In an exclusive interview with Variety, Sylvester Stallone is coming out of his corner with something that he has kept under the mat for more than forty years — he doesn’t own a word of ‘Rocky.’
The eponymous boxer, while a figment of Stallone’s imagination in 1976 brought to life, is actually an amalgam of Jake “Raging Bull” LaMotta and Chuck Wepner, an unheard heavyweight who earned a chance to fight none other than Muhammad Ali in 1975. (Sound familiar in a certain movie we know?)
Today, this fake guy is one of the most real and sustainable cinematic empires in history, establishing six movies and an Oscar-nominated spinoff including two more.
And yet, Stallone shares in this riveting article that franchise has “dealt him a gut punch that clearly still stings.”
The sting is still there because even at the young age of 73 inside still beats–yes, pun clearly intended–the heart of a champion.
“[Rocky is] like my brother. It’s the only voice that I can say what I want without being ridiculed, or being silly, or being precious or sentimental, because he is that way,” Stallone shared.
“Rocky can’t keep quiet. He just talks and talks and spills his guts. And as a writer, if you do that quite often, it looks as though you’re just lost in the world of exposition. But he’s actually saying something, and because of the way he speaks and his naiveté and gentle quality, you listen. Rocky can say things that my other characters can never say.”
He wrote it–a story that meant so much to him he chose to sell his dog just to pay rent so he could pitch it to a production house–so he is able to earn the first gross dollar of profit. Yet, he doesn’t own one shred of equity stake in the franchise. (We’d all be butt-hurt about that state of financial affairs, huh?)
“I have zero ownership of ‘Rocky’ … Every word, every syllable, every grammatical error was all my fault,” he says. “It was shocking that it never came to be, but I was told, ‘Hey, you got paid, so what are you complaining about?’ I was furious.”
Again, the guy has raked in countless Brinks trucks for all eight of those movies, not to mention his portrayal as John Rambo and being minted as one of the big screen action heroes of all time. It’s hard to feel sorry for the guy, but even the beautiful people experience pain and suffering like the rest of us.
To wit, then the oughts came.
In the early 2000s, Stallone tried to find work based on his name of yesteryear, but no one would hire him for years. Hollywood moved on. They passed on the thought of Stallone leading any movie (largely because they saw Copland, Get Carter, and Driven.
I mean, how many ‘Rocky’ or ‘Rambo’ movies can the world take? Evidently, several.
The article shares his agency, CAA, kicked Stallone to the curb. So did his manager. The man nicknamed ‘Rocky’ officially hit rock bottom. Then, inspiration struck in 2006 with the release of Rocky Balboa, a story of a retired fighter down on his luck running a restaurant named after his wife who passed.
The plotline was almost a parody of itself; yet, it gave ‘Rocky’ a voice he had long since vanquished. The movie was panned by critics but adored and celebrated by fans. That alone showed Hollywood Stallone’s coattails still had a little length left for producers to ride.
Today, they are still riding. Stallone is still making a ton of money. And Hollywood still thanks him for it. Rocky has continued through the keen eyes of Creed. Stallone has even created a new trilogy for himself in The Expendables, which is a steroid-induced sausage fest of past action stars (and it works).
In conclusions, are the rights to the historic pugilistic saga his? Maybe not. But one thing is clear, even after this expose on Stallone’s regret: the world still believes–and will always believe–that Stallone is Rocky.
And isn’t that the true definition of ownership anyway?
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