When Sylvester Stallone was in his early 20s, he was broke and unemployed, so he decided to take his destiny into his own hands. The jobbing actor famously penned the script for Rocky in less than four days after finding himself struck by inspiration while watching the legendary championship bout between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner in March 1975.
Stallone shopped the project around Hollywood and there were plenty of studios interested in making it as a vehicle for an established star, but he refused to sell the screenplay unless he was cast in the lead role. Eventually, United Artists agreed to finance Rocky as long as the budget was kept as low as possible, with the production ultimately costing less than a million dollars.
It would be an understatement to say that it was a success, with the pic turning out to be nothing short of a cultural phenomenon. Instantly rocketing Sylvester Stallone to overnight stardom, the acclaimed boxing drama earned more than $225 million at the box office and won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Editing, while the leading man was nominated for Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay.
45 years later and the franchise is still going strong, having made a combined total of over $1.6 billion globally, with Michael B. Jordan set to make his directorial debut on Creed III, and Stallone once again landed an Oscar nod for playing the cinematic icon in the first spinoff. The entire series is available to stream on HBO Max, too, and Rocky has crashed into the Top 10 most-watched list this week and at one point reached as high as second place on the streaming service’s viewership chart, reinforcing the indelible legacy of the character.