As a movie with more than its fair share of outlandish scenes, Rocky IV is widely considered to be the most surreal Rocky movie in the series—and not the least because of the “Happy Birthday Paulie” robot. As it turns out, though, that robot was initially invented not to shepherd beers to Paulie, but to help treat autism in children.
Invented by International Robotics founder Robert Doornick, the robot—dubbed Sico—was designed to give us more insight into autism, which in the 1980s was extremely under-researched. As we know now, Sylvester Stallone’s son, Seargeoh Stallone, is autistic, which is what brought Sico to the Rocky IV set in the first place. As Trivia Happy explains:
“The story begins in the 1980s, when Doornick appeared on a talk show to promote his robot and discuss the work he'd done with autistic children. At that time, the disorder was even more enigmatic than it is today, and the idea of robotic treatment was literally years before its time. Still, Doornick believed, and still believes, that robots could communicate with autistic children more easily than people, in some circumstances. After the show aired, Doornick received an unexpected call.
"We got a call from the Stallone family," he recalled in an interview with Trivia Happy. "They were very interested in how the robot could work with his son. One thing led to another and Stallone completely became enamored with Sico, that particular character."
So, as the story goes, it’s unlikely that Rocky IV would have had any robotic elements in it at all if it weren’t for Doornick’s appearance on that talk show. Stallone, however, reportedly quickly fell in love with Sico, writing in more scenes for the robot that ultimately were cut. Including, of course, this gem:
“Doornick recalls one particularly comic scene between the robot and Rocky's brother-in-law, Paulie, that wound up on the cutting room floor. In the scene, Paulie and the robot had developed an odd couple relationship, with the robot complaining that Paulie always slept in the same t-shirt and made too much cigar smoke. The robot "found it offensive to [his] sensors." So Paulie responded.
"Paulie shuts the robot down," Doornick remembers, "opens the back panel, and changes the circuits to turn the robot completely female. Which is why in another scene, when the robot brings Paulie a beer, that's my voice being synthesized into a woman's voice. Most people in the movie don't understand why the robot switched from a normal voice to a female voice. That's why."
Well, we always knew Paulie was a weird guy. Poor, poor Sico.
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