Sylvester Stallone, American icon, one of the most well-known actors in Hollywood’s history, was once unknown and broke. He was so broke, that he sold his beloved bull mastiff, Butkus, for $50. That same dog appeared in Rocky, the movie that launched his career. How?
Stallone did what all wannabe actors/writers wanted to do and still want to do today; he was able to negotiate the deal of a lifetime and got to star in the first movie he wrote. He was able to beat out stars the likes of Burt Reynolds (coming off a box-office hit in The Longest Yard) and Ryan O’Neal (coming off an Academy Award nomination for What’s Up, Doc?). He received $35,000 for writing Rocky, then went back to the guy he sold Butkus to, and bought him back for $3,000!
Oh, about that little-known film, Rocky, there are many accounts of the underdog actor making it big. Here’s another. Stallone was working odd-jobs, attempting to keep his dream alive, even with a pregnant wife at home. He was determined. He was able to land a highly-coveted meeting with a producing duo that were at the top of their respective games, Irwin Winkler (not Fonzie) and Robert Chartoff. If you’re scoring at home, their movies have combined to win 12 Oscars and 40 nominations.
He pitched them the story about a Philadelphia club fighter vying for the heavyweight championship of the world. They loved the ending. Even when United Artists (one of the hit-making studios of the time) offered him over $250,000 just for the script, he stood his ground. Nope, “Bob Chartoff and Irwin Winkler promised me I could star in it, and I believe in them.”
Good choice. Score one for the underdog.