Rocky, by John Avildsen, was released in 1976 and received ten Oscar nominations, winning only two (best picture and best director, the most important). Among the nominations he received were those for best actor (won by Peter Finch for An unforgiving world) and best screenplay (won by Paddy Chayefsky also for An unforgiving world). You know who else, before Sylvester Stallone, had been nominated for both best actor and best screenplay for the same movie? Charlie Chaplin, by The great Dictator, and Orson Welles, for Citizen Kane.
And stop counting.
If that doesn’t give you the measure of what Rocky It is one of the most gigantic films in the history of American cinema (and not only, but first of all American) I no longer know what to do with you and I give up. Rocky Balboa is a giant 20th century piece and a symbol of a billion different things. He defined and perfected the concept of the “underdog”, of David against Goliath, of the person who, starting from a disadvantaged position, manages to climb the food chain and succeed thanks to sweat, commitment and determination, an idea that a few years later, with Reagan and Reaganism, it would explode and become a commercial playground, thanks also to certain films by Stallone himself. He invented the training montage. And it is a case of perfect identity between character and author: Rocky is Stallone and Stallone is Rocky, more than Rambo was. But I am getting lost: we are here to talk about Mr. Balboa, and about ten things about him and his life that it is absolutely necessary for you to know and that, if you already know them, you will like to reread.
1) His full name is Robert Balboa, but despite this it is of Italian origin, like its author. I say “despite this” because “Balboa” apparently comes from the name of this place, which as you can see is in Spain and not in Italy. Another curious thing is that we know the names of several members of the Balboa family (mainly thanks to Creed and Creed II), but we have no idea what her parents are called. However, we know that, according to Rocky himself, his father “was not the smartest of all”; neither is he, who has always presented himself as an unassuming but driven simpleton.
2) His nickname derives from Rocky Marciano, Italian-American boxer, born Rocco Marchegiano, son of Pierino Marchegiano and Pasqualina Picciuto, who was heavyweight champion from 1952 to 1956, the only one in history who finished his career undefeated. According to Wikipedia and the newspapers of the time, Rocky Marciano was nicknamed “Brockton Blockbuster” or “The Rock From Brockton” (he was born in Brockton, in case you were wondering). Rocky, on the other hand, was nicknamed throughout his career “Rock”, “Rocco”, “Meatball”, “The Iron Horse” and, above all, “The Italian Stallion”, that is, the stage name that he himself Stallone had adopted during his brief career in soft porn, which began and ended with Forbidden Porn by Morton Lewis (who became Italian Stallion right after the premiere of Rocky). However, as I read yesterday on the social media of Chelsea fans, Romelu Lukaku is nicknamed “Big Rom” or, and this is extraordinary, “The Stamford Fridge” – it has nothing to do with Rocky but I wanted you to know -.
3) His story is inspired by that of another boxer. This is not Rocky Graziano, as you might think, but Chuck Wepner, who in 1975 had the privilege of fighting Muhammad Ali and losing by technical knockout in the 15th round. Even Rocky, in his historic first fight with Apollo Creed that closed the first movie, lasted, not surprisingly, fifteen rounds. Apparently, Wepner, who was a Marine, also performed several acts of heroism, including rescuing three companions from the burning wreckage of a crashed plane.
4) His wife’s name is ‘Adrian’, which is actually ‘Adrianna’, and certainly not ‘Adrianaaaaa’. Adrianna Pennino, to be exact, alias Adrian, a nickname that I have never understood what it is for, since it only saves you one vowel. You may be surprised by the idea that an Italian-American character is played by someone named Talia Shire, but the truth is that it has a trick. Talia Shire’s real name is actually Talia Coppola, daughter of Carmine Coppola and Italia Pennino, sister of Francis Ford Coppola, aunt of Nicolas Cage and Sofia Coppola and mother of Jason Schwartzmann. His paternal grandparents are from Bernalda, in Basilicata, and his maternal ones are from Naples: I would say that he has all the credibility he needs.
