What Did Sylvester Stallone Do Before Becoming Famous for ‘Rocky’?

Sylvester Stallone has had one of the most enduring careers of any Hollywood actor. The fitness fanatic is well-known for his high-octane action films but perhaps his most lasting legacy will be the character of Rocky Balboa.

Stallone first created the character of Rocky in the mid-70s, and seven films and over 40 years later, fans still love and cherish the fictional Philadelphia boxer with a heart of gold.

Read on to discover where Stallone’s career was heading prior to the Rocky films and whether or not fans can ever expect to see Rocky Balboa on the silver screen again.

Sylvester Stallone’s early career

Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone | Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Sylvester Stallone was born in 1946, and raised by parents who had truly colorful occupations – his father, Michael Stallone was a beautician and hairdresser and his mother, Jackie Stallone, worked as a promoter for women’s wrestling.

Stallone’s signature slurred speech and curled lip is the result of a difficult birth when he had to be pulled from his mother using forceps, which damaged the nerves in his lower face. 

In the late ’60s, Stallone began his career in film. His beginning in movies was a difficult one, and young Stallone had trouble finding work. He had a number of very small, bit parts in movies like Downhill Racer and No Place to Hide, but Stallone wasn’t able to get enough work to pay the bills. He even took a role in a 1970 pornography film purely to pay rent.

He turned to jobs outside of the acting industry to try and get ahead and worked as an usher in a theatre for a short time. In the mid-’70s, after years of struggling, Stallone wrote the screenplay for the film that would ultimately become Rocky.

After selling the screenplay and lobbying the studio to play the lead himself, even though actors like Burt Reynolds and Robert Redford were in talks to star, Stallone’s luck finally turned. 

Stallone doesn’t have any ownership of the Rocky franchise

Rocky was released in 1976 and became a huge hit. Audiences absolutely loved the heartwarming tale of the down-on-his-luck boxer who wins a shot at a fight with the world heavyweight champion.

Critics also couldn’t get enough of the character and Rocky was nominated for a staggering 10 Academy Awards, including Best Actor, Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film Editing. Stallone would go on to appear as Rocky Balboa in seven more films, including the spinoff Creed series.

In spite of the fact that the character and setting for Rocky was Stallone’s inspiration, the sad fact is that Stallone actually doesn’t own the copyright to the Rocky Balboa saga.

In a recent interview, Stallone discusses his regret over being so naive, and not pushing for full creative control or ownership. Stallone acknowledges that while he’s made an incredible amount of money on the franchise over the years, which has skyrocketed his net worth to around $400 million, it still bothers him that he doesn’t own more of a stake in the series that he created.

When pressed as to why he didn’t fight for ownership, Stallone insisted that he didn’t want to “ruffle the feathers of the golden goose.”

Could there be more ‘Rocky’ films?

Although Stallone is bitter over ownership rights, he hasn’t yet turned away from the character that has become his legacy. In the same interview, Stallone acknowledged that there is an ongoing discussion with MGM and original producer Irwin Winkler about a possible Rocky prequel. He even stated that Rocky Balboa could, eventually, appear on the big screen again.

For true fans of the saga, Rocky Balboa will live on forever – and that is thanks to the brilliant character created by Sylvester Stallone, so many years ago.