Cast & Crew
John G. Avildsen
In late November, 1975, Rocky Balboa, a sweet, garrulous, slightly over-the-hill boxer, wins his latest match with more fury than talent. Although he is well-known and well-liked in his South Philadelphia neighborhood, back in his dingy apartment, he has only his turtles to whom he can report his triumph. He then visits the local pet store in the hope of winning over the painfully shy clerk, Adrian Pennino, but she barely responds to his efforts. During his day job Rocky works as a collector for local loan shark Tony Gazzo, but when he cannot bring himself to break the thumb of one debtor, Rocky earns Gazzo's displeasure. Demoralized, Rocky turns to the one place at which he feels at home, the gym, but there discovers that his manager, Mickey Goldmill, has given his locker to a new contender. When Rocky confronts Mickey, the 76-year-old former bantamweight states that although Rocky has heart, he fights "like an ape" and should quit before he loses his one distinction, his unbroken nose. After once again getting nowhere with Adrian, Rocky visits her brother, meat packer Paulie Pennino, to ask why she disdains him. Paulie declares Adrian a "loser," a spinster at almost thirty, but invites Rocky to Thanksgiving dinner with them the following night. Meanwhile, reigning heavyweight champion Apollo Creed learns that his next opponent, set to fight him in five weeks' time, is injured and no worthy contender can be arranged. Creed, a colorful attention-seeker, despairs of losing the media coverage and decides to launch an exhibition fight with a Philadelphia unknown on New Year's Day, the first day of the country's bicentennial. Declaring that Americans will love the idea of an underdog ostensibly being given his big chance, he thumbs through a list of local boxers and pinpoints Rocky, whose self-appointed nickname is "The Italian Stallion," as an interesting ethnic counterpoint. At the same time, Rocky prepares for his first "date" with Adrian, but upon entering Paulie's house, realizes that Adrian is unaware of the set-up. Embarrassed, she declares herself unready for guests, prompting Paulie to explode in anger and throw her turkey dinner into the alleyway. Although she locks herself in the bedroom in response, Rocky urges her to come out and takes her to a closed ice skating rink, which he convinces the manager to open briefly. As Adrian skates, Rocky trots alongside her, explaining that he never succeeded as a boxer because he is a left-handed hitter. When he confesses that his father told him he had no brains so had better work with his body, Adrian reveals that her mother told her to develop her brains, as she did not have a good body. Walking to his apartment, he asserts that their weaknesses¿his dim-wittedness and her timidity¿make them perfect partners. At his stoop, she tries to leave but he charms her into staying, then once inside soothes her skittishness and gently initiates a passionate embrace. The next day, Rocky learns from Mickey that Creed's promoter, Miles Jergens, wants to meet with him, and both assume Creed is looking for a sparring partner. When Mickey insults him, Rocky demands an explanation, and Mickey spits out his disgust that Rocky failed to live up to his early promise as a fighter and instead became "a leg-breaker." At Jergens' office, Rocky is stunned to learn that he is being offered a chance at the heavyweight championship but quietly turns down the opportunity, knowing he has no possibility of winning. However, Jergens convinces him that he cannot pass up the chance of a lifetime, and soon after the bout is announced on television. Watching the broadcast later, Paulie points out to Rocky that the commentators were mocking him, and although Rocky professes not to care, he later admits his distress to Adrian. He plans to train alone, and when Mickey visits to plead to be his manager, Rocky brushes off the old man's desperate self-marketing, declaring that he needed a manager ten years ago when he still had a future. Mickey, for whom Rocky's fight represents his last stab at success, shuffles out in defeat, but outside stops to listen as Rocky explodes in anger, shouting that this lucky break has come too late for him and he is sure to be beaten badly. Minutes later, however, Rocky chases after Mickey and hires him. Rocky immediately begins a self-imposed, grueling training schedule, running through the city at four a.m. On his first day, he ascends the steep, stone stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and is exhausted by the time he reaches the top. He stops by Paulie's meat-packing plant, where Paulie, as is customary, pesters him for a job with Gazzo. When Paulie then questions angrily whether or not Rocky has slept with Adrian, Rocky pushes him away, punching a frozen carcass until his fists bleed. Later, a reinvigorated Mickey trains Rocky enthusiastically, and despite agreeing to the trainer's demand that he swear off women during training, Rocky spends more and more time with Adrian. After weeks of Rocky's training regimen, which now includes daily workouts punching the frozen meat, a drunken Paulie arranges a television interview in the meat locker. Although Creed, busy preparing his media exposure, ignores the broadcast, his trainer is impressed by Rocky's tenacity. Afterward, Paulie overhears Rocky complaining to Adrian about him, and threatening them both with a bat, raves that he failed to marry