If dates mean much of anything to you, you might find it a little interesting, maybe even ironic, that the classic movie ‘Rocky’ is now as old as real-life heavyweight legend George Foreman was when he made good on his wholly unrealistic comeback and regained the world heavyweight crown. ‘Rocky’ is 45 years old, as was “Big George” when he bounced back.
Yes, it was November 21, 1976, when ‘Rocky’ first hit the cinema screens (in America, UK audiences had to wait until January of 1977).
Sly Stallone knew he would not be afforded the opportunity of launching a comeback if ‘Rocky’ flopped. 45 years ago, Stallone was of course a largely unknown, almost financially broke actor who had a dream that was equally as big as Foreman’s; if not bigger. Upset at the time over how all the films he was watching were either, “anti-establishment, anti-government, or anti-everything,” Stallone said when speaking about ‘Rocky’ after it had become a hit, how “there was nobody to root for [in the movies].”
Stallone set about changing that and he knew he needed a “guy from the streets” to do it. So he had half an idea – about an underdog, one millions of people, some of them hardworking, could identify with. All the pieces then fell into place when Sly watched massive underdog Chuck Wepner – AKA “The Bayonne Bleeder” – knock down and almost go the distance with the one and only Muhammad Ali, this in March of 1975.
Writing the screenplay in record time, Stallone knew he had to play the role of Rocky Balboa himself, how no famous star could pull it off. After much persuasion, the producers of the film, Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff, agreed and Stallone then had it all to prove. With a limited budget and with his nerves driving him on, Stallone was every inch a real-life underdog himself and he made good as his inner belief told him he would. All these years later, and can any boxing fan, indeed any fight fan, any lover of a story that shows the downtrodden being able to reach the top, imagine a world without ‘Rocky?’
There is so much to love about the 1976 classic.