By Alain Burrese
When it comes to tough guy quotes, Sylvester Stallone has made so many tough guy movies that he will be getting his own volume in the Tough Guy Wisdom sereis. I’ve always liked him, and even though it’s been a few years now, I still remember Christmas of 2006 when I shared Rocky Balboa’s triumphant return to the ring in the sixth installment: Rocky Balboa. I had waited with anticipation, and thoroughly enjoyed watching the sixth installment of the incredible Rocky franchise. Like many people, I’ve followed the boxer’s life and career for the last 30 years. When the movie hit the video store, I rented it and watched it again. Just like the first five Rocky movies, I’m sure I’ll watch it a few more times as well. I’ll admit, I didn’t see the first two Rocky movies in the theater, I was a bit young, and Rocky III was the first I saw on the big screen. However, I do remember the first time I saw Rocky on television in the late 70s, and from then on I was a fan, and have been to this day.
I also eagerly waited for the fourth Rambo movie and went to the theater as soon as it was released in early 2008. John Rambo is another Stallone character, although not created by him, I’ve always enjoyed. In fact, I’ve always enjoyed most of Sylvester Stallone’s movies, even those that the critics panned and most people don’t hold up as cinema masterpieces. Some people might be going, “are any of Stallone’s movies cinema masterpieces?” My answer is YES. Rocky won the academy award for Best Picture in 1976 and is included in many lists of greatest films. However, I did not start writing this to comment on the worthiness of films Sylvester Stallone has stared in, and if you don’t like Rhinestone with him and Dolly Parton, that is your problem and I’ll still enjoy Sylvester Stallone, who won the Razzie Award for Worst Actor, singing the song that won the Razzie Award for Worst Original Song “Drinkenstein.”
The reason I wanted to write this article is because I think the success of Sylvester Stallone is something we can all look at and gain some valuable wisdom as well as using his example to motivate ourselves toward greatness. The success of Sylvester Stallone really is some Tough Guy Wisdom. Watching some of Stallone’s earliest films, including a soft core porn film, who would have thought he would become one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood at one time. His real life success resembles the success of his Rocky character. Seeing him in those earliest roles, one would think he would be as unlikely a movie star as a bodybuilder from Austria with a heavy accent and a name most people couldn’t pronounce. (The success of that movie star turned Governor of California will be a topic of future articles.) But the fact is, Sylvester Stallone was not only one of the highest paid actors of the 80s, the characters he portrayed were known around the world. Rocky spanned more than thirty years and six movies and the forth Rambo movie was released twenty-six years after First Blood.
However, it is not the fact that numerous sequels were made of his movies, or the large paychecks per film he was making that I admire about Sylvester Stallone. The inspiring thing about Stallone is that he wrote the first Rocky script in three days and then refused to sell the script for more than two hundred thousand dollars at a time that he and his wife were flat broke. And that was in the 70’s when two hundred thousand dollars would buy something. That is commitment and dedication if ever there were any. And it certainly paid off for him.
Because of his commitment, he refused to sell the screenplay, and insisted that the character was written for him, and that he should be the only one to play Rocky. He stuck to his guns, believed in himself, and eventually sold the project and found financial backing to get the picture made with him as the star. The movie went on to win three Academy Awards including Best Picture (Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff). Rocky also won Best Film Editing (Richard Halsey and Scott Conrad) and Best Director (John G. Avildsen). Sylvester Stallone, himself, was nominated for Best Actor and for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. He was the third person to be nominated for both acting and writing the same year. (Other nominations included Burgess Meredith, Best Actor in Supporting Role; Burt Young, Best Actor in Supporting Role; Talia Shire, Best Actress in a Leading Role; Best Music, Original Score; Best Sound) The movie also won numerous other awards too. Wow!
Can you imagine what would have happened if Stallone would have taken the paycheck and sold the script? Rocky would not be who we know him as today, that’s for sure. Maybe Stallone would not have become the success he became either. We don’t know. However, I do believe the genius he had inside him, combined with the courage and determination he had to see Rocky done his way, would have led him to success eventually no matter what. Personally, I am so glad he stuck to his guns, because Rocky has been a hero of mine for over 30 years now.
Sylvester Stallone has been a hero of mine as well. I admire what he did and the success that came to him for it. Success stories are motivational, and a success story that also involves such a motivational fictional character as Rocky is doubly so. I am sure that many people have succeeded with Rocky and the story of Stallone as inspiration, and I’m sure many more will be inspired to greatness because of his story and subsequent films. With the success of The Expendables, showing that even aging action stars can still fill theater seats, it doesn’t look like Stallone will be stopping any time soon. And for that, I’m glad. I’m eagerly awaiting next year’s sequel, The Expendables 2, and any other films Stallone signs on with.
But it still goes back to Rocky. If you have never seen the movie Rocky, go rent it. If you have seen it, check it out again if you need a quick boost of motivation and want to feel good for a couple of hours. But remember the story behind the story and use that same determination and stick-to-it-ness to make your dreams come true too. Because, “Yo, you can do it.”
November 2011, Revised from an ealier article by Alain Burrese.