November 1976 – ‘Rocky’ Gets Its Premiere

This past weekend, in his home town of Bayonne, Chuck Wepner was honoured with a statue. In this month of November, way back in 1976, the movie that is based, at least somewhat, on Wepner’s life and career, had its premiere in New York. ‘Rocky,’ for many the KO king of the boxing film world, was every bit an underdog as Wepner was in the fight he had with Muhammad Ali that started it all.

Unknown actor/writer Sylvester Stallone, who was steadfast in his refusal to let anyone but himself play the part of ‘Rocky Balboa,’ was “too short” for the role. The film needed a big star. The budget was low. Boxing films were old hat and unwanted by the cinemagoers of the day. ‘Rocky’ would never be a hit.

It just shows how much, or how little, the experts know.

Today, as it has been pretty much since ‘Rocky’ hit the silver screen, the film is celebrated, cherished, loved. Sure, the heavy critics have never let on how much they enjoyed/enjoy ‘Rocky,’ not in public, anyway; instead choosing to gush over “superior” boxing films such as ‘Raging Bull’ and ‘On The Waterfront.’ But there is no denying the magical appeal of ‘Rocky.’ In this regard, no rival boxing film can compete.

There is so much to enjoy when sliding ‘Rocky’ into the VCR once again.

Who doesn’t love:

The utterly inspirational soundtrack.

Joe Frazier’s cameo appearance.

Burgess Meredith’s superb performance.

Those gritty, old-school scenes shot in Philadelphia.

The great scene in the bar when the locals watching the fight go nuts as ‘Rocky’ knocks defending heavyweight champion Apollo Creed down.

Real-life fighter Pedro Lovell’s turn as ‘Spider Rico’ and his blatant head-butt in the film’s opening fight.

The turn from weird but wonderful actor Thayer David as the ring M.C.

The Philly steps roadwork scenes.

And so much more.

Yes, ‘Rocky’ is still the best when it comes to boxing films. And if you didn’t know, the movie has inspired too many real-life boxers than can be listed here. ‘Rocky’ struck a chord. It scored a knockout. It has shown incredible stamina and longevity. It is the champ.

Some interesting facts about ‘Rocky.’

Stallone wrote the script in three days.

Elvis Presley asked Stallone for a copy of the film.

The famous scenes where ‘Rocky’ hits slabs of beef were so real, Stallone permanently injured his knuckles.

Actor Burt Young, who plays the alcoholic ‘Paulie,’ was advised by a real life drunk on how to play a drunk.

Lee J. Cobb was the original choice for the part of ‘Mickey.’ Cobb refused to read for the part.

‘Rocky’ was the first sports film to win an Oscar for Best Picture.

Joe Frazier, who has a cameo in ‘Rocky’ was later auditioned for the role of ‘Clubber Lang’ in ‘Rocky III.’

Harvey Keitel was the original choice for the role of ‘Paulie.’

Prior to filming, Stallone studied fights featuring Rocky Marciano and Ezzard Charles.

Carl Weathers, who plays ‘Apollo,’ had to share a dressing room with Burgess Meredith.

Ken Norton was the original choice for the role of ‘Apollo Creed.’ At 230 pounds, he was too big.

Due to the meagre budget, in the scene where ‘Paulie’ throws the turkey out of the door, production members caught the turkey, which was then eaten by the crew.

Singing superstar Cher was once considered for the role of ‘Adrian,’ the role instead played beautifully by Talia Shire.

The famous “Rocky Steps” are in fact the steps that lead to the Philadelphia Art Museum. They are now universally known as the “Rocky Steps” and each year millions of fans run up them