Director: John G. Avildsen
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young
Plot: Rocky Balboa is a struggling boxer trying to make the big time, working as a debt collector for a pittance. When heavyweight champion Apollo Creed visits Philadelphia, his managers want to set up an exhibition match between Creed and a struggling boxer, touting the fight as a chance for a "nobody" to become a "somebody". The match is supposed to be easily won by Creed, but someone forgot to tell Rocky, who sees this as his only shot at the big time.
After producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff became interested in the script, they offered writer Sylvester Stallone an unprecedented $350,000 for the rights, but he refused to sell unless they agreed to allow him to star in the film (this despite the fact that he had only $106 in the bank, no car and was trying to sell his dog because he couldn't afford to feed it). They agreed, but only on the condition that Stallone continue to work as a writer without a fee and that he work as an actor for scale. After Winkler and Chartoff purchased the film, they took it to United Artists, who envisioned a budget of $2 million, but that was on the basis of using an established star (they particularly wanted Robert Redford, Ryan O'Neal, Burt Reynolds or James Caan). United Artists didn't want Stallone to star, and when Winkler and Chartoff told them that the only way they could get him to sell the screenplay was to agree to cast him, United Artists cut the budget to $1 million, and had Chartoff and Winkler sign agreements that if the film went over budget, they would be personally liable. The final cost of the film was $1.1 million. The $0.1 million came after Chartoff and Winkler mortgaged their homes so as to complete the project.
Sylvester Stallone insisted that the scene where he admits his fears and doubts to Adrian the night before the fight be filmed, even though production was running far behind and the producers wanted to skip it. Stallone had only one take for the scene, despite the fact that he considered it to be the most important scene in the film.
Most of the scenes of Rocky jogging through Philadelphia were shot guerrilla-style, with no permits, no equipment and no extras.
In the film, the poster above the ring before Rocky fights Apollo shows Rocky wearing red shorts with a white stripe when he actually wears white shorts with a red stripe. This was an actual mistake made by the props department that they could not afford to rectify, so Sylvester Stallone came up with the idea for the scene where Rocky points out the mistake himself. The comment about Rocky's robe being too baggy came about the same way - the robe delivered to the set was far too baggy for Stallone, so rather than hope people wouldn't notice, the character himself simply points it out.
The monologue which Rocky delivers after turning down Mickey's (Burgess Meredith) offer to manage him was completely improvised on-set by Sylvester Stallone. He has since explained that he was heavily influenced by the fact that the bathroom of the tiny apartment in which they were shooting really did stink.
Writer Sylvester Stallone was inspired to write the screenplay for the film after seeing the Chuck Wepner-Muhammad Ali fight on March 24, 1975 at the Richfield Coliseum outside of Cleveland in Richfield, Ohio. Thirty-six year old Wepner was considered a moderate talent, but no one thought he had a hope against Ali. Indeed, no one expected Wepner to last more than three rounds. As such, the longer the fight went on past the opening three rounds, the more shocked people became; Wepner even managed to knock Ali down in the ninth round. Ali immediately opened a blistering offensive in an attempt to drop Wepner and for the next six rounds, he pummeled Wepner mercilessly, breaking his nose and opening large gashes above both his eyes. No matter how hard Ali hit him however, Wepner kept moving forward and continuing to fight (it was this specific aspect of the fight which inspired Stallone). Eventually, with 19 seconds left in the fifteenth and final round, Ali scored a TKO.
The ice rink scene was originally written to feature 300 extras, but the production couldn't afford so many people. When Sylvester Stallone turned up to shoot the scene, to his horror, there was only one extra. So, Stallone hastily threw together the scene as it exists in the completed film. Ironically, this scene has become one of the most popular in the entire Rocky saga.
When shooting the scenes in the meat-locker where he punches the slabs of beef, actor Sylvester Stallone punched the meat so hard for so long that he flattened out his knuckles. To this day, when he makes a fist, his knuckles are completely level.
Originally, Stallone had a much darker script which depicted Mickey (Burgess Meredith) as a bitter old racist, and the film ended with Rocky throwing the fight after realizing he did not want to be part of the professional boxing world.
The photos on Rocky's mirror are actual photos of Sylvester Stallone as a young boy.
During the scene where Gazzo (Joe Spinell) is talking to Rocky about not breaking the dock worker's thumbs, Gazzo pulls out an inhaler mid-sentence and uses it. That wasn't written into the script; Spinell actually had an asthma attack and really had to use his inhaler right on-camera on the spur of the moment. Director John G. Avildsen liked the authenticity it brought to the scene, so he decided to leave it in the film.
Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers suffered injuries during the shooting of the final fight; Stallone suffered bruised ribs and Weathers suffered a damaged nose, the opposite injuries of what their characters had.
According to Sylvester Stallone in the DVD commentary, Rocky's trademark outfit of the black snap-brim fedora and the leather coat came from a local hand-me-down store in the neighborhood where they were filming.
One of the pictures tacked to the wall in Rocky's apartment is a reproduction of Caravaggio's "The Calling of St. Matthew". The painting depicts Christ calling Matthew from his life of obscurity literally into miraculous light. As Apollo Creed selects Rocky in much the same way, the picture carries obvious thematic resonance.
Susan Sarandon auditioned for the role of Adrian, but was deemed too attractive for the character.
The scene that involved Rocky and Adrian kissing in Rocky's kitchen was originally not scripted the way it was shot. Talia Shire had contracted the flu and was worried about getting Sylvester Stallone sick, so she was very hesitant to kiss him. Her hesitation and behavior was actually such an improvement over the scripted scene that they decided to keep it. Indeed, this scene has become Stallone's favorite scene in the entire Rocky saga, and both he and Shire see the scene as a 'birth-scene' for Adrian, where she is awakened to a new life.
According to Sylvester Stallone, it was a stroke of good luck that got the film made. He met with the producers to audition for another film, but was turned down for the part. In the course of conversation Stallone mentioned that he was not only an actor, but also a writer. As he started to leave the room, the producers asked him if he was working on any scripts. That's when Stallone pitched them the story for Rocky (1976) and the producers asked to read the script.
The actors were encouraged to provide their own props and wardrobe as a cost-cutting measure since the film had a small budget. For instance, many items in Adrian's wardrobe actually did belong to Talia Shire.
The original ending would have had Rocky and Apollo's fans carrying them out of the ring on their shoulders after Apollo's narrow victory. Rocky then goes backstage looking for Adrian. He finds her behind the curtain at the back of the arena, and the two walk off hand in hand towards the dressing room. Ultimately, Sylvester Stallone found this scene unsatisfying, and so reshoots were done a week or so later with the now memorable ending. Despite this, the portrait of Rocky and Adrian walking off together was the widely used poster shot.
Sylvester Stallone was so poor prior to filming Rocky (1976), he had to sell his dog for $50 because he couldn't afford to feed him. A week later, he sold the script for Rocky (1976) and bought him back for $3,000. Rocky's dog, Buktus, was this same dog.