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"Uh-huh," he says sheepishly. "They've got the same masochistic streak and sense of self-loathing."
I'm sentimental. A lot of other people in this country are just as sentimental.
The Bard never peddled himself and his work as a package deal. Stallone did. He wanted to play Rocky. The producers offered him $180,000 and told him to stay home. He only had $106, Sasha was pregnant with their first son, Sage, and Butkus, their bull mastiff, was hungry.
"Shove it," said Stallone.
The producers came back with $360,000 and Ryan O'Neal.
Stallone held out until he got the part. He got only $20,000 for the screenplay and $625 a week to play Rocky. But he also got 10% of the net. The studio budgeted a measly million dollars for the movie.
Rocky was shot in 28 days. It went $100,000 over budget and brought in $225 million in box receipts alone. It won Oscars for the best picture of 1976, best editing and best director (John Avildsen). Even The New Yorker's demanding Pauline Kael liked it.
Stallone didn't get an Oscar, but he was nominated for one. He played Rocky with a colossal goofiness that was impossible not to watch. His slow-on-the-uptake palooka was so convincingly sincere that movie audiences actually jumped up and screamed for him to win. It was the Bicentennial year. Rocky was the first of the post-Vietnam War heroes.
"Rocky's the ultimate warrior, almost immortal," Stallone says. "In each film, he's eventually overwhelmed by adversity and reaches the point at which he has to either go for it or acquiesce." But Rocky is as incapable of acquiescing as his creator. "We're unable to step backward from a challenge," says Stallone with characteristic understatement. "That's our salvation and our ruination."