The origins of the Rocky iconography are well documented. Sylvester Stallone was a struggling actor and writer when he watched the Chuck Wepner-Muhammed Ali fight - a match in which club fighter Wepner nearly went the distance against the great Ali. Stallone, unemployed and broke, was so impressed by the miraculous performance that he sat down and wrote Rocky.
Stallone identified so much with the script that he refused to sell it unless he would be cast in the title role. The studios wanted the big stars of the day - Burt Reynolds, Ryan O'Neal, James Caan - and could not imagine bankrolling an unknown actor with an unlikely name. Against all advice and prevailing wisdom, Stallone stuck to his guns, and today it's virtually impossible to imagine anyone else in the part.
Some call it the best boxing film ever made, but what elevated Rocky in the eyes of critics and audiences alike is that it's about real people in everyday desperate situations who long for something better. Even without boxing, the story has almost universal relevance, yet, as Roger Ebert wrote, "It wants to involve us on an elemental, a sometimes savage, level. It's about heroism and realizing your potential, about taking your best shot and sticking by your girl. It sounds not only clichéd but corny - and yet it's not, not a bit, because it really does work on those levels. It involves us emotionally. It makes us commit ourselves: We find, maybe to our surprise after remaining detached during so many movies, that this time we care."
Stallone, like Rocky, dared to dream in the face of overwhelming odds and rose instantly from obscurity to worldwide acclaim. The extraordinary writing, directing and acting in Rocky moved the audience to root for all the characters - not just the guy who has to step into the ring. It is that spirit that bonds the first film to this, the last.
Rocky II, released in 1979, reunited Stallone in the title role with Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers and Burgess Meredith. Rocky and champ Apollo Creed get a ring rematch and both Rocky and his wife Adrian fight for their lives in different arenas. Particularly memorable is the boxing that climaxes the picture directed by Sylvester Stallone, who, simply put, knows Rocky better than anyone in the world.
Rocky III, released in 1982, again starred Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Burgess Meredith and Carl Weathers, with the addition of Mr. T. A new twist on the winning formula has the Italian Stallion trained by his former foe Apollo Creed after being dethroned by an obnoxious fighter. Made soft by success, Rocky has to dig deep to find motivation to stay on top. Stallone directed this chapter of the story, which featured the popular Academy Award-nominated original song, "Eye Of The Tiger."
Rocky IV, released in 1985, starred Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Carl Weathers, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Brigitte Nielsen, Michael Pataki and James Brown under Stallone's direction. This time, Rocky avenges a friend's death and fights for American Glory against a superhuman Russian champ, traveling to Siberia to train like his opponent.
Rocky V, released in 1990, saw the return of Academy Award-winning director John G. Avildsen. It starred Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Sage Stallone, Burgess Meredith, Tommy Morrison and Richard Gant. The Italian Stallion is back in the old Philly neighborhood and trains a promising young fighter who turns out to be in ingrate. Against overpowering odds and despite diminished powers, Rocky lays it all on the line to risk another bout.
Rocky Balboa, released in 2006, stars Sylvester Stallone, Burt Young, Antonio Tarver, Geraldine Hughes, Milo Ventimiglia, Tony Burton and is the third Rocky film to be directed by Stallone.
The only principal actor to travel the entire arc with Rocky is Paulie, played by Burt Young, who was honored with an Academy Award nomination for creating the role. Also participating in all six rounds of the record-breaking series is former fighter Tony Burton, who began as Apollo Creed's corner man before moving to Rocky's corner. The character Marie, played as a young girl by Jodie Letitizia, reappears in this installment as a grown woman played by Geraldine Hughes. And movie trivia buffs might be interested to know that Cuff and Link, the two turtles who were probably Rocky's best friends at the start of the first picture, have come out of retirement to reprise their roles in the current film.
SYLVESTER STALLONE (Rocky Balboa/Writer/Director) has established worldwide recognition as an actor, writer, producer and director since he played the title role in his own screenplay of "Rocky," which won the Academy Award in 1976 for Best Picture. Born in New York City, Stallone attended school in suburban Philadelphia where he first started acting. He then spent two years instructing at the American College of Switzerland in Geneva. Returning to the United States, he enrolled as a drama major at the University of Miami and also began to write. Stallone left college before graduation to pursue an acting career in New York. By 1973, Stallone had auditioned for almost every casting agent in town, but found little success. During this period, he turned more and more to writing, churning our numerous screenplays while waiting for his acting break. The opportunity first came in 1974 when he was cast as one of the leads in "The Lords of Flatbush." He also received his first writing credit for "additional dialogue" on this film.
With the money earned from "The Lords of Flatbush," Stallone left New York for Hollywood. He again began to make the rounds to studios and casting agents, managing to get a few small roles in television and movies. He also continued to pursue writing. Prizefighter Rocky Balboa was born and given life in a script Stallone wrote in longhand. Several producers offered to buy the screenplay, wanting to cast a name star in the title role, which Stallone insisted on playing himself. Although his bank balance was barely $100, Stallone held fast- and his perseverance finally paid off. Stallone's credits as an actor/writer/director are "Rocky II" and "Paradise Alley." As actor and co-writer, Stallone filmed "F.I.S. T.," "First Blood," "Rambo: First Blood, Part II," "Rhinestone" and "Rambo III." He co-wrote, directed and produced "Staying Alive" and starred in "Nighthawks," "Victory," "Tango & Cash" and "Lock Up." "Rocky V," starring and written by Stallone and directed by Jon Avildsen, opened in 1990.
In addition, Stallone has starred in "Get Carter," "Cliffhanger," "Demolition Man," "The Specialist," "Assassins," "Daylight," and in the challenging and compelling role of Freddy Heflin in the Miramax feature film "CopLand," which garnered him international critical and audience acclaim. Winner of the People's Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture Actor, Stallone was recently given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the USA Academy of Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Films. Stallone is one of the founding partners in Planet Hollywood, the internationally famous chain of entertainment complexes.
His recent acting credits include "Get Carter," "Driven," "D-Tox," "Avenging Angelo," Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over" and a recurring role on the hit series "Las Vegas."
He is currently in pre-production on the latest incarnation of his legendary action hero, Rambo, in "Rambo IV: In the Serpent's Eye."