After six ROCKYfilms films, spanning 44 years, a rogues gallery of opponents, buckets of blood, sweat and tears, more ups-and-downs than a whore’s drawers, and more thrown punches than the Real Housewives of Antebellum Mississippi, Rocky Balboa has amassed a treasure trove of trivia that bares comparison to any character in movie history. Here’s a standing ten count:
In the iconic scene where Rocky pummels a side of beef, Stallone hit the refrigerated carcass so hard he cracked a knuckle, driving it back into his hand. He has not seen the knuckle since. The scene was inspired by the legendary Joe Frazier, who employed the trick while an up-and-coming fighter in Philadelphia.
The meat locker featured in the movie was owned by the Cross Brothers Meat Packing Co. It burnt to the ground in December 1990.
It is thought by some that the 1970 fight between future champ Ken Norton and Chuck Wepner was the real inspiration for ROCKY (1976), not the 1975 Wepner-Muhammad Ali fight. Norton was Stallone’s first choice to play Apollo Creed, but he dropped out at the last minute to do the TV show Superstars. Norton made his acting debut in the 1975 movie MANDINGO, starring opposite James Mason, Susan George, and an unknown extra named Sylvester Stallone.
Susan Sarandon auditioned for the role of Adrian but was rejected as being too pretty.
Stallone’s original concept for ROCKY II (1979) and ROCKY III (1982) was to have Rocky elected mayor of Philadelphia, then kicked out of office when Paulie is caught with his fingers in the till. At the end of a proposed trilogy, Rocky was to find himself penniless and back on the street, just the way he started out.
If Stallone had actually followed the route through Philadelphia depicted in the ROCKY II training montage, he would’ve run a total of 30.2 miles.
Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’ from ROCKY III was recorded at Stallone’s request after Queen nixed the use of ‘Another One Bites the Dust’, his favored choice of theme song. A Billboard chart-topper and worldwide smash, ‘Eye of the Tiger’ was later covered by LA metalcore band Devil You Know, and by British heavyweight champion Frank Bruno, who took it to No. 28 on the UK hit parade in 1995. In his 2006 autobiography, Bruno claims he was offered the role of Union Cane in ROCKY V (1990).
SICO, Paulie’s robot maid from ROCKY IV (1985), later went on tour with legendary R&B singer James Brown, introducing him from the stage before each concert. The Godfather of Soul appears in the film singing ‘Living in America’ as Apollo Creed enters the arena for his fateful bout with Ivan Drago.
In ROCKY IV, Ivan Drago’s wife Ludmilla Vobet Drago is played by 6’,1” Danish former model Brigitte Neilson. Neilson later married Sylvester Stallone.
Stallone considered killing Rocky off in ROCKY V, dying in Adrian’s arms after his climactic fight with Tommy Gunn. On reflection, he decided that having Rocky slain in a squalid street brawl wasn’t quite in keeping the series’ spirit of perseverance and redemption.
Argentinian heavyweight Pedro Lovell reprises his role of Spider Rico in 2006’s ROCKY BALBOA, playing a staff member at Rocky’s restaurant Adrian’s. Lovell’s previous appearance as Spider was 30 years earlier as Rocky’s first ever on-screen opponent.
Like a tiny cut on a well-Vaselined brow, that barely scratches the surface. And, with two CREED films to add to the cannon and another official movie in the pipeline, the store of ROCKY fact and folklore will continue to expand.