in order to take care of Adrian. With sudden vitriol, she screams that she owes him nothing and no longer wants to feel like a loser, and after Paulie collapses in drunken exhaustion, Adrian and Rocky agree that she will move in with him. Each day, Rocky runs through the neighborhood, receiving the well-wishes of the locals. Finally, after weeks of exertion, he is able to run up the museum steps with ease, and at the top throws up his hands in triumph. His status as the underdog contender has earned him national attention and affection, but on the night before the fight, Rocky visits the empty arena and realizes anew that there is no way he can win. At home, he tells Adrian that it does not matter if he loses, but if he can just last all fifteen rounds, as no one ever has against Creed, he will know for the first time that he is more than "just another bum from the neighborhood." On the day of the fight, as the arena fills, Rocky prays, then banters with Adrian. As he enters the ring, the announcers report that some have called the bout "the caveman vs. the cavalier," and that the Las Vegas odds assume that Rocky will be knocked out within three rounds. Next, with supreme fanfare, Creed, throwing money to the crowd, enters the arena, costumed as George Washington on a boat. The fight begins, with Rocky's friends watching eagerly on the local tavern television. Creed, overconfident, is far quicker than Rocky and jabs at him tauntingly, but when Rocky lands an unexpected strong hit, felling Creed for the first time ever, the champion returns with renewed vigilance. He begins to pummel Rocky, and when Rocky manages to back Creed up against the ropes, Creed breaks his nose. During the ensuing bout, Rocky takes a tremendous beating but continually rebounds to land a few hard punches. Fourteen rounds later, both are still fighting with equal commitment and have suffered multiple injuries. Exhausted, Rocky keeps struggling to his feet, even as the commentators wonder what could possibly be keeping him up, and Mickey demands that he give up. Finally, Rocky slams Creed in the ribs, causing internal bleeding. In their respective corners, Rocky demands that his cut man slice his eye with a razor to drain it of blood, while Creed orders his trainer to let the fight continue. The fifteen rounds finally draw to a close and the crowd roars its approval. As the reporters swarm him with questions, Rocky bats them away and shouts Adrian's name. She runs toward him, slowed by the crowd, as the announcer proclaims that the fight has ended in a split decision. When Adrian finally reaches Rocky, she falls into his arms. Flush with his own personal victory and barely even registering that the fight has been called for Creed, Rocky declares his love for her.
John G. Avildsen
Frank Stallone Jr.
Robert L. Tangrea
William E. Ring
Joseph C. Giambelluc
B. Eugene Ashbrook
James H. Spencer
Frank Stallone Jr.
Harry W. Tetrick
Joseph Tuley Jr.
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actor
Best Writing, Screenplay
Pop Culture 101 (Rocky)
Rocky's triumphant run up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum with raised arms has been spoofed in countless TV shows and movies.
The movie's theme song, "Gonna Fly Now," reached #1 in July 1977.
by Rob Nixon
Pop Culture 101 (Rocky)
Trivia (Rocky) - Triva & Fun Facts About ROCKY
Stallone's brother Frank appears in a bit part. Frank also wrote a song, "Take Me Back," performed by the street corner singers in the movie. He also wrote and sang songs for the soundtracks of some of the sequels. Frank Stallone has acted in a number of movies in minor roles. He appeared with his brother in Paradise Alley (1978), Rocky II (1979), and Rocky III (1982), and with John Travolta in Staying Alive (1983), all directed by Sylvester Stallone.
Hollywood veteran Burgess Meredith made his screen debut in Winterset (1936) and appeared in dozens of feature films before this. "Believe it or not, Rocky is my first smash hit," he said at the time of the picture's release. "I had many successes artistically, but nothing like Rocky." It was Meredith's second Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination; the first had been the year before for The Day of the Locust (1975) at the age of 68. He probably achieved his widest recognition for playing "The Penguin" on the Batman TV series of the 1960s. In the 1940s, Meredith was married to actress Paulette Goddard, ex-wife of Charles Chaplin. He died in 1997.
Stallone rightly thought this role would catapult him from unknown status to superstar. But he still didn't get a shot at the project he wanted to do next, the title role in Superman (1978). That part went to another (then) unknown, Christopher Reeve.
Stallone, Shire, and Young returned for all of the sequels. Carl Weathers appeared in the next three movies; his character, Apollo Creed, is killed in Rocky IV (1985). Burgess Meredith, as Mickey, did not appear in the former movie but was seen in all the others. Tony Burton, who plays Apollo's trainer, is in all five movies.
Despite his success with this film, Avildsen was not asked to direct the next three sequels (they were all done by Stallone) but did return for the fifth and (so far) final installment in 1990. He did do a variation on the Rocky theme with three Karate Kid movies in 1984, 1986, and 1989. His most acclaimed film has been Save the Tiger (1973), for which Jack Lemmon won a Best Actor Academy Award.
