It’s hard to think of an actor and a character as intertwined as Sylvester Stallone and Rocky Balboa. Writing the script for “Rocky” gave the struggling actor a way past the studio gates, and he’s gone on to play the boxer eight times (and counting!).
In addition to Stallone’s charisma, the character has found so much longevity in part due to the way the boxing films are never just about boxing. Stallone has been able to mold “Rocky” movies to cover everything from love to grief to forgiveness, while sprinkling in plenty of training montages and ringside action. It’s nothing short of an iconic American franchise, and in a new interview with Variety, the actor makes clear that his love for the character hasn’t waned.
“[Rocky is] like my brother. It’s the only voice that I can say what I want without being ridiculed, or being silly, or being precious or sentimental, because he is that way,” Stallone told the outlet. “Rocky can’t keep quiet. He just talks and talks and spills his guts. And as a writer, if you do that quite often, it looks as though you’re just lost in the world of exposition. But he’s actually saying something, and because of the way he speaks and his naiveté and gentle quality, you listen. Rocky can say things that my other characters can never say.”
Stallone says that he’s working on two new “Rocky” projects, a prequel TV series and a film in which he’d star. But for all his affection for the character, one issue still keeps him up at night. The actor laments that, despite creating and originating the role, he was never given any ownership in the franchise.
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After the release of “Rocky II,” Stallone said he asked his attorney about negotiating an equity stake in the “Rocky” series. He had earned gross points in the first two movies, but this would give him a percentage of all money made off of the character, even in future films that didn’t involve him.
But Stallone said he was quickly told such an arrangement would be impossible. “I was told it just doesn’t happen,” he said. “No one has it, and look, they’re giving you more money on ‘Rocky III.’ They took their chances, and you’re not entitled to it.”
He further explained that after he confronted the studio before “Rocky IV” was released, Stallone said he asked, “Does it bother you guys that I’ve written every word, I’ve choreographed it, I’ve been loyal to you, I’ve promoted it, directed it and I don’t have 1 percent that I could leave for my children?”
Stallone blames the situation on a combination of his business naiveté and an industry that was hostile to artists. While he was well-compensated for each of his “Rocky” movies, it clearly hurts him that somebody else owns a character that is an extension of him. But the bad blood only stretches so far, as he is still writing “Rocky” scripts for the franchise’s owners. The boxer just refuses to stay down.