The “Rocky” franchise includes six films and has raked in more than a billion dollars at the box office since the first film premiered in 1976. But it almost didn’t happen.
Sylvester Stallone was a relative newcomer to Hollywood in the mid-’70s when he pitched his rags-to-riches script about an uneducated debt-collector-turned-champion boxer named Rocky Balboa to producers.
Luckily, producers liked it. Unfortunately for Stallone, they didn’t want him to star.
“They wanted every celebrated actor at the time,” Stallone recalled Monday on the “Today Show.” “And big-name directors, when they found out I wanted to be involved, they scattered, ran for the hills.”
Instead of Stallone — the screenwriter — producers wanted Burt Reynolds, James Caan, or Ryan O’Neal, who were all big stars at the time.
So at 30 years old with just $106 in his bank account, Stallone
turned down a $US300,000 offer — the equivalent of $US1 million today — for the rights to “Rocky.” He was determined to make the film he wrote on his terms, starring himself.
“It was really insane at the time ’cause I was pretty broke,” he said of his decision to hold out. But it ultimately paid off.
In 1976, “Rocky” won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Stallone’s experience at the ceremony could have been out of the movie.
“Literally, I was parking cars 10 months earlier and now here we are [at the Oscars],” Stallone recalled to “Today.” “I rented a tuxedo and on the way to the Oscars the tie broke and the driver goes, ‘You want to borrow mine?’ I go ‘nah, I guess it doesn’t matter,’ so I walk into the Oscars looking like Vinny Boom Bots, ‘how you doin?’ and people were like, ‘oh my god, what arrogance, how dare he?'”
On a slim $US1,075,000 production budget, “Rocky” went on to earn more than $117 million in the U.S. alone. The six-part “Rocky” franchise has since brought in more than a billion dollars worldwide.
Now 67, Stallone once again had to convince producers that “Rocky” could be a hit — this time in the form of a Broadway musical. Eventually, it worked, and the action star got investors to put up a $16.5 million capital investment.
Earlier this month, “Rocky: The Musical” opened on Broadway to knockout reviews.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.