Composer Bill Conti wrote the scores for a handful of movies before this, notably Paul Mazursky's Blume in Love (1973) and Harry and Tonto (1974) and Vittorio DeSica's The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1970), but he really made his mark with his score and top-selling theme song for Rocky. He won the Academy Award for his score for The Right Stuff (1983). He also composed the music for three of the four Rocky sequels.
Most people recognized that the character of Apollo Creed was based loosely on Muhammad Ali. During the March 1977 Academy Awards show (when Rocky was nominated), Ali made a surprise appearance good-naturedly sparring for a brief round with a noticeably flustered Stallone.
Famous Quotes From ROCKY
MOVIE TAGLINE: "His whole life was a million-to-one shot."
ROCKY (Sylvester Stallone): "You wanna dance, you gotta pay the band; you wanna borrow, you gotta pay the man."
PAULIE (Burt Young): "You're gonna end up dying alone."
ROCKY: "Hey, I don't see no crowd around you either."
PAULIE: "I want you outa here instamatically."
ROCKY: "Yo, Adrian."
ROCKY: "My old man...he says to me, you weren't born with much of a brain, you know, so, uh, I become a fighter."
ADRIAN (Talia Shire): "My mother, she said the opposite thing. She said, you weren't born with much of a body so you better start developing your brain."
ADRIAN: "Why do you want to fight?"
ROCKY: "Because I can't sing or dance."
MICKEY (Burgess Meredith): "You had the talent to become a good fighter and instead you became a leg-breaker for some cheap second-rate loan shark."
ROCKY: "It's a living."
MICKEY: "It's a waste of life."
TV REPORTER (Diana Lewis): "Is this a common training method? I mean, do other fighters pound raw meat?"
ROCKY: "No, I think I invented it."
ROCKY: "I can't beat him. But that don't bother me. The only thing I want to do is to go the distance, that's all. Because if that bell rings and I'm still standing, then I'm gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I wasn't just another bum from the neighborhood."
MICKEY: "Women weaken legs."
MICKEY: "You're gonna eat lightnin' and you're gonna crap thunder!"
MICKEY: "Your nose is broken."
ROCKY: "How does it look?"
MICKEY: "Ah, it's an improvement."
APOLLO'S TRAINER (Tony Burton): "He doesn't know that this is a damn show! He thinks this is a damn fight! Finish that bum and let's go home!"
Compiled by Rob Nixon
Trivia (Rocky) - Triva & Fun Facts About ROCKY
The Big Idea (Rocky)
Producers Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler jumped at the chance to make Rocky as a star vehicle for either Burt Reynolds or Robert Redford (who couldn't have been farther from Stallone's conception). They offered the fledgling writer $75,000, certain he would take it - he and Sasha were down to their last $106. But Stallone told them he would not sell the screenplay unless he was attached to it as star.Rocky was his story, he said, and he set it in the ring because "I couldn't write a script about a down-and-out actor because no one would be interested. In the movie, Rocky loses but wins his self-respect." It was clear he intended the real winner to be Sylvester Stallone himself. United Artists was astonished at his audacity. But they wanted the property. The era had been dominated by dark, downbeat films - The French Connection (1971), The Godfather (1972), Cabaret (1972) - and the studio was sure audiences were ready for an old-fashioned hero they could cheer to victory. They upped the fee to $100,000, then $150,000, but Stallone stood firm. Finally, UA agreed to give him a chance, but only with a miniscule $1 million budget and the understanding that Chartoff and Winkler would put up an expensive completion bond to assure whatever funds were needed if the picture went over budget. The two producers mortgaged their homes as a guarantee and Rocky finally went before the cameras with Stallone in the lead. He got the standard writer's fee, five percent of the budget, and another $20,000 for playing the part. He also got a healthy cut of the profits, which the studio didn't mind conceding, convinced that Rocky wouldn't be more than a modest success.
"As far as I was concerned, if I didn't get this part it was the only shot I would ever get," Stallone said later. "I was willing to do it for nothing. No way it would turn out poorly. I was determined it would be good."
