As the publicity campaign for Rocky Balboa ramps up for next week's release by repeatedly reminding the public that Sylvester Stallone is still essentially the scrappy go-getter who marched into United Artists' offices with a boxing script and a crazy demand to star in his passion project, new online showbiz newsmagazine (with the value-add of "Attitude," a novel concept in entertainment coverage) Hollywood Today reports that this beloved piece of Rocky's backstory is, not to put too fine a point on it, total bullshit:
"We came up with a tremendous publicity campaign," recalled Gabe Sumner, then head of marketing at UA. "It was about how this unknown guy named Sylvester Stallone walked into our office with a script and the company was prepared to buy the script, but Stallone said, 'I'm not going to sell it to you unless I star in the film.' And we (supposedly) said, 'No way.' And he said, 'Well, you can't have the script.' And we said, 'We will give you $18,000.' And that was the figure we used. And a deal was made and Stallone could star in this film which he wrote. And he got all of $18,000. Now is this true? It was horsesh*t! But it worked. It promoted the whole underdog concept and kept on going."
"I don't have to tell you how the press feeds on the underdog story," said Sumner. "It filled up space on entertainment pages, and in columns looking for something for the next day. They ate up the idea that this actor loved his work so much, and was willing to sell it for a nickel and a dime in order to make it, blah, blah, blah. It all became part of the underdog fabric that brought people in. Period. They just totally bought into it."
Representatives for Stallone said on Wednesday, "We stand by Sylvester Stallone's story as the accurate truth."
We'll pause for a moment to let you recover from the existential taint-tasering you've no doubt experienced from the suggestion that publicists might fabricate such a story to sell a movie, as we all know that every word from a flack's lips should be treated as if it were delivered from the heavens by God's most trusted archangel. But now we're forced to consider the implications that this report holds for the current Rocky Balboa campaign, including the possibility that Sylvester Stallone has not, in fact, been prevented from reclaiming his onetime megastardom by callously sexagenarian-shunning Hollywood studios, and has intentionally avoided working for the past decade just to hype this alleged "desperate comeback vehicle."
- The Untold Story: "Rocky" Underdog Origin a Studio Myth [Hollywood Today]