Sylvester Stallone shot to fame in the movie Rocky. But Stallone’s own story is as inspiring as that of the character he plays. His slurred speech and snarling look are the results of a facial nerve that was severed during his birth and his early years were spent bouncing between foster families in the infamous Hells Kitchen area. An outcast at school thanks to his facial deformities, he was sent to a high school for troubled kids and voted “most likely to end up in the electric chair.”
After school, Stallone went to beauty college but left to turn his attention to acting. He didn’t meet with much success. He worked at a deli throughout most of his twenties and before Rocky made him a star was so broke that he was forced to sell his dog, to which was so attached he was in tears, for $25, to sell his wife’s jewelry and ended up living in a bus shelter.
His break came when he went to a boxing match in which an unknown underdog Chuck Wepner took the world champion Muhammed Ali to 15 rounds. Stallone went home and in three days wrote the first draft of Rocky. When he started hawking it around to the studios, there was immediate interest.
They saw the script as an excellent vehicle for a big star – names such as Robert Redford and Burt Reynolds were thrown around – and offered to buy the script. But Stallone wasn’t selling, not unless he was given the lead. The studios kept offering more, on the condition Stallone didn’t act in the movie. Each time Stallone refused, even when $325,000 was put on the table, the highest amount ever offered for a script. Despite having just $106 in the bank Stallone wouldn’t give up.
“I knew that if I took the money, I’d regret it for the rest of my life,” said Stallone. “And the picture was about taking that golden shot when you finally get it.”
The studio eventually gave in, buying the script for $35,000, with Stallone to work as a writer without a fee and as an actor for award wages. Stallone got the lead role, and the movie was reduced to low budget production.
The rest is history. Rocky was a massive hit, won an Oscar for best picture and Stallone became a star.
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