As pre-production began, Stallone put the final touches on the script, getting rid of Rocky's more abrasive edges and making him more vulnerable. He also refined the relationship with Adrian, realizing audiences would find more appeal in a story about two ordinary people giving each other the love and support they had been denied all their lives.
by Rob Nixon
The Big Idea (Rocky)
Behind the Camera (Rocky)
The next step was casting the picture with strong actors willing to work for low pay. They hired a group of mostly unknowns, including football star Carl Weathers as the Muhammad Ali-inspired Apollo Creed. The only real name in the cast was Burgess Meredith, a veteran of stage and screen who was now specializing in character parts. But Stallone and Avildsen knew the key role after Rocky himself was Adrian, the painfully shy girl who blossoms in her relationship with the boxer. They found their ideal actress in Francis Ford Coppola's younger sister, Talia Shire, not quite an unknown (she had appeared in her brother's The Godfather in 1972 and The Godfather Part II in 1974, the second earning her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination) but not a major star who would adversely affect the budget or overshadow her less-experienced co-star. Shire was eager to break out of the shadow of her big brother and jumped at the chance to play Adrian, even for the meager $7,500 she was offered. She admired Stallone and the story he created. "He calls himself an intellectual caveman," she said. "I think he sort of fancies himself as Stanley Kowalski, but, oh boy, is he a creative, sympathetic person."
But Avildsen didn't always find Stallone quite so sympathetic. The actor knew what he had riding on the project and drove himself to get into the right mental and physical shape to play the part. He changed his diet and undertook a tough work-out regimen that mirrored the training real boxers go through. Director and star got into frequent arguments over certain scenes during shooting in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, but usually resolved their differences with Stallone giving in to Avildsen's greater experience and expertise. The movie was completed within budget in 28 days ("the gestation time for a water bug," Stallone said). But even though it was not part of his deal, Stallone haunted the editing room while Avildsen assembled the rough cut, and continued to make unsolicited recommendations on how to improve the film. The director didn't like his star's meddling, but he found an unexpected bonus in Stallone's presence. There were several scenes with background voices on TV screens and over loudspeakers that normally would have to be dubbed by paid actors. Stallone did them for free, a service appreciated by director and money-conscious producers.
Sources reported, however, that Stallone and Avildsen nearly came to blows over the film's ending. Stallone wanted Creed to be the clear winner of the fight as a way of showing there are other victories for Rocky, but Avildsen cut the conclusion in such a way that preview audiences were not sure who had actually been declared the champ. They did agree, however, on the resolution to the Rocky-Adrian story. On viewing the rough cut, it was clear there was something missing. Adrian had more or less faded from the movie as the focus switched to the big fight with Apollo Creed. So a re-shoot was scheduled, and this time she comes into the arena to watch the last rounds of the match. When it's over, they call out to each other over the noise of the crowd, and Rocky walks away from the ringside frenzy to find her and take her hand. This was the upbeat ending Stallone wanted for his hero. But even though most differences were worked out amicably, Stallone felt he knew the characters and story better than anyone, so with his new-found clout, he took on the directing chores for the next three sequels. Avildsen only returned to the helm for the final film in the series, Rocky V (1990).
by Rob Nixon
Behind the Camera (Rocky)
The Critics Corner (Rocky) - The Critics' Corner: ROCKY
Rocky won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Editing. It also scored nominations for Best Actor (Sylvester Stallone), Best Supporting Actor (Burgess Meredith, Burt Young), Best Supporting Actress (Talia Shire), Best Original Screenplay (Stallone), Best Song ("Gonna Fly Now," music by Bill Conti, lyrics by Carol Connors and Ayn Robbins), Best Sound.
At the time of his Oscar nominations, Sylvester Stallone was only the third person in Oscar history to be nominated in a single year as both an actor and a screenwriter. The previous two were Charles Chaplin for The Great Dictator (1940) and Orson Welles for Citizen Kane (1941). Since Stallone's nominations, his feat has been matched by Woody Allen for Annie Hall (1977), Warren Beatty for Heaven Can Wait (1979) and Reds (1981), Billy Bob Thornton for Swing Blade (1996), Matt Damon for Good Will Hunting (1997), and Roberto Benigni for Life is Beautiful (1998).
Rocky won the Golden Globe Award for Best Drama. Nominations for Best Director, Best Actor in a Drama, Best Actress in a Drama (Shire), Best Screenplay, Best Original Score.
The Los Angeles Film Critics awarded the Best Picture Award of 1976 to two films - Rocky and Network.
Talia Shire received Best Supporting Actress awards from the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics Circle.
John G. Avildsen won the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement.
British Academy Award nominations for Rocky included Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, Editing.
Rocky won the American Cinema Editors Award for Best Edited Feature Film (The award went to Richard Halsey and Scott Conrad).
Rocky also scored a Writers Guild of America nomination for Stallone for his screenplay.
Rocky was budgeted at $1 million. It brought in close to $60 million in rentals and has grossed about $117 million with video and TV sales. It brought in $40,000 in its first week alone at New York's Cinema II theater, and extra showings had to be added to accommodate the overflow crowds.
The Critics' Corner: ROCKY
"The best way to enjoy Rocky is not to examine it too carefully; better simply to relax and roll with the Walter Mitty, Cinderella, or what-have-you notion that the least of us still stands a chance of making it big." -Variety, November 10, 1976.
