Sylvester Stallone explains why Rocky Balboa was “a cinematic freak of nature”

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His opinion of the franchise may have soured after it was ripped from his hands and carried on without him, but it’s fascinating to think where Sylvester Stallone would be if it wasn’t for Rocky Balboa.

One of cinema’s most iconic action heroes and a star with the rare distinction of appearing in a number one box office hit in every decade since the 1970s, the actor’s career will always be inextricably linked to ‘The Italian Stallion’, who laid the foundations for everything to come.

Before his self-scripted starring role released in 1976, the most noteworthy role of his career by far was that of Stanley Rosiello in The Lords of Flatbush, and he’d be the first to admit that he faced an uphill battle to enjoy even a semi-respectable stint as a fixture of the silver screen had he not made his own luck.

Stallone could have easily taken the money and run after studios signalled their interest in Rocky while casting doubts on his ability to lead the cast, with the budget being whittled down after his insistence that he played the lead bore fruit. Of course, the naysayers were left to eat their words when it became one of the most profitable movies ever made, and a ‘Best Picture’ winner.

In the decades to come, he reprised the role of the brow-beaten pugilist in five sequels and two spinoffs, but he’s since been shoved out of the picture after the rights-holders decided that Creed headliner Michael B. Jordan was better suited to serve as the face of the franchise than the guy who created the thing. Understandably, Stallone is pissed off, but there’s nothing he can do about it now.

For a while, though, it seemed as if Rocky would never return to screens after the dismal fifth instalment ended the original saga on a bum note, only for Stallone to get back off the canvas yet again for 2006’s Rocky Balboa, which brought the title character’s in-ring journey full circle at long last.

In an interview with the BBC, Stallone looked back at the decades-spanning legacy of the inimitable fictional pugilist, who he described as “kind of like a cinematic freak of nature”. Reflecting on his journey at large from jobbing bit-part player to A-list superstar and eventually elder statesman of Hollywood, he wisely suggested that “sometimes crazy ideas are worth following”.

Not many actors get the opportunity to play a role that becomes ingrained into the very fabric of pop culture, but Stallone is one of the very rare few who ended up doing it twice after John Rambo became equally indelible. A cinematic freak he may be, but Rocky isn’t somebody cinema will be forgetting about in a hurry, if at all.

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