On This Day: Sylvester Stallone’s ‘Rocky’ Premieres in Theaters in 1976

by Samantha Whidden
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“ADRIAN!!!” On this day, in 1976, Sylvester Stallone’s action-packed and well-known sports drama film Rocky premiered in theaters. 

According to IMDb, Rocky follows a small-time Philadelphia boxer who gets a “supremely rare” chance to fight the world’s heavyweight champion in a bout in which he strives to go to the distance for his self-respect. Starring alongside Stallone in the film were Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith, Thayer David, Joe Spinell, and Jimmy Gambina.  

Rocky actually received a total of ten Oscar nominations at the 49th annual Academy Awards. It ended up winning three, which were Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing. The movie inspired an additional six sequels, making it a popular film franchise. 

Sylvester Stallone Reveals Details About the Fight That Inspired ‘Rocky’ 

During a 2018 interview with GQ, Sylvester Stallone opened up about the fight that really inspired Rocky. “Chuck Wepner was basically a guy who everybody considered a joke. He was known as the Bayonne Bleeder. And it was clear that his only notable contribution to the history of pugilism would be just how badly [Mohammed] Ali would destroy him. No one considered whether he could win the fight.”

The Rocky star also stated that the odds on Wepner were basically a zillion to one and bets couldn’t actually be taken on the fight. He recalled watching the fight. “So I’m sitting there watching the fight. With an especially bloodthirsty crowd. And it was terrible. The guy didn’t even look like a fighter.”

Stallone also described Wepner as being terribly awkward and unskilled. He also looked like a heavy bag with eyeballs. “It was really sad. Then, all of a sudden. Something incredible happened. From nowhere, Wepner knocked down the immortal Ali.

The Rocky icon then described Wepner’s shocking victory as like a bolt of lighting from some Greek god in the sky. “Almost instantly, Wepner became the crowd favorite. In a matter of seconds. He went from being a complete joke to being somebody whom everybody watching could identify with.”

Although one biographer claimed that Rocky was born the night of Wepner’s fight, Stallone claimed that the film was never really about boxing, but more to do with personal triumph. 

When asked if he actually wrote Rocky in three and a half days, Stallone stated that was in fact true. “I had this opportunity with Chartoff and Winkler. And I was going to let it slip by. I was young and I had an incredible amount of energy. And I wrote it in a fury.”

Stallone also stated that he was very excited about writing Rocky and he just felt inspired. 

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