"A glowing tribute to the human spirit. Stallone is a totally engaging Rocky, playing him with a mixture of boyish intensity, lusty sensuality, and cheerful innocence." - Kathleen Carroll, New York Daily News, November 1976.
"A sincere, rousing little film that raises the spirits and gladdens the heart." - Judith Crist, The Saturday Review, November 1976.
"A pugnacious, charming, grimy, beautiful fairy tale. It is a small pearl of realism." - New York magazine, November 1976.
"[Shire's] a real actress, genuinely touching and funny as an incipient spinster who comes late to sexual life. She's so good, in fact, that she almost gives weight to Mr. Stallone's performance, which is the large hole in the center of the film." - Vincent Canby, New York Times, November 22, 1976.
"[Stallone's] amazing to watch: there's a bull-necked energy in him, smoldering, and in his deep caveman¿ voice he gives the most surprising, sharp, fresh shadings to his lines." - Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies (Henry Holt, 1982).
"It's about heroism and realizing your potential, about taking your best shot and sticking by your girl. It sounds not only cliched but corny - and yet it's not, not a bit, because it really does work on those levels. It involves us emotionally, it makes us commit ourselves. We find, maybe to our surprise after remaining detached during so many movies, that this time we care." - Roger Ebert, Cinemania website review.
Compiled by Rob Nixon
The Critics Corner (Rocky) - The Critics' Corner: ROCKY
The genesis of Rocky is now Hollywood lore. Sylvester Stallone, flat broke and his wife pregnant, took his script (which he had supposedly written in three days) to the producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff at United Artists. They offered $75,000 to Stallone to make the film with a star and director of their choice. Stallone held out, hoping to star and direct the film himself. A struggling actor for many years, Stallone had slowly moved up the scale of Hollywood acting gigs, from a notorious porno film (where the nickname "Italian Stallion" in Rocky is derived) to supporting bits in lesser films like The Lords of Flatbush (1974). His script was more than just a tale of a Southpaw boxer who gets a shot at the title; it reflected very strongly Stallone's own aspirations toward becoming a success in Hollywood. After accepting that Stallone wouldn't budge (the producers offered up to a quarter million dollars, but Stallone withheld), UA rolled the dice and gave up a percentage of the film's gross and the lead role to the young actor versus a small fee for the screenplay and the need for a larger budget. The film was shot in one month with a budget of just one million dollars. Rocky ended up grossing more than 50 million dollars in its theatrical run, making Stallone a wealthy man and a national star.
Although Rocky was produced by a major studio in 1976, the fact that it was made for such a relatively small sum of money, starred a virtually unknown actor, included no "stars" widely known to popular audiences, did not tap into weighty historical or political storylines and yet achieved such financial success was a sign of a notable change in the ways popular audiences and the Academy were recognizing new filmmakers. In many ways, Rocky represented the small scale humanist drama now championed today by the "independent film" movement. Rocky opened the eyes of studios and audiences to new artistic and creative achievements not necessarily created by big-budget and big-star blockbusters.
The supporting cast were equally strong actors (all the principal actors were nominated for Academy Awards, but none won), and were generally recognized as greater stand-outs than the film itself. Talia Shire received perhaps the highest praise from critics at the time, giving a difficult role credibility, subtle understanding, and warmth. Burgess Meredith received his first Academy Award nomination for his leathered treatment of Mickey, the 76 year-old trainer. A scene in which Mickey must humbly ingratiate himself to Stallone's Rocky at his apartment after a bitter estrangement is a typically poignant, sensitive, well-crafted scene often found throughout the film and delivered with tremendous skill by the veteran actor. Even Burt Young, now with a poorly dated role, adds touches of authenticity with a mix of bombastic excess and improvised understatement. Poor Carl Weathers received the villain role, a slight which was noted by some critics for its racial tone and what was later rectified in sequels.
The story of Rocky's success combines the elements of a Cinderella tale very close to it's own sentimental story. One of the film's important legacies is the birth of the box-office superstar. The film launched its star into an orbit of stardom, allowing Stallone to replicate his no-odds hero persona soon after in the Rambo films. In hindsight, Rocky was made shortly after Steven Spielberg's Jaws (1975) and just before George Lucas's Star Wars (1977), two films which would change the way we have since watched films at the movie theater. As this transformation was just beginning, the Academy took a brief moment in 1976 to glance back on this film from much more humble origins, but one which resonated warmly with audiences far and wide. A special edition DVD of Rocky was released in April 2001, 25 years after the film's theatrical debut.
