Rocky: How A Down-On-His-Luck Stallone Became A Movie Heavyweight

Sylvester Stallone strikes at a punching bag while his coach, Burgess Meredith (1908 - 1997), watches in a still from the film, 'Rocky,' directed by John G. Avildsen, 1976. (Photo by United Artists/Courtesy of Getty Images)

Before Rocky, Sylvester Stallone was at a professional rock bottom. By the mid '70s, after bit parts in forgotten films, he was told that there were no parts for him. He wasn't a has-been, he was a never-was. Rather than accept what he was told, Stallone spent three feverish days writing the script for Rocky, a film about the pain of losing and the joy of acceptance.

The journey from script to screen wasn't an easy one. Even though Stallone's script was a knockout, that didn't mean that Hollywood was ready to give the untested actor everything he wanted. To actually get his movie made, Stallone had to beg, borrow, and steal to make sure that his co-stars Talia Shire, Burgess Meredith, and Carl Weathers were taken care of while he finished the movie. Released in 1976, the basic underdog-story boxing movie became a huge success. It made a ridiculous amount of money at the box office, and earned two Oscars while giving Stallone exactly what he wanted -- a foot in the door.