Until now, Stallone, 73, never talked publicly about the deep-seated resentment he’s harbored for decades over not being given any ownership of the lucrative series that launched with the 1976 original film that he conceived, wrote and starred in.
“Rocky” became a surprise box office hit and critical darling, garnering 10 Oscar nominations, including best actor and original screenplay for Stallone, and winning for best picture, director and film editing. Stallone suddenly went from being an actor living on the edge in a Hollywood apartment to a global household name.
Over the years he has amassed a multimillion-dollar fortune off the eight-picture “Rocky” series that includes the “Creed” and “Creed II” spinoffs. He earned net points on the original movie — which cost just over $1 million to produce and grossed $225 million globally — and received first-dollar gross on the early sequels.
But Stallone insists that being deprived of an equity stake in the franchise, an annuity of sorts that he could have left to his children after his death, remains a real sore spot.
“I have zero ownership of ‘Rocky,’” he tells me when we sit down at Variety’s Los Angeles headquarters. “Every word, every syllable, every grammatical error was all my fault,” he says. “It was shocking that it never came to be, but I was told, ‘Hey, you got paid, so what are you complaining about?’ I was furious.” That said, he blames his own naiveté and lack of business savvy at the time for not pushing the issue hard enough: “You don’t want to ruffle the feathers of the golden goose.”
Stallone also speaks openly about his painful struggle with an industry that once recognized him as one of the biggest box office draws in the world and then rejected him for some 15 years following the 1990 flop “Rocky V” and other bombs, including the 1992 comedy “Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot,” that he headlined. Describing how extinct he felt during those fallow years, Stallone says, “I was going the way of the dodo bird and the Tasmanian tiger.”