Okay, Ali won. He’s still probably the most dominant boxer to have ever stepped into the ring, after all. Wepner was the king of dirty fighting, and managed to knock Ali down – though the match’s tape proves that Wepner stepped on Ali’s foot and shoved him instead of downing him with a proper punch. And, yet, the fight was sufficiently stirring for Stallone to be inspired.
An absolute underdog went up against the greatest boxer in the world and held his own for a good amount of time. Stallone raced home and started banging out a script, finishing it in ninety pages and three days. Only about a third of what he originally wrote made it into the film, but it was still a flurry of artistic ability.
Forcing a Replacement
Stallone had done a little bit of script work on “The Lords of Flatbush,” which might have given him the clout to pull off this next move. One of the other actors in the film was the then-unknown Richard Gere. Both men played fifties street toughs, but it seems that Gere was being a little too rough of a tough. Gere drew Stallone’s ire for being too physical during rehearsals, but Gere might have also spilled mustard on Stallone during a lunch break.
Such an affront was not something Stallone would stand for, and he said one of the two men had to be gone. Gere was quickly replaced by Perry King. Who knows if the two men can be in the same room together – they certainly haven’t starred in any movies together.
A Little Movie About a Boxer
While getting bit roles and a few small starring moments, Stallone was always working on his own writing, including a script about a washed-out boxer given a big chance on a national stage. Maybe that story sounds a little familiar to you. Even after the little success he’d found, he was almost flat broke. He moved to California, and was having such a hard time that he had to sell his dog – he could hardly feed himself, much less his dog.
One night, however, he went out to see a boxing match between Muhammad Ali (who is known as “The Greatest”) and Chuck Wepner on March 24, 1975. Chuck was known as “The Bayonne Bleeder.” Everybody thought they knew how the fight was going to go, but it ended up shocking everyone.
Shopping the Script
A little while later, Stallone was at a casting call for a part, but quickly realized that he wasn’t right for the role he was auditioning for. While at the audition, he happened to mention the cool script he had just written, and the producers were a little interested. They told him to bring it by later. He did so, and they loved it.
They wanted to buy the script from him and offered him a price of three hundred and sixty thousand dollars. How much is that now, you might ask. Well, it’s a little over two million dollars. Stallone had no car, about a hundred dollars in the bank, and had just sold his dog. He turned the offer down.
The producers wanted to buy the script, sure, but they had a stipulation that Stallone wasn’t going to allow, and that was that someone else had to play the lead character. Think about it: sure, Stallone had been in a few things, but he certainly wasn’t a box-office draw. He was relatively unknown, and a name like Burt Reynolds would have been a much better way to get people into theaters.
Man, that would have been a strange movie. How could he turn down that kind of money? Well, he realized he had figured the whole poverty thing out, and he decided he was going to go the distance with this film. It was his, and he was going to star in it come hell, high water, or once again living on the street. And the studio agreed.