Producer: Gene Kirkwood
Director: John G. Avildsen
Screenplay: Sylvester Stallone
Production Design: Bill Cassidy
Cinematography: James Crabe
Costume Design: Robert Cambel, Joanne Hutchinson
Film Editing: Scott Conrad, Richard Halsey
Original Music: Bill Conti
Principal Cast: Sylvester Stallone (Rocky Balboa), Talia Shire (Adrian), Burt Young (Paulie), Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed), Burgess Meredith (Mickey), Thayer David (Jergens), Joe Spinell (Gazzo).
C-120m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Richard Steiner
Women weaken legs!- Mickey
You're gonna eat lightnin' and you're gonna crap thunder!- Mickey
Well, ya see, sir I understand you're lookin' for sparrin' partners for Apollo, and I jus' want ta let ya know that I am very available.- Rocky
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.- Apollo Creed
Your nose is broken.- Mickey
How does it look?- Rocky
Ah, it's an improvement.- Mickey
Sylvester Stallone sold the rights to make this film with the condition that he be cast in the title role. Producers offered him $150,000 to let Ryan O'Neal play the part.
Sylvester Stallone wrote the script in three days after he saw a boxing match between the unknown Chuck Wepner and Muhammad Ali in which Wepner went the distance.
The film was shot in 28 days.
Sylvester Stallone insisted that the scene where he admits his fears and doubts to Adrian the night before the fight be filmed, even though production was running far behind and producers wanted to skip it. He had one take for that scene, and was so nervous about screwing up the only scene he thought was important that he got himself drunk to do it.
The fight scene was filmed in reverse order starting with the fifteenth round and Stallone and Weathers in heavy make-up. As filming continued, the make-up was slowly removed until they were at round one. Because of this technique, the movie won an Oscar for Best Film Editing.
The film opens as the name "ROCKY" pans across the screen, filling the frame. A title card then appears, reading "November 25, 1975, Philadelphia." Before the opening cast and crew credits appear, there is a brief sequence in which "Rocky Balboa" (Sylvester Stallone) is losing a small arena fight until he suddenly unleashes furious punches against his opponent and wins the match. The credits roll as Rocky is walking home through the streets of Philadelphia.
According to a November 1976 interview with Stallone in New York Times, the 1975 championship fight between Chuck Wepner and then reigning World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali inspired him to write the Rocky screenplay. Stallone noted that as he watched the fight, he thought about "stifled ambition and broken dreams." After ruminating for several months, Stallone wrote a rough first draft of the screenplay in three and a half days. This was followed by two other drafts. Stallone, whose only leading role before Rocky was in the 1974 low-budget film The Lords of Flatbush, was determined to play the title role.
According to a November 1976 LAHExam news item, although United Artists and several other companies were interested in the script, offering Stallone up to $275,000 for the rights, Stallone refused to sell unless he could play the lead. In a November 1996 Los Angeles Times article, producer Irwin Winkler recalled that he and his producing partner, Robert Chartoff, tried to convince UA to allow Stallone to star in the picture, but the company insisted that either Ryan O'Neal, James Caan or Burt Reynolds be given the role. An April 2001 Variety news item added that Robert Redford was also considered for the part. A November 1979 New York Times article reported that Bette Midler was offered the role of "Adrian," but turned it down.
According to a January 2006 Los Angeles Times news item, Los Angeles sportscaster and actor Gil Stratton, who was initially to play the "fight commentator," instead took the role of a television reporter, but his scene was cut from the final film. Stallone's brother, Frank Stallone, Jr., appeared in the film, as did his father, Frank, Sr. Although Hollywood Reporter production charts add George Jordan, Jack Gregory, Ben Freeman, Ronald McQueen and Dick Lane to the cast, their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Modern sources add the following to the cast: Bobby Cassidy, Robert Leh, Frank Pesce and director John G. Avildsen.
In the Los Angeles Times interview, Winkler said that in order to make the film with Stallone, he and Chartoff, who at the time had an exclusive producing deal at UA, then decided to exercise a provision in their contract allowing them to make any movie of their choice costing up to $1,500,000. UA then proposed a $2,000,000 budget for the film, which would allow the company to circumvent the producers' deal and consequently make the film with a star of its own choosing. In a heated meeting with Mike Medavoy, at the time the head of production at UA, Winkler and Chartoff agreed to make the picture for $1,000,000, while also guaranteeing its completion, thus assuring their complete control over the project. An October 1976 article in Women's Wear Daily added that Stallone was awarded one percent of the gross for writing the film and two percent of the gross for acting in it.
