• Golden Globe Awards

Sylvester Stallone on “Rocky”, 1976 – Out of the Archives

On August 26, fans can see Sylvester Stallone as a dark superhero in Samaritan, that he also produced. Back in 1977, he received two Golden Globe nominations – Best Actor and Best Screenplay for Rocky. He would go on to reprise the iconic role of boxer Rocky Balboa, in five sequels and the spinoff Creed franchise.
Before Rocky opened the way for him, back in 1976, Stallone had an exclusive interview with the journalists of the Hollywood Foreign Press, he talked about the movie that would make him a star. 
Despite his inexperience as a screenwriter, Stallone said that, when he brought the script to Gene Kirkwood at the production company Chartoff-Winkler, they liked it: “They found it to be really refreshing in an age when movies had bullets, cars and gore, offering instead human people that are warm and loving. That seemed to be a novelty. After that, we fought for a few weeks about whether I was going to play the role or not, but it really wasn’t fighting, it’s their obligation as businessmen to not lose money. And it was not a matter of me not being bankable; my point was that people don’t come to see a star, they come to see a film. And once that was conveyed, they gave us the money and told us to take the bus to Philly and make a movie.”
As a writer the actor crafted the character of Rocky Balboa based on 1950s heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano and on his own experience as an actor: “I had delusions of grandeur, of course, everyone wants to be a champion of the neighborhood and all that, but I never partook in any type of fighting, amateur-wise or any other kind. Rocky Marciano was one of the great figures of boxing, he was a legitimate tough guy, and everybody wanted to be Marciano, because the man did have talent, but he was so basic, all he had was guts and a hard punch. When he stepped into the ring, you knew he was going to give you his heart, 100%, and that’s what Rocky Balboa wanted. So, naturally, because of his size, Rocky identified more with Rocky Marciano than with Primo Carnera, because when he died, there died a legend. Of all the heavyweight champions, you maybe have five that are legends, and he was one of them. Marciano came out of obscurity and started very late in life, his first professional fight wasn’t until he was 27 or so. So I took my particular position of failing as an actor and I put it into the body of a fighter; basically what Rocky is conveying is my sensibilities as a frustrated performer.”
The actor-screenwriter outlined his future career plans: “I would like to sell the rest of the scripts that I have. The reason why they didn’t sell is because the majority of my scripts are very pessimistic films where the hero always dies, the girl goes up in flames and things like that. Rocky was my first script that dealt at optimism, that was about a man as governor of his own fate. Rocky went in the ring, and he had to stay 15 rounds, and it was up to him, not to the stars, he did it on his own. And that’s the type of scripts I’m writing now. My other scripts dealt in immorality and avarice, impersonation and disillusionment, shattered dreams and all these negative things that psychiatrists make a fortune out of. So I changed all that, now I like to write happy little stories that you can have fun with, and people enjoy because they are not so brutally realistic. Rocky is a Cinderella story, it’s really like a greasy Cinderella.”
Stallone revealed that two Rocky sequels were always planned from the beginning: “We’re going to have Rocky 2 and Rocky 3, Rocky visits Venus, then Rocky Eats The Galaxy next. Originally Rocky was intentionally going to be a trilogy. I was going to take it from a boxer, then going on into neighborhood politics, then he actually runs for mayor, he gets involved in corruption and it keeps going. Then he comes back after being a mayor and a somewhat famous, local celebrity, and he ends up right back in the fight club again. I thought it would have been nifty, and luckily Gene Kirkwood stopped me before I got too far, but in two years I would like to do the second part, maybe three years after that do the third part. It would be neat to see where Rocky is at five or six years from now, it would make for some interesting acting.”
Sylvester Stallone, whose nickname is Sly, continued with his off-beat sense of humor to elaborate on what was wrong with Hollywood: “Briefly, I’d say that Hollywood is suffering from a chronic case of creative arthritis, it has artistic leukemia, it needs a transfusion, badly.  We have to get new blood in there, new talent, graft on new actors. And we have to start celebrating our writers, they have got to be pushed to the forefront and listened to, their stories should not be butchered for the sake of sensationalism. What I mean is that every movie shouldn’t star a truck or a tractor or a bullet, it should star actors because people in the audience want to see themselves and their problems portrayed on film, they don’t want to see fire and guns and devils all the time. So the problem with Hollywood is that they’ve got to open the doors of opportunity to fledgling talent. I don’t want to sound like the second coming of the Louis B. Mayer Christ figure, but I really would like to do films like Rocky where we use actors like these two, Carl Weathers and Talia Shire, that aren’t known, but can bring something fresh and vital, which is incredibly important.”
He did believe that violence in movies presented young people with a bad example to imitate: “Absolutely, without question, without a doubt. It’s known as association through imitation, when you see people do it, you do it. If you see men like Robert Redford or Paul Newman or Clint Eastwood go out and shoot someone, you think, ‘If he can do it, I don’t know if it’s that bad, maybe I can do it.’ Subconsciously the seed has been planted, and many crimes have been duplicated from films. So I don’t believe what some people say that violence on film is a relief, that people will get it out of their system vicariously; no, they get frenzied by it. If you look at movies like Mandingo or Marathon Man or Taxi Driver, that really incite people, I feel that it has a detrimental effect; and it may not come out maybe until two years later, but it will come out, so it’s bad.”
Stallone illustrated what kind of actor he felt he was and concluded with a line that would become a trademark of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator in 1984: “I’ve always been a trader of my own emotions. For example, I could be a democrat one day and a republican the next, I could like you one day and dislike you the next. I’m very hypocritical, very flexible, very changeable, so I can jump over, back and forth, across the fence. I can write one character that is very hateful in a script, then write the next one who is very wonderful and giving and benevolent. There’s a schizophrenia that I have, so now I decided to flip over to the nice guy for a while. But I’ll be back…”