Rocky Balboa

 

The general public’s fascination with sports movies – particularly when the underdog triumphs against all the odds – is apparent by the global success of the Rocky films. Cinema-goers everywhere took the fictional character of down-at-heel boxer Rocky Balboa to their heart, making the franchise one of the top box office earners of all time, grossing $1.4 billion worldwide.
Rocky Balboa

The original Rocky film of 1976 has spawned six sequels, the most recent being Creed released in 2015 – it has been confirmed that the next Rocky movie is lined up for 2018. Creed II stars Balboa’s arch rival from Rocky IV, Russian boxer Ivan Drago played by Dolph Lundgren.

The original cult film followed small-time boxer, Rocky Balboa, who felt like he wasn’t going anywhere in life. With a day job as a debt collector and his boxing matches being limited to sleazy clubs and for very little money, he is mocked and told he’ll never amount to anything. However, when he gets a shot at fighting world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, Rocky realises this is his big chance to prove the critics wrong and change his life.

As he trains for his big fight against Creed, Rocky has his ups and downs. He works hard for trainer Mickey Goldmill and he even finds time to fall in love and marry his shy girlfriend, Adriana Pennino. Stallone and Weathers rehearsed their big fight for four weeks. It was filmed at the Los Angeles Sports Arena and extras who turned up for the crowd scene were given a free chicken dinner!

The rags-to-riches story was written by Stallone, who had been inspired after watching the great Muhammad Ali fight. Boxing scenes in the Rocky series have been widely praised for their gritty realism by critics and cinema-goers alike. Stallone reportedly just used a simple pad and pen to write the first draft in 84 hours. After Hollywood scriptwriters tweaked his original effort, Rocky went on to gross $225 million at the worldwide box office.

Since Rocky V in 1990, professional boxers have been employed to appear in the sequels to give the fight scenes more realism. Professionals were used in supporting roles, replacing Stallone’s earlier philosophy of using only actors with athletic backgrounds such as Dolph Lundgren, Carl Weathers and Mr T.

He employed 20-year-old professional boxer Tommy Morrison of Oklahoma to play Rocky’s protégé turned rival, Tommy Gunn, in Rocky V. Morrison interrupted a promising boxing career (in which he won 15 of his 19 victorious fights with knockouts) to become a film star instead. Critics cast doubt on how it would affect his boxing career, as he couldn’t fight for six months during filming. However, to the contrary, he was able to cash in on Rocky V’s release and earned $80,000 to face Pinklon Thomas in 1991 – more than double the purse he could have expected prior to filming. Morrison won with a first round knock-out – not a bad prize for less than three minutes’ work!

Set for release next year, Creed II stars Michael B Jordan as Adonis Johnson, who’s determined to avenge his father’s death in the boxing ring.

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