In a March 1977 New York Times profile of director Avildsen, he explained that he was hired to direct Rocky because he had a good record for keeping low-budget films on track, agreed to the producers' stipulations that Stallone star in the picture, and would hold the picture's budget at $1,000,000. According to the New York Times article and to a 1976 article about Avildsen in Hollywood Reporter, the director was given a twenty-eight day production schedule. Hollywood Reporter production charts and other sources reported that production began on January 9, 1976 and the picture remained on Hollywood Reporter production charts until March 5, 1975. In order to adhere to the schedule, Avildsen staged numerous rehearsals and choreographed many of the scenes. During the four weeks before the start of principal photography, Stallone and Carl Weathers, who played "Apollo Creed," a character loosely based on Ali, rehearsed the final fight while Avildsen shot Super 8 footage of them so that they could see their weak points. A March 1977 Los Angeles Times article noted that to prepare for his role in Rocky, Stallone trained with Jimmy Gambina every day for about five months before shooting the picture. To economize, according to the New York Times article, Avildsen asked Stallone to change a scene in the original screenplay in which Rocky takes Adrian to a busy skating rink. To avoid spending money to hire the extras required for the scene, Avildsen decided that the skating rink would be closed, thus eliminating the need for extras, and creating one of the film's most memorable scenes.
Garrett Brown, who is credited with special camera effects for Rocky, employed one of the first feature-film-length uses of Steadicam, a stabilization equipment system that allows a photographer to walk around while using a hand-held movie or video camera. Studio publicity material contained in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library added that the Steadicam was hand-carried during the film's climactic boxing sequence filmed at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. According to an April 1977 New York Times article, Brown was granted a patent for the Steadicam process in 1977.
In the original ending of Rocky, the boxing arena is empty when Rocky walks out. After receiving a word of consolation from a fellow fighter, Rocky takes Adrian's hand and the two walk down the hallway together. According to an interview with Rocky's editor, Richard Halsey, in the September 1977 issue of Millimeter magazine, after filming was completed, it was decided that the ending was too downbeat and needed to be reshot. To save money, Avildsen filmed the revised finale, in which Rocky yells for Adrian to join him in the ring, in close shots, with just a few extras around them.
"Gonna Fly," more popularly referred to as "Gonna Fly Now," the Rocky theme composed by Bill Conti, not only occupied the number one spot in Billboard magazine charts, but has been recorded by many artists, including Maynard Ferguson, James Darren, Steve Lawrence and Shirley Bassey. In an undated Hollywood Reporter article, Conti said that he used trumpets in the film's opening sequences to get the audience's attention and that the fight scenes were scored like a "Bachian" fugue. A March 1977 article in Soundtrack magazine noted that lyricists Ayn Robbins and Carol Connors were unknown at the time Conti commissioned them to write the song's lyrics. Before production was to begin, however, UA decided to use its own staff songwriters to write the lyrics. Conti interceded by suggesting that all the names be removed from the music submitted for the film so that the producers could listen impartially and pick the best. Connors and Robbins won the competition, and subsequently "Gonna Fly" won an ASCAP award and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song. Since Rocky's release, "Gonna Fly" has been used as a theme for many sports and inspirational events.
Once Rocky was completed, UA launched an extensive publicity campaign to promote the film, including key art featuring Rocky partially wrapped in an American flag, as he appears at the end of the fight with Creed. A November 16, 1976 Daily Variety article noted that "Rocky has virtually been declared a film classic even though it is still several days from opening." According to the article, a highly orchestrated campaign had assured that articles would be placed in prominent magazines depicting the film as a "Cinderella story" by emphasizing Stallone's refusal to sell the script, despite lucrative offers, unless he could play the lead. In the article, the film's executive producer, Gene Kirkwood, noted that sneak preview screenings were for "the right people," such as "one well-known Hollywood gray eminence [Saturday Review (of Literature) critic Arthur Knight] who saw it without the final fight sequence but became a valuable public relations asset by calling the picture 'the sleeper of the year' in front of numerous lecture audiences."
After Rocky was screened for the staff of New West magazine, the resultant cover story sung its praises, assuring that the article would then be picked up by the magazine's sister publication New York. Kirkwood also noted that Rocky was perceived as a "Frank Capra-type tale." The Variety reviewer commented on the underdog theme of Rocky, noting that "the very best way to enjoy [the film] was to simply relax and roll with the Walter Mitty...notion that the least of us still stands a chance of making it big." An opposite view was expressed by Vincent Canby in his New York Times review, which described Rocky as an "absurdly oversold...sentimental little slum movie."
The picture went on to become a huge hit, becoming the second highest-grossing film of 1977 (after Star Wars), and by December 2006, according to a Hollywood Reporter article, had grossed $225,000,000 worldwide and over $117,000,000 domestically. Rocky attained such acclaim that according to a September 2006 Los Angeles Times article, in 1982, when Stallone donated a life-size statue of Rocky Balboa to the city of Philadelphia, where most of the film was shot, the statue was placed on a site near the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the steps Rocky ran up while in training, one of the film's most iconographic scenes. The steps became a popular tourist attraction for Rocky fans, many of whom would run to the top to imitate the boxer's triumphant pose.
