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The history of Hollywood would have been different if Sylvester Stallone hadn’t taken on the role

The Rocky franchise would be different had its creator played a different character in the first film.

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While Sylvester Stallone and Rocky Balboa have become practically inseparable, things might have turned out very differently if the title role had gone to someone else. More than $1.7 billion has been made by the eight films in the Rocky franchise since its debut 45 years ago. A third Creed installment is scheduled for 2023, and a Drago spinoff is in the works. Since Sylvester Stallone was the inspiration for Rocky Balboa and the original writer of Rocky, it’s hard to picture the film’s history without him in the title role.

Sylvester Stallone, who played Rocky Balboa in the first two films, is not coming back for the third installment of the Creed series. Stallone and director/star Michael B. Jordan have both stated that Rocky will not appear in Creed III because the film will instead center on Adonis and his family. However, Sylvester Stallone has been vocal about his dissatisfaction with producer Irwin Winkler’s handling of the Rocky franchise, and Rocky’s absence from Creed III comes as a result. Stallone, who does not own the movie rights to Rocky, posted a now-deleted Instagram accusing Winkler of holding onto ownership rights to Rocky and then another post, also now deleted, in which Stallone called the upcoming Ivan Drago spinoff a cash grab. Stallone feels a strong sense of ownership over Rocky because he created Rocky Balboa and wrote the first draft of Rocky, despite the fact that the legal battle over the movie rights to Rocky is complicated.

Sylvester Stallone was still trying to make a name for himself in Hollywood when he wrote the Rocky script. His only major credit prior to Rocky was an acting role in The Lords of Flatbush. Actor Sylvester Stallone, who had recently relocated to California after failing an audition for a role for which he was clearly unqualified, pitched his own screenplay for the upcoming film Rocky to the film’s producers and was asked to bring a copy of it. Stallone claims that after seeing Chuck Wepner beat Muhammad Ali in 1975, he was inspired to write a story about an underdog who would fight hard to win. This underdog would be Rocky, who would go on to become a boxing and life champion. Although Sylvester Stallone was ultimately cast as Rocky Balboa in the film adaptation of Stallone’s script, that nearly didn’t happen. The studio originally considered casting a different actor in the role; had this scenario played out, Rocky Balboa and the Rocky franchise as a whole would look and feel very different, even if the core of Rocky’s story is still the same.

Who Else Would Have Starred in Rocky If Sylvester Stallone Had Not Been Chosen?

The producers were keen on Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky script, but they had already cast a famous actor to play Rocky’s adversary, Balboa. Proof that the producers and studio had faith in Stallone’s Rocky script was the decision to cast a major Hollywood actor in the lead role. Burt Reynolds, James Caan, Robert Redford, and Ryan O’Neal, all of whom had longer and more established careers than Stallone at the time, were all considered for the role of Rocky Balboa. Despite having financial difficulties and even having to sell his dog, Sylvester Stallone initially turned down an offer of $360,000 for the script. In the end, Sylvester Stallone was given the role of Rocky Balboa and the $1.1 million budget he requested for the Rocky film after much negotiation.

Indeed, Adrian’s Actress Would Have Adapted.

Perhaps if the studio had cast someone more famous as Rocky Balboa than Sylvester Stallone, the role of Adrian would have been recast as well. Cher, who had previously starred in films like The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, was one of the more established actresses the producers considered for the role of Adrian in Rocky. The Oscar-nominated Carrie Snodgress was also considered for the role of Adrian. Director John G. Avildsen originally wanted Snodgress to play Adrian in Rocky, but negotiations fell through. While Susan Sarandon and Bette Midler were considered, they were ultimately ruled out because they were not as well-known as Cher and Carrie Snodgress.

If James Caan had been cast as Rocky, then it would have made sense to cast a bigger name like Cher or Carrie Snodgress as Adrian. However, just as it was a stroke of luck that Sylvester Stallone got to play Rocky, it was a stroke of luck that Talia Shire got to play Adrian; in her portrayal of Adrian, the actress created the ideal counterpoint to Rocky Balboa.

If Sylvester Stallone hadn’t played Rocky Balboa, the character wouldn’t be the same.

Sylvester Stallone used Rocky Balboa’s plight as a young actor with almost no money trying to make it in Hollywood as an allegory for his own struggles on the streets of Philadelphia. For instance, Sylvester Stallone’s own dog, which he had previously sold, served as Rocky’s canine sidekick in the film. Stallone brought genuineness to Rocky not only because their journeys were similar but also because he had created the character and knew him better than anyone else. If another actor had played Rocky Balboa, they would have known nothing about the man outside of what was written in the script. The Rocky Balboa character would have been portrayed very differently even if the story had been preserved.

A Story Like Rocky’s Would Be Similar, But Not as Good

Even though Sylvester Stallone would not have played Rocky Balboa in the film had he not agreed to sell the script, the overall story of Rocky would have remained the same. Rocky’s characters, however, are what make the film a classic, and they all revolve around Rocky Balboa. If Sylvester Stallone didn’t deliver as Rocky, the whole movie would tank. If Stallone hadn’t portrayed Rocky Balboa, the role and the film itself would be devoid of passion and sincerity. By the time Rocky faces off against Apollo Creed in the final round, audiences have invested in Balboa and want Sylvester Stallone’s character to prevail. The performance was all Sylvester Stallone had to sell Rocky Balboa as a character audiences could connect with at first, but after the success of Rocky, Sylvester Stallone would come to specialize in playing protagonists. If they hadn’t made that link, Rocky’s story—and by extension, Rocky II and the subsequent films—wouldn’t have worked.

Without Stallone, Rocky never would have become the franchise that it is today. Since Balboa

Sylvester Stallone’s fame was a major factor in how Rocky went from being a simple story about an underdog fighter toppling the champion to a billion dollar franchise. Stallone’s meteoric rise to fame in the film industry was in large part due to Rocky, and the actor’s immense success in the industry has only aided the continuation of the Rocky film series. After Rocky II, the story didn’t seem to call for a third installment, but anything starring Sylvester Stallone was bound to be a financial success. Even if the first Rocky film had been successful, without Stallone as Balboa, the sequel would not have been made, much less the four additional Rocky films and the Creed prequel. Actor and character were a natural fit from the start, as Rocky Balboa’s story arc mirrors Sylvester Stallone’s early career and the Rocky franchise mirrors Stallone’s rise to become one of the biggest Hollywood names in history.

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