Sylvester Stallone had a hard time breaking into the movie business. People told him he looked and sounded stupid so he should pursue other things instead.
He was rejected more than 1500 times.
One time he refused to leave the agents office before he got a meeting. He had to stay overnight. The following day the agent relented and that was how he got his first role in a movie. He played a small role where he got beat up. He had a few more jobs like that.
His wife insisted that he get a “real job” but he knew that if he did he would give up on his dreams.
One day he went into a library to warm himself and saw a book someone had left open. It was something by Edgar Allan Poe. This inspired him to start writing screenplay after screenplay. He eventually sold “Paradise Alley” for 100 dollars.
It didn’t lead anywhere. He had to hock his wifes jewellry. He sold his dog, who he loved dearly, for 25 dollars. He cried.
A few weeks later he was watching a fight between Muhammed Ali and Chuck Wepner. Wepner got his ass handed to him but didn’t give up.
This sparked an idea in his head. He started writing. He couldn’t stop. He stayed up for 20 hours straight writing. When he was done, he knew. This was something special. He knew what he wanted and he went out to get it.
A lot of people still said no. No after no after no.
Then someone said that magic word: Yes. They were excited about it and offered 125,000 dollars for the script. However, the excitement died off when Sly said that they could have it only if he got to play the lead. They told him that they needed a “somebody”, a “big shot”, a “name”.
It came down to “take or leave it”. Here he was. Was there even a choice? He had 125,000 reasons to say “Yes” and only one reason to say no. It wasn’t what he wanted. So, what did he do? He said no and walked out with the script.
They came back and offered $250,000, but he couldn’t star. He said no.
They came back again and offered $350,000, but he still couldn’t star. He said no.
Finally they came back and offered no fee and he could star and get paid scale. They didn’t believe in the project as much with him starring and didn’t want to spend crazy amounts on such an unproven card. The final budget was $1.1 million after Irwin Winkler & Robert Chartoff mortgaged their houses to make it happen.
Well, as we now know “Rocky” got made and went on to gross $117,235,247.
We all have to start out somewhere. All the big shots were little shots at some point.
After thirty years, countless movies and a dream come true Sly had this to say: