Why Sylvester Stallone didn’t try to take ownership of the ‘Rocky’ franchise earlier in his career
Stallone owes a lot to his historic Rocky franchise. The actor had gone from living off of $35 a week to being worth $2.5 million off the strength of the first movie. But despite all the fortune Rocky granted him at the time, Stallone couldn’t get over not having ownership of what he created.
“I mentioned it a few times because after Rocky II came out and made a ton of money and then Rocky III hit and made more than all of them, I said I’d like to have some ownership since I invented it. And that never happened. So I have zero ownership of Rocky,” he said in a 2019 interview with Variety.
Stallone was then asked why he didn’t fight a bit harder for his franchise back when he had considerably more bargaining power. But even at the height of his career, he didn’t want to ruffle feathers with the studio.
“The studio is the power, the agency relies upon them, and the attorneys are the go-betweens. When I finally confronted them [just before Rocky IV in 1985], I said, ‘Does it bother you guys that I’ve written every word, I’ve choreographed it, I’ve been loyal to you, I’ve promoted it, directed it and I don’t have 1% that I could leave for my children?’ And the quote was, ‘You got paid.’ And that was the end of the conversation,” he recalled.
But an anonymous source disagreed with Stallone’s take on the situation.
“He made money from every angle, and still does, so I don’t know what he’s complaining about,” the source said.
Sylvester Stallone once revealed he initially made no money off of ‘Rocky Balboa’
Before Rocky Balboa, Stallone confided that he’d hit a rough patch in his career. Studios didn’t consider him a box-office draw whose name headlined potential blockbusters. His weakening star-power also caused a rift between him and his management team. Given the circumstances, however, Stallone held no grudges against his agents and managers for firing him.
“Listen, I have nothing against them. And I understand it now being on that side of the desk. They couldn’t do anything for me. They couldn’t get traction. They said, ‘Look, you should maybe go and find someone else because we can’t do it.’ It was about 2002, and nothing was cooking for me for about six years,” he said.
Rocky Balboa would help revitalize Stallone’s career. Especially considering so many in Hollywood had written him off.
“I know the terrain pretty well, and the fact that Rocky [Balboa] prevailed one more time was even more momentous for me than Rocky I. This was tough. There was no element of surprise, you’re well past the right age, and the audience that came — my demographic didn’t show up at all — it was 28- to 30-year-olds,” he said.
But despite Balboa’s success, in the beginning the Rambo star revealed he profited very little off of the critically acclaimed feature.
“I haven’t seen a dime yet. [It made] nearly $200 million. That’s life, eh? That’s how it works these days,” Stallone once confided to GQ (via Female First). “They have this thing called ‘back end’. Or ‘Watch my back end move into the horizon as you lie there, shackled in naivety’. You can make a movie for $12 million that makes $250 million, but it still ends up in the red. The studios say they added $50 million in publicity in the Ukraine or somewhere, and you’re like, ‘What?’”
Sylvester Stallone has called out ‘Rocky’ producers again over ownership issues
A couple of years later, Stallone has once again shared his displeasure towards his lack of ownership for Rocky. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor aired his grievances through his Instagram.
“I really would like [to] 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,” Stallone wrote.
The star also asserted there would’ve been more quality Rocky movies if it wasn’t for the franchise’s producers.
“If it wasn’t for [Rocky producer Irwin] Winkler there would’ve been at least another three Rocky’s, that would’ve been wonderful,” he said. “Frankly that crew are the worst unhuman beings I’ve ever met in the movie industry. I will forever love the loyal fans and keep punching.!!! REMEMBER IT FEELS GOOD TO CLEAR YOUR HEART.”