5) And yet, in the beginning … Adrian’s family was supposed to be Irish, his brother was going to be Harvey Keitel, and so Stallone tried to cast Carrie Snodgress, who in 1970 got an Oscar nomination for Diary of a Desperate Wife (which, unlike Italian Stallion, is NOT a porn movie). Snodgress turned him down because Stallone offered him too little money.
6) Speaking of money. Rocky cost less than a million dollars and raised 225 million, figures of the time, not adjusted for inflation, but that give an idea of the success of the film. And how poor Sylvester Stallone was at the time, and also how allergic he was to commitment: they liked his script so much that the studios began to offer the lead role to a consecrated star to make money like crazy, but he refused because I didn’t see anyone but him playing Rocky. To quote director John Avildsen on the subject: “He was a broke actor. He wasn’t a big star. He was very cooperative and willing to try anything and he didn’t care about the size of his caravan, because there was no caravan.”
7) Rocky wrote seven of the eight movies Rocky, and directed four of the eight. In the sense that Sylvester Stallone has always wanted to maintain full control of his boxing creature, even more than he did with Rambo, and he has never allowed anyone else to follow his story without his permission. The same happens with the only film in the saga that has not been written by him, Creed, which was written by director Ryan Coogler and screenwriter Aaron Covington and to which Stallone contributed by writing only his own scenes and lines (of which there are relatively few).
8) Rocky ended the Cold War with one punch. Happened in Rocky IV, the most successful movie in the series (in box office terms), the one that even people who don’t like Rocky known by the phrase I WILL BREAK YOU INTO TWO, and especially the film in which the maximalist aspirations of an increasingly launched Stallone (in the same year, 1985, was also released Rambo 2that is, the film that transformed John Rambo from a Vietnam veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress to a superhero and a killing machine) reached its peak: Rocky’s victory in Russia, before the entire General Staff of the USSR, including Gorbachev, and his hopeful message “If I can change and you can change, everyone can change!” will help precipitate the events that six years later will lead to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It is history.
9) People never remember Rocky V. The first was a ray of light, a resounding encounter between auteur cinema, New Hollywood, sports cinema, the story of the life of an immigrant, everything. The second was a confirmation, the third is Eye of the Tiger, so whatever your opinion of it is, it is unforgettable. Of the fourth I have already spoken before. Rocky Balboa it served to show that Stallone still had what it takes. Creed It was a pleasant surprise and an unexpected (for a spin-off) return to form and the proof that of the two Stalonian mega-franchises is that of Rocky the one that deserves to continue, while Rambo should be retired. Creed II it was received with all the enthusiasm imaginable. And what about Rocky V, for which Stallone even called John Avildsen in an attempt to repeat the Oscar success? It grossed less than all the others, it was even less popular (despite the very interesting idea of opening the film immediately after Rocky IV and show Sly suffering the consequences of all those beatings on his body) and was surpassed by other megahits that year like Dancing with Wolves and Home alone. If it weren’t for Rocky always getting up, Rocky V it could have been the franchise’s coup de grace.
10) Rocky will be back, maybe, who knows, it’s up to Stallone. It seems pretty sure that Creed III will be done, and that Stallone himself will be involved, as his own words in this interview confirm: “Rocky meets a pissed-off young man who was stranded in this country when he came to visit his sister. He welcomes him into his life and they start a series of incredible adventures that will take them to the other side of the border. It is a very appropriate story for these times. ” However, keep in mind that Stallone never utters the word “Creed.” Above all, remember that for every hundred projects Sylvester Stallone announces, perhaps one will come to fruition, so don’t be surprised if Creed III, or the new Rocky, or the prequel to the television series about young Balboa (I swear) did not come true. And don’t worry: the Italian colt has already made an indelible mark on film history.
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10 Interesting Facts About Rocky Balboa You May Not Know