Did Sylvester Stallone write ‘Rocky?’

Sylvester Stallone with arms raised at the top of stairs with large fountain in background after a run outside.'Rocky'
Image via MGM

Sylvester Stallone has stirred up social media with his tirades about the character rights for his iconic Rocky Balboa. That begs the question, did Sylvester Stallone write Rocky?

The short answer is yes, he did. In fact, Stallone was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay at the 1977 Academy Awards. While he may not have gotten his screenwriting Oscar, Rocky walked away with Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing. He also has writing credits for Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, and Rocky V, and Creed II. And that’s not all, because Sly is also credited for the novelizations of Rocky, Rocky II, Rocky IV, as well as the script for the ill-advised Rocky: The Musical

Rocky has returned to the headlines in recent days because a battle for the ages is brewing. And by ages, we mean a possible legal battle (or at least war of words) between the 76-year-old Sylvester Stallone and the 91-year-old Rocky producer Irwin Winkler. 

While Winkler’s name may not be quite as famous as Stallone’s, the pair are forever linked to one of the most enduring movie franchises in cinema history: Rocky. From the ‘76 original to 2018’s Creed II, the two have worked together on every incarnation of the “Italian Stallion” appearance to date with Winkler serving as either producer or executive producer. Now, there is a major rift between the two filmmakers.

Deadline reported that the controversy stems from another Rocky spinoff, this time revolving around Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago and the character’s family. Once again, Winkler is set to produce, but Stallone’s name will not be on the credits, and therein lies the problem in the actor’s eyes. 

Irwin Winkler and Sylvester Stallone
via Arkansasonline.com

To this point, Sly had been involved in every Rocky project, but he reportedly wasn’t consulted about the Drago spinoff, and the star went to Instagram with his complaints, though the original post is no longer active.

On Sunday, Stallone made a post depicting Winkler as a vampire with the caption, “After IRWIN WINKLER and FAMILY SUCK ROCKY DRY! Presumed to be the most hated, untalented, decrepited [sic] producer in Hollywood and his cowardly children have found their next meal… Drago. RETURN MY RIGHTS BLOODSUCKERS! Throughout history so many artists in every industry, recording, painting, writing you name it have been destroyed by these blood suckers who have destroyed so many families, lining their pockets with other people!”

That’s not Stallone’s first social media rant on the subject. Two weeks prior, he had written, “After IRWIN controlling ROCKY for over 47 years, and now CREED, I really would like have at least a little WHAT’s LEFT of my RIGHTS back, before passing it on to ONLY YOUR CHILDREN – I believe That would be a FAIR gesture from this 93 year old gentleman.”

As of early Monday afternoon, Winkler had not responded to the IG comments.

The making of an icon

Rocky vs Apollo
via The Wrap

It’s been 46 years since Rocky Balboa became an American icon. Since the debut of the 1976 classic film, there have been six movies in the main Rocky franchise, as well as two popular Creed spinoffs. Over the decades, the “Italian Stallion” has conquered all foes. There’s been the Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang, Hulk “Thunderlips” Hogan, Ivan Drago (and by extension, communism), along with Tommy “The Machine” Gunn, and Mason “The Line” Dixon, both of whom were a bit more forgettable.

The timeless main Rocky score has become embedded in American pop culture, and who can hear the opening strands of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” without picturing Stallone punching Mr. T or maybe Rocky racing Carl Weathers on the beach? No matter how kitschy and pandering the movies became afterwards, there remained an undeniable charm about the consummate underdog who refused to stay down for the count. Often imitated, but never duplicated, the Rocky formula never fails to entertain and have us all ready to run up the steps of the east entrance to the Philadelphia Art Museum with a funky ‘70s beat for motivation. “Trying hard now! Trying hard now!” Go ahead and sing along. You know you want to.

The story of Rocky

Muhammed Ali Chuck Wepner
via USA Today

In 1976, Stallone took Hollywood by storm. In the early ‘70s, his acting credits included an episode of a forgotten television series The Evil Touch. He began to climb the ladder of success in 1974 when he starred alongside another unknown actor, Richard Gere, in The Lords of Flatbush. Then the Muses appeared at his side, and he wrote the story for what would be his ticket to Hollywood royalty.

According to The History Channel, Stallone was inspired by the real-life story of boxer Chuck Wepner. Like Rocky, Wepner was a small-time prizefighter who stumbled into the opportunity of a lifetime. In 1975, he was awarded a fight against perhaps the most famous athlete in American history, Muhammad Ali. Wepner may not have won the bout, but he proved himself by lasting 15 rounds against arguably the greatest boxer of all time.

Wepner’s story resonated with Stallone, and he crafted a story based on those events. There in a seedy Hollywood apartment, Stallone cranked out the script’s first draft in just over three days. Anyone who has written a feature-length screenplay can appreciate the amount of focus it takes to complete such an undertaking. 

When Stallone began shopping Rocky, he insisted on playing the lead role. After plenty of negotiations, he came to an agreement with producers Winkler and Robert Chartoff. From there, cinematic history was born, and it spawned one of the most successful franchises in movie history that continues to inspire audiences and fuel sports-themed aspirations. Box Office Mojo reports that Rocky made $6.39 million its opening weekend, and it went on to gross a whopping $85.18 million. If we were to include the revenue from home viewing options (streaming, DVD, Blu-Ray, etc.) and merchandise, that astounding figure would uppercut our imaginations.

Stallone versus Winkler

It is a sad turn of events for the legions of Rocky fans across the globe. The two have been working together to bring the greatest underdog story ever told to life for nearly 50 years. Judging by Stallone’s IG post, it would seem that friendship has turned into a bitter rivalry. Hopefully the two can resolve their issues before it’s too late.