Inspiration of the Day
“You have to be irrationally passionate.”
Academy Award nominated actor and screenplay writer
So Now What?
Sylvester Stallone was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor at the 2016 Academy Awards for portraying his most famous character Rocky Balboa for the seventh time. This might seem ridiculous as he’s not really known for his great acting but do you know the story of Stallone’s early years and the courage he had to believe in himself when he had nothing?
It’s an incredible story and I hope one day he gets an Oscar just because of his sheer audacity so many years ago.
In 1975 Stallone had only $106 in the bank, his wife was pregnant and he couldn’t pay the rent on his seedy Hollywood apartment.
Stallone had had a few parts in movies and commercials by that point but nothing steady. He kept auditioning with one rejection after the next. He was also writing screenplays but those too were rejected. 32 to be exact.
This was a time when quitting would have been a very rational option. But Stallone wanted to be an actor and a screenplay writer…so he kept going
One of Stallone’s early screenplay ideas was about an underdog boxer who gets a chance at the big time. He didn’t pursue it though because he thought it wasn’t very believable. That is until he saw that famous boxing match between little-known, 36 year-old working-class New Jersey club boxer Chuck Wepner and Muhammad Ali in 1975.
Wepner was one of Ali’s few challengers who knocked him down and went the entire 15 rounds – actually, up to 19 seconds before the final bell when Ali finally knocked him down. The too-old-for-the-big-leagues, underdog proved he was worthy of the challenge.
Stallone was inspired to return to his boxing movie idea and 3 days later he had written the entire script for Rocky.
For months he tried to sell the screenplay to the major studios but no one wanted it. Just rejection after rejection.
He was so desperate for money at this point that he decided he had to sell his best friend…his dog. Stallone waited outside of a local liquor store asking people if they would buy his dog for $100. Eventually someone bought the dog for $50. He was devastated to lose his friend.
He put all his passion and energy into selling his screenplay for Rocky. He knew it was that good. Meeting after meeting after meeting. Eventually someone at United Artists read the script and agreed to produce the movie. Stallone was ecstatic, he had done it, he had someone willing to produce his screenplay. But he had one condition, he told them that he had to play the part of Rocky.
The movie studio said, “absolutely not.” They wanted one of the big movie stars of the day to play the part like Robert Redford, Ryan O’Neal, Burt Reynolds or James Caan. United Artists offered Stallone $100,000 for the script as long as he wouldn’t act in the movie (that’s about $450,000 today boys and girls). Even though he couldn’t pay the rent, even though he was taking his wife’s jewelry to the pawnshop, even though he had to sell his dog – Stallone said “no.” He would play Rocky or no deal.
A couple of weeks later they offered him $200,000 for the script as long as he wouldn’t play the part of Rocky. Stallone said, “no deal.”
United Artists eventually offered Stallone $400 000 (that’s $1,700,000 kids) for the script but Stallone still said, “no.” He was going to play Rocky or no movie. Irrational? Yes, but Stallone was not about to compromise on his dream.
United Artists wanted the script. They wanted to make the movie. They saw the potential in this film. So they finally relented and offered Stallone just $25,000 for the script and the chance to play the lead role in the film.
Stallone said “yes!”
The first thing he did was go back to the liquor store to buy back his dog. He waited and waited for the guy to come by and finally there he was with Stallone’s dog. Stallone offered the guy $150 to buy back the dog, the man declined. The offer kept rising, but the guy kept saying “no.” Finally he offered the guy $3000 and a small cameo in Rocky to get his dog back. The guy agreed. (The guy and the dog really are in the movie by the way).
1976 was a big year for movies: A Star Is Born (Barbra Streisand, Kris Kristofferson), All The President’s Men (Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford), King Kong (the remake with Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange), Silver Streak (Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder), Silent Movie (Mel Brooks), plus The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Carrie, Network, and Taxi Driver among many others.
But the number one box office movie of 1976 was Rocky. It made over $115,000,00 on a budget of only $1,000,000. It also won the Academy Award that year for Best Picture and Best Director. (Sylvester Stallone was nominated for Best Original Screen Play but Best Actor though he didn’t win).
Sometimes the Universe will test you to see how badly you want to reach your dreams. When you find yourself in the midst of such a test you have to decide if you’re willing to be irrationally passionate to reach your dreams.
So tell me…how badly do you want your new life?