A Philadelphia Legend: Behind the Making of Rocky

April 16, 2018 12:33 pm0 commentsViews: 44
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The movie Rocky, filmed in Philadelphia, appeared in 1976 and spawned one of the most famous and profitable film series of all time.

The story line for the original Rocky movie occurred to Sylvester Stallone after watching the 1975 heavyweight fight between Muhammad Ali and a little-known New Jersey fighter named Chuck Wepner. Wepner, taken lightly by Ali, lost the fight but made it to the 15th round and even knocked the champion down.

Stallone was nearly broke when he wrote the first script, with just over $100 to his name. He even had to sell his beloved bull mastiff, named Butkus, for $50. When the movie studio bought the script, Stallone was able to buy Butkus back and even included him in the movie.

Stallone’s original script called for Rocky Balboa to throw the big fight in exchange for a payoff, and use the money to open a pet store for Adrian.

United Artists had no intention of letting Stallone play the lead role. They wanted James Caan, Burt Reynolds or Ryan O’Neal but Stallone refused to sell the script unless he got the role. He eventually was paid just $20,000 for the script and a SAG minimum of $350 per week for acting in the film.

Susan Sarandon was considered for the role of Adrian but Stallone and the producers decided that she was “too sexy.” Cher and Bette Midler was also considered, and Bette Midler was actually offered the role but turned it down.

The first Rocky movie was shot in just 28 days and cost only $1.1 million. Every effort was made to stay within the low budget. The crew, for instance, did not bother to get permits to film the scenes in which Rocky runs through the streets of Philadelphia or up the steps of the Museum of Art.

The famous shot in which a fruit-stand owner tosses Rocky an orange as he runs past was a spur-of-the-moment gesture by the man. He had no idea that a movie was being filmed or that he would be in it.

Rocky_FlagThe movie’s budget was too low to afford enough extras, so people were offered a free chicken dinner for acting as spectators at the Rocky vs Apollo Creed boxing match. Even then, there were too many empty seats. That’s why the area outside the ring is kept very dark during the boxing scenes.

For Rocky II, money was no longer a problem. For one scene alone, 800 Philadelphia children were used as extras for Rocky’s run from his house to the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The statue of Rocky in front of the Museum is 8’6” tall and weighs 2000 pounds.

Rocky became the 1976 box-office champion, grossing $225,000,000 worldwide. Critics and audiences loved the film, and it ended up nominated for seven Academy Awards and winning Best Picture. ■


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