12.14.2012

Sylvester Stallone's Rocky-like Determination


In 1974 Sylvester Stallone was a broke, discouraged and disillusioned actor. He was also struggling screenwriter. One fortuitous evening, while attending a boxing match, Stallone watched in awe as a "nobody" boxer slugged it out for twelve astounding rounds with Muhammad Ali. He was inspired.

After the fight, and with a flame burning in his belly, Stallone rushed home and began writing. Three days later he finished the first draft of the screenplay entitled "Rocky."

Stallone submitted the script to his agent. His agent submitted the script to a film studio. The studio liked what they read and offered $20,000 for the script. They also named Ryan O'Neal and Burt Reynolds as possible actors to play the role of Stallone's southpaw pugilist from Philly.

Stallone was thrilled with the offer. Despite only having about $100 bucks to his name, though, he refused; he really wanted to play the role of Rocky himself. In fact, he wanted so badly to play the part that he offered to work on the film for free. Emphatically Stallone was told, "That's not how it works in Hollywood." 

The studio wanted the project. They upped their offer to $80,000–on the condition that Stallone gave up on the idea of playing the lead character. He turned them down again.

The studio informed him that Robert Redford had become interested in the project and raised their offer to $200,000. Stallone wouldn't budge. The offer shot up to $300,000. Stallone refused again, explaining to the studio that he couldn't risk giving up on his dream role and going through the rest of his life wondering, "What if?"

An additional $30,000 was added to the studio's already hefty six-figure offer. Stallone informed them that he would rather not see the screenplay made into a film at all if he couldn't play Rocky.

Stallone finally won the fight.

The studio agreed to let Stallone play Rocky, but he would only be paid the original $20,000 that was offered for the screenplay. While working on the film, he would also earn an additional $340 per week, which was the minimum scale for an actor. After his expenses, agent fees, and taxes, Stallone netted roughly $6,000–a far cry from the $330,000 offer that had been on the table.

Two years later, Sylvester Stallone received an Academy Award nomination for his moving portrayal of the pig-headed pugilist named Rocky. The film won three Academy Awards in the categories for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing. It also fostered a highly lucrative film franchise that has since grossed nearly $1 billion dollars and made Sylvester Stallone an international movie star.

The moral of the story?

Always look at the big picture.


Reference: The One Minute Millionaire by Mark Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen

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