a believable Adrian. This had nothing to do with her acting skills. They thought she was too pretty for the role.

Talia Shire and Carl Weathers were both cast on the same day, and John Avildson made everyone audition despite who they were. Even legendary actor Burges Merideth had to audition for the role of Mickey Goldmill, Rocky's boxing trainer.

Nobody considered anyone else to play the character of Paulie except for Burt Young, however, and they never offered the part to anyone else but Burt.

Blunders & Wonders During Filming Rocky! More Interesting Rocky Facts!

Shot in 28 days, there were a few blunders during filming that could've been disasters, but because of budget and time constraints, these blunders were made to work to the benefit of the film. Here are some interesting Rocky facts!

One of the biggest blunders of Rocky was the huge posters of both Apollo Creed and Rocky that were hung up at the Philadelphia Spectrum. After convincing the producers to front the cash to hire an artist to paint the posters, pictures of both Stallone and Weathers were taken to be sent to the artist. However, Sylvester wasn't wearing the right boxing shorts.

The paintings came back with Rocky wearing red shorts with a white stripe. Stallone was actually going to wear white shorts with a red stripe during the fight. Not having enough money, the producers and director suggested they add this blunder into the story. It would further emphasize the character's plight that nobody really cared.

It worked. In the scene where Rocky points this out to the promoter, Mr. Jergens, the day before the fight and Jergens says, "It doesn't really matter, does it? I'm sure you're gonna give us a great show," you feel even more empathetic towards Rocky. Stallone later wrote that scene into the script to cover up the goof.

The baggy robe that Rocky wore was also a goof. The costume department sent that robe the very day of filming of the fight scene and it was too large for Stallone. With no time to replace it or alter it, Stallone wrote in the dialogue in which Rocky points out the baggy robe.

The scene where Rocky walks home Little Marie was almost taken out at the producers behest. Believing that the movie stalled during this particular scene, the producers thought the scene was unnecessary, but John Avildsen argued to keep it in. Avildsen said it showed the audience even more of Rocky's kind-hearted nature to be generous enough to take the time to straighten out this kid. The scene ended up staying in.

The big fight at the end of the movie was not scripted at first. When Stallone and Weathers climbed into the ring to train and rehearse for the big climatic fight, they tried winging it until director John Alvidsen told Stallone that he needed to script the fight scene. Stallone wrote that legendary fight scene punch for punch.

In real life, the actors would suffer injuries the opposite of their characters during the filming of the climatic fight scene. Carl Weathers suffered a damaged nose while Stallone suffered bruised ribs.

The intimate and extremely charming first date was first written with Rocky and Adrian talking in a restaurant. John Avildsen didn't like this, telling Stallone that placing them in a scene like that was too static. Avildsen suggested that they go bowling or ice skating or something.

Stallone liked the ice skating idea and rewrote the scene. However, he rewrote the date scene with the skating rink crowded. The producers said they had no money for professional skaters, extras, and to scrap the ice after every take.

The producers then suggested that it was Thanksgiving and the ice skating rink was closing up. Stallone liked that idea and wrote that famous scene in which he bribes the skating rink attendant to let them on the ice for 8 minutes. It would be one of the most charming first date scenes in film.

The original Rocky script had a darker tone, and a few elements were changed during filming. Rocky's trainer Mickey was portrayed as more of a racist in the original script, and the original ending had Rocky throw the fight after realizing he didn't want to be part of the professional boxing world after all.

Famous Rocky Quotes


Paulie: [talking about Adrian] You like her?
Rocky: Sure, I like her.
Paulie: What's the attraction?
Rocky: I dunno... she fills gaps.
Paulie: What's 'gaps'?
Rocky: I dunno, she's got gaps, I got gaps, together we fill gaps.

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Adrian: Why do you wanna fight?
Rocky: Because I can't sing or dance.

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Rocky: I can't do it.
Adrian: What?
Rocky: I can't beat him.
Adrian: Apollo?
Rocky: Yeah. I been out there walkin' around, thinkin'. I mean, who am I kiddin'? I ain't even in the guy's league.
Adrian: What are we gonna do?
Rocky: I don't know.
Adrian: You worked so hard.
Rocky: Yeah, that don't matter. 'Cause I was nobody before.
Adrian: Don't say that.
Rocky: Ah come on, Adrian, it's true. I was nobody. But that don't matter either, you know? 'Cause I was thinkin', it really don't matter if I lose this fight. It really don't matter if this guy opens my head, either. 'Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody's ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I'm still standin', I'm gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood.

