The other day, I listened to a YouTube clip of Tony Robbins telling the “Rocky” story. You know, the “Rocky” story, right? It’s the one where Sylvester Stallone wrote a screenplay for Rocky. When he took it to the studio, the studio wanted to buy it. They thought it would be a great vehicle for some of their actors.
But Stallone said he wouldn’t sell it unless he starred in it.
The studio was against it, because Stallone was a funny-looking unknown actor.
But because of Stallone’s fierce determination and belief in himself, he prevailed.
The studio agreed to pay Stallone a measly $18,000 and the film was made for less than a million dollars.
And the rest is history.
Or is it?
First of all, I tend not to believe anything that Tony Robbins says. If he says the world is round, the first feeling I get is that I need to look it up in a science book.
But hey, everyone knows the Rocky story, right? And Robbins said he heard it from his good pal Sly Stallone himself. So, it must be true, right?
Nope. The whole thing is bullshit.
Here’s how it really went down:
The first part of the story is true: Stallone did write a script for Rocky.
His agent, Larry Kubik, then showed the script to his producer buddies: Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff.
Now, the Winkler-Chartoff team had a pretty cool clause in their deal with the studio UA. If their film costs less than a million dollars, the studio would automatically greenlight the movie.
Wanna guess under which clause Rocky was made?
That’s right. The studio greenlit the movie WITHOUT EVER MEETING STALLONE.
In fact, they could have casted me as a 3-year old for the title role of Rocky and the studio wouldn’t have cared less.
But the studio DID want to see how Stallone would work out. So, they screened one of this earlier films, The Lords of Flatbush. Now, LOF had an ensemble cast. And when the studio guys watched it, they weren’t so sure who Stallone was. They thought Perry King, another actor in the movie, was Stallone and based on seeing King, they said OK.
So, when the studio finally saw the final result of Rocky, they had no idea who the star was. They were looking for the other actor!
They sure did like that movie. And test audiences liked it too. The only problem was they thought it wouldn’t appeal to enough people. Heck, it was a boxing flick..eveyone knows women won’t go.
So, what did they do?
The studio guys summoned Stallone and the conversation went something like this:
Stallone: Yo, what’s going on?
Studio Big Wig: We got this idea, Sly. We’ve made up this cockamamie underdog story that we think is going to work AWESOMELY for your Rocky movie. Here’s what we need you to do: We need you to go to all the newspaper guys and tell them that the BIG BAD studio didn’t want to buy your script if you starred in it. You tell them that you refused to do it unless you starred in it. You’re an unknown guy so everyone will believe it.
Stallone: Yo, but I don’t get it. Like I never met yous guys before we made the movie.
Studio Big Wig: Yeah, yeah, yeah..we know. But our marketing gimmick for this movie is all about the underdog. So, we’re going to make YOU the underdog. Just tell them we’d give you..oh, I don’t know…say, $18,000 for the movie.
Stallone: You think theys gonna buy it?
Studio Big Wig: Hell, yes. Those stupid newspaper guys will fall all over themselves for this one. They love underdog stories. So, go on out there and spin this story. Your fake underdog story’s going to sell this movie, BIG TIME.
Stallone: OK. I’ll try.
Yoda: Don’t try. Do or do not. There is no try.
Did it work? Well, you still believe the story, don’t you?
So, next time someone tells you that horsesh*t Rocky story, you’ll have the truth.
The story was nothing but a well-done marketing campaign. A campaign so successful that everyone still believes it’s true. Heck, by now, Stallone probably believes it. Then again, he probably thought the Blair Witch Project was real.
For more info on how it went down, go here.