Stallone went from having only $106 in the bank to having a Net worth of $275 million.
There is an amazing rags-to-riches story that has fascinated and motivated me to this very day but that not many people know about. It’s about a beloved actor many of us grew up knowing as Rocky Balboa, the best boxer on the movie screen. We know him as the action juggernaut from films such as The Expendables, Rambo, and Cliffhanger. Kids might recognize him from films such as Antz or Zookeeper. He’s the super famous and greatly respected Sylvester Stallone.
When I was about ten years old my dad put the first VHS of the Rocky Balboa series into our VCR player. We sat back and pressed play and the rest was history. I was hooked. This was an amazing story of an average dreamer in Philadelphia and his struggles and path to becoming a professional boxer. I would hide beneath the couch cushions when I knew Rocky was going to lose and would jump up in joy when he would overcome the odds and beat the obviously more advantaged opponent. Every weekend we would go to the video rental store until we watched all five of the films. ‘This actor guy must be rich!’ I remember thinking to myself.
In 1975 though, just one year before the movie release, Sylvester Stallone only had $106 in the bank, his wife was pregnant, his dog was starving, and he couldn’t pay the rent for his small Hollywood apartment. Did he give up and throw in the towel? Quite the opposite actually.
He managed to get a meeting with Hollywood producers where he pitched the script about the uneducated debt collector turned legendary boxer.
To his surprise, the producers liked it. There was only one catch; they didn’t want him to be in the film. They wanted another popular actor who could draw in crowds of people. They offered him $300,000 (about $1 million today) to sell the rights to “Rocky”.
Would you have taken it?
In all honesty I probably would have. When you are beaten down and have so much on the line sometimes it’s logical to submit and do what seems best right? Wrong. Sometimes in life you have to be a bit crazy and a bit risky in order to make it big.
What did Stallone do? It was his dream to sell and star in one of his own films after all. Against all odds and at an incredible risk to himself and his family he stayed true to himself and turned down the offer.
“It was really insane at the time ’cause I was pretty broke.” Stallone said.
The producers had fallen so in love with the script that they couldn’t bear to let the film slip and finally agreed to have Stallone star as the infamous Rocky Balboa in the film.
Was it worth it? You bet.
In 1976, “Rocky” won three Academy Awards and went on to earn more than $117 million domestically. Many say that it was this series that launched Stallone’s career to the moon.
What’s the lesson for all of you entrepreneurs?
Stick to your guns and never give up on your dream. Even when things get tough, stay true to yourself. We all start somewhere.