I believe any success in life is made by going into an area with a blind, furious optimism.
Rocky! How did Sylvester Stallone come to play Rocky? Here’s the crazy untold story that made Sylvester Stallone famous. Here’s a conversation I had with my former boss, Eddie Stern, the head of the film department at Wometco Theatres in Miami, Florida. Here’s an excerpt from Hollywood’s Chosen, available today on Amazon.
Well, the rest is history. Rocky, the little picture I was forced to play on its release date, turned out to be the biggest-grossing film of 1976. It grossed over two hundred and twenty-five million dollars domestically and was honored with three Academy Awards, including the coveted Best Picture of the Year.
Now as the late Paul Harvey might have said, “Here is the rest of the story.”
Eddie returned from a trip to New York several months after the successful opening of Rocky. Later, during lunch with me, Eddie started laughing as he said, “Larry, have I got a funny story to tell you. I got this scoop from an attorney friend of mine, Jonas, at United Artists. Jonas said that when Rocky went into production, no one at the office had actually seen the actor, Sylvester Stallone. But Stallone really wanted to play the lead, since he wrote the story. Management asked to see some of his work. Stallone in 1974 had a supporting role in The Lords of Flatbush, with Perry King and Henry Winkler. When the guys at UA watched a reel of Flatbush, they got the actors mixed up. They took King for Stallone and, of course, Stallone for King. After watching the film footage, they agreed to move forward with the production of Rocky with Stallone in the lead role. Now again, they thought they were signing off on King in the lead role.” Eddie had to pause to wipe the tears of laughter from his eyes.
“Larry, this is unbelievable! Are you with me?”
“Yes, I got it. It sounds too funny to be true.”
“Okay, so later the brass wanted to see some rushes during the filming of Rocky. While watching the rushes, they asked, ‘Where is Stallone?’ They were watching Stallone on the screen, but they were looking for Perry King. They ended up having to call someone into the screening to identify Stallone.” Eddie couldn’t stop laughing. He tried to continue, “Some mix-up, huh! The studio thought Perry was Stallone, and they green lighted the film with the wrong man in the lead.”
“That is one crazy story!” I replied.
“But, Larry, it is real! Jonas was a witness to it all.” Eddie jokingly added, “Now, nine months later, one might ask the question, who is Perry King? And, as for Stallone, why every moviegoer living on planet Earth knows who Stallone is and what he looks like! I’m not sure who it was who first coined the phrase, ‘There are no geniuses in the film business!’ But whoever it was sure knew what they were talking about!”