How Luck and Self-Belief Made Rocky a Blockbuster Smash Image

Rocky was a movie that propelled actor Sylvester Stallone to superstar status and captured the hearts of audiences with its exploration of the human spirit. So much so, it was rewarded with Oscars for best picture, best director and best film editing. We take a look at what luck and self-belief had to do with the movie and the actor’s success.

Rags to riches

The movie wants you to believe that anything is possible if you put in hard work and dedication. It also extols the virtues of will power and self-belief in the face of adversity. But like many rags to riches stories, the protagonist needs a little bit of luck along the way. In Rocky’s case, he gets a shot at a title fight after the original fighter drops out. But even then, it’s thanks to the PR appeal of his self-penned “Italian Stallion” nickname that he gets in the frame. As his rival points out in the film: “Apollo Creed vs. the Italian Stallion. Sounds like a damn monster movie”. Maybe, it’s more a case of making his own luck.

Going the distance

The fact that a relatively unknown Stallone penned the screenplay to the movie in less than three days, then managed to convince a major production company to not only make the film but also to let him star in it, is a testament to the movie’s message.

From that seed grew a franchise of eight movies that spanned a period of 42 years (2018’s Creed II is the final installment). Like many blockbuster movies, Rocky also spawned a range of merchandise including dolls, clothing, and video games. Today, you can test your own luck with a Rocky Scratch card online by matching the champ against a choice of opponents and then watching them battle it out in real film footage, for an instant win. Or you can visit Sly Stallone’s shop and kit yourself out in a range of Rocky gear. Who knows? Investing a replica Rocky bathrobe might just bring you some good luck of your own.

Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact Stallone created not one but two cult hero characters that became multi-million dollar franchises and ran side-by-side for years. The actor co-wrote the screenplay and starred in the first Rambo film, First Blood, in 1982 and filmed the fifth instalment 37 years later in 2019.

Overcoming adversity

And like Rocky, Stallone had to overcome adversity to break into the industry. Having grown up with a speech impediment after an accident at birth left him paralyzed down one side of his face, acting probably was not the natural career choice for the New York-born star. But like the character he created, he believed in himself when everyone else had him beat.

Remarkably, Stallone is about to start filming the fourth Expendables movie in which he will reprise the role of Barney Ross. The character might not have the appeal of Rocky or Rambo but the fact he has made it to a third sequel highlights the continuing box office draw of Stallone, who just happens to have co-written the screenplays to all the Expendables films released so far. What’s more, he has just finished the third Escape Plan movie in which he plays security expert Ray Breslin and is about to direct and star in a movie about the life of soldier Travis Mills, who became a quadruple amputee while serving in Afghanistan. Luck goes a long way, whether it’s in starting a career or winning on a scratch card. But ultimately, Stallone and Rocky are proof that there’s a lot to be said for believing in yourself and giving it your all, too.

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  1. Neal Damiano says:

    The pure fact of Stallone’s unrelenting persistence and belief in himself makes him a film hero in my book. It just shows if you have a good story and genuine confidence, people will respond.

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