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Rocky: I been comin' here for six years, and for six years ya been stickin' it to me, an' I wanna know how come!
Mickey: Ya don't wanna know!
Rocky: I wanna know how come!
Mickey: Ya wanna know?
Rocky: I WANNA KNOW HOW!
Mickey: OK, I'm gonna tell ya! You had the talent to become a good fighter, but instead of that, you become a legbreaker to some cheap, second rate loanshark!
Rocky: It's a living.
Mickey: IT'S A WASTE OF LIFE!

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Paulie: You do that to Apollo Creed, they'll put us in jail for murder.

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Rocky: I think we make a real sharp couple of coconuts - I'm dumb, you're shy, whaddaya think, huh?

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Apollo Creed: Stay in school and use your brain. Be a doctor, be a lawyer, carry a leather briefcase. Forget about sports as a profession. Sports make ya grunt and smell. See, be a thinker, not a stinker.

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Mickey: Women weaken legs!

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Rocky: Hey look...Hey, Mick! Look...I needed your help about 10 years ago, right? 10 years ago. You never helped me. You didn't care.

Mickey: Well, if wanted help...I say if you wanted help, why didn't you just ask? Why didn't you just ask me, kid?

Rocky: Look, I asked you! You never heard nothing!

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Mickey: You're gonna eat lightening, and you're gonna crap thunder!

Watch Rocky Now

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    • profile image

      Rick 2 years ago

      I remember going to the theater to see this movie. Everyone in the audience was jumping up and yelling "hit'em, hit'em" and cheering for Rocky as if they were at a real fight. People were on their feet. Shows you how invested they were in the character. You don't see that anymore.

    • profile image

      Azia 3 years ago

      Home run! Great slnugigg with that answer!

    • rabbit75 profile image
      Author

      rabbit75 5 years ago

      Heya Brett Winn. The Rocky movies are no doubt inspirational. It's more than about a "fight" picture, and I'm glad your son was able to take the message of this classic movie as a wee lad.

      It's the same message that Stallone was faced with early in his career. His motto for success was..."Just show up," cause you never know when you'll miss an opportunity.

      It's a great story behind the story of Rocky as well, one that is genuine to what Stallone was going through at the time. Thanks for sharing how this movie impacted your son and dropping by to comment. Best to both you two

    • Brett Winn profile image

      Brett Winn 5 years ago from US

      I have a son, now 23, who as a little boy, watched all of the Rocky movies over and over and OVER. I am convinced that they helped contribute to his adult character, for he is one of the most tenacious, focused and hard working young men I have ever met. He never gives up, and never loses sight of his goal, and these wonderful movies helped influence his manhood at a crucial age.

    • rabbit75 profile image
      Author

      rabbit75 5 years ago

      Thanks The Finance Hub, I love this movie so I really enjoyed writing it. I'm glad you liked it, and I will be sure to check out more of your hubs soon.

    • The Finance Hub profile image

      The Finance Hub 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      What a great article. Rocky was indeed one of the most inspirational figures of all time when it comes to movie figures. Any who, I can tell you took your time to make this a great article. So, I will have to vote it up and interesting! Hope that you enjoy my hubs as well!

    • rabbit75 profile image
      Author

      rabbit75 5 years ago

      Thanks Steve, I've loved this movie ever since I was a kid, so I really enjoyed writing this hub about how the movie Rocky came about. Yeah, I know...it's hard to see Robert Redford as the Italian Stallion.

      It's crazy but the movie studio also wanted Redford to play Michael Corleone in the Godfather also. That would've been a blunder, but Coppola fought constantly for Pacino, thank goodness!

      I know I didn't make any mention of the sequels only because I wanted to focus on the first Rocky. The making of it was extremely interesting and I'm pretty sure the second one went a lot smoother than the first. Though, I do love the second one, and will probably do a hub on all of them in time.

      Thanks again for tuning in. Your comments are always appreciated!

      YO ADRIAN! I DID IT!

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England

      Adriaaaan! A very good article on the making of Rocky, rabbit75, fascinating facts. I liked the big blunder with the posters you mention and how they worked that into the film to their advantage.

      Thanks to Stallone's insistence that he play the main part that he wrote, a star was born. Robert Redford as Rocky Balboa? eee!

      You made no mention of the sequels, they maintained Stallone's stardom for a decade at least before his star started to wane in the 90's. Rambo boosted his global superstar status. And now he's back making big action films in his 60's. :)

      Voted Up, Interesting and Awesome.