In 2007 Rocky was ranked 57th on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies-10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films, moving up from the 78th position it occupied on AFI's 1997 list. In addition, the film ranked 4th in 2006 on AFI's 100 Years-100 Cheers list; the character of Rocky was ranked 7th on AFI's 100 Heroes and Villains list and Rocky's memorable "Yo, Adrian!" line was included on AFI's 100 Years-100 Quotes list.
Rocky, which at the time of its release was considered a longshot to win any Academy Awards, won for Best Director, Best Film Editing and Best Picture, and was nominated in the following categories: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Stallone), Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Stallone), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Burgess Meredith and Burt Young), Best Actress in Leading Role (Talia Shire), Best Sound and Best Song. Rocky garnered the following Golden Globe nominations: Best Motion Picture Actor-Drama, Best Motion Picture Actress-Drama, Best Director, Best Original Score and Best Screenplay. The picture also won the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, and was awarded a Golden Globe by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for Best Motion Picture-Drama. Stallone was nominated for the Writers Guild Award for Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen, and Shire won the New York Critics' and National Board of Review's awards for Best Supporting Actress.
Following Rocky's release, several lawsuits were filed against the film. In an undated Hollywood Reporter news item, local attorneys Herb Dowdell and Howard Rosoff, who owned twenty-five percent of the New Picture Co., filed a $19,000,000 lawsuit against Kirkwood, on the grounds that producers Chartoff and Winkler contracted with New Picture Co. and not Kirkwood for their services on the picture. In response, Kirkwood claimed that in 1972, Dowdell, the founder of New Picture, gave the firm to him in exchange for twenty percent of the company's stock, and that the company was defunct when he took it over. The outcome of that suit is unknown.
In 1977, John Roach and Ron Suppa, producers of Force Ten Productions, filed at $30,000,000 suit against Winkler and Chartoff, according to an April 1977 Hollywood Reporter news item. The suit charged that Force Ten owned exclusive options with Stallone to write and star in a film titled Hell's Kitchen, which the company claimed was based on a theme about a "club prize fighter who would build a reputation...until a climactic fight which he would lose." Force Ten charged that Rocky was an outgrowth of Hell's Kitchen, which had a working title of Paradise Alley. An April 1977 Daily Variety article noted that despite the suit, Universal decided to finance Hell's Kitchen, which was released in 1978 as Paradise Alley.
According to a November 2003 Hollywood Reporter news item, in 2003, former heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner sued Stallone for a share of the profits from the Rocky movies, claiming that the first in the series was based on Wepner's life. In 2006, according to a Los Angeles Times news item, Wepner settled the suit for an undisclosed amount. In the wake of Rocky's success, A Party at Kitty and Stud's, a soft-core porn film in which Stallone appeared in 1970, was released on videocassette under the title The Italian Stallion and promoted as "Sylvester Stallone Star of Rocky Goes X Rated." A June 21, 1977 Variety article quoted Stallone as saying that, to his knowledge, the film was never released theatrically, and he deplored the video release's exploitation of him and Rocky.
Rocky spawned five sequels, even though, at the end of Rocky, Creed and Rocky agree not to have a re-match: Rocky II (1979) (in which Rocky defeats Apollo), Rocky III (1982) and Rocky IV (1985); all were directed and written by Stallone and featured the principal cast from Rocky. Rocky V, written by Stallone and directed by Avildsen, eliminated the character of Apollo, who died in Rocky IV, and added Sage Stallone, the son of Sylvester Stallone, as Rocky's son "Rocky, Jr." In Rocky Balboa (2006) written by Stallone and directed by Avildsen, Adrian has died, making Rocky a widower.
Voted Best Picture (tie with "Network") by the 1976 Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
Voted Best Supporting Actress (Shire) and One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1976 National Board of Review.
Winner of the 1976 Director's Guild of America Award for Best Director.
Shire won the New York Critics' award for Best Supporting Actress.
Stallone was nominated for Writers Guild Award for Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen.
Released in United States Fall November 1976
Released in United States on Video April 24, 2001
Released in United States July 1984
Released in USA on video.
Released in United States Fall November 1976
Released in United States on Video April 24, 2001
Released in United States July 1984 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (50 Hour Sports Movie Marathon) July 5¿20, 1984.)
Ranking on AFI lists: 57th on "100 Years...100 Movies" 10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films; 4th in "100 Years...100 Cheers" list (2006); the character of Rocky ranked 7th in "100 Heroes and Villains" list; Rocky's "Yo, Adrian!" ranked 7th in "100 Years...100 Quotes" list.