The movie, Rocky, was certainly an inspirational film, but how it came into existence is just as amazing.
Sylvester Stallone was struggling to find acting work while he worked odd jobs which included cleaning lion cages and ushering at movies. In 1975, he was twenty nine years old and hoping for his big break after meeting two important producers, Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff. But they turned him down for a part. Although he had every reason to quit, Stallone found inspiration to keep trying.
You see, Stallone was no stranger to adversity. When he was born he had nerve damage that curled his lip into a permanent snarl while also slurring his speech. This led to constant harassment by other kids. As reported in the recent edition of Mental Floss magazine, he also grew up in and out of foster care, and he was expelled from multiple schools. Yet he latched on to a dream of following a creative pursuit that started in high school with art and led to acting in college.
After getting turned down by Winkler and Chartoff, Stallone decided to write his own screen play. Inspired by the real life fight between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner, he finished Rocky in a matter of days and presented it to Winkler and Chartoff, who loved the story. But the studio was not excited about a boxing movie starring an unknown actor.
Winkler and Chartoff decided to produce the film anyway, getting by on a very limited budget and funding cost overruns themselves. Stallone’s wardrobe for the film came from his own closet. The famous scene of Rocky ice skating with Adrian had to be shot at an empty skating rink because they could not afford to pay extras for the scene. And the fight between Rocky and Apollo Creed was shot in front of 4,000 people who were lured to the set with the promise of a free chicken dinner.
The actors and producers had countless odds stacked against them, but they did not give up. Not only is this the central theme of Rocky, but it’s also a great lesson for us to remember when we face adversity.