Imagine a world in which Ryan O’Neal, James, Caan, or Burt Reynolds nabbed Sylvester Stallone’s role as Rocky in beloved series, knocking everyone’s favorite Hollywood mush mouth from the hearts and minds of Philadelphians everywhere. Scary, right?
As it turns out, that could’ve been Stallone’s fate, had he accepted the offer producers made to buy his script for Rocky for a cool $300,000—about a million dollars in today’s money. Describing himself on Monday’s episode of the Today Show as “pretty broke” at the time, Stallone actually had about $100 in his bank account when he got the offer.
“They wanted every celebrated actor at the time,” Stallone said on Today. “And big-name directors, when they found out I wanted to be involved, they scattered, ran for the hills.”
A risky move, to be sure. And how someone turns down $300,000 while they have $100 in the bank is beyond me, but, still, it paid off. As the owner of the film’s rights, Stallone stuck to his guns and held out until everyone either realized he was the guy for the part, or simply gave up trying to tell him no. The result, of course, was Stallone in the role that won Rocky three Academy Awards in 1976, including Best Picture.
The ceremony, though, wasn’t much easier for the 30-year-old Stallone than the rest of the film process.
“Literally, I was parking cars 10 months earlier and now here we are,” Stallone said on Today. “I rented a tuxedo and on the way to the Oscars the tie broke and the driver goes, ‘You want to borrow mine?’ I go ‘nah, I guess it doesn’t matter,’ so I walk into the Oscars looking like Vinny Boom Bots.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is about as Philly as it gets. We’re just lucky Stallone didn’t take the money.
The Rocky series went on to earn about $1.2 billion across six films, so it looks like Stallone was, too.