Yo, Adrian: 40 years of 'Rocky'

Published 0150 GMT (0950 HKT) November 17, 2016
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In this iconic scene from the 1976 film "Rocky," the title character triumphantly raises his arms after climbing the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The small-budget film, made for just a little more than $1 million, premiered on November 21, 1976, and went on to become the year's biggest box-office hit. It won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and it made lead actor Sylvester Stallone an overnight star. Forty years later it remains one of the greatest sports movies of all time, spawning six sequels -- the most recent being "Creed" in 2015. Everett Collection
Stallone played Rocky Balboa, a down-on-his-luck boxer who's given an unlikely title shot against the world heavyweight champion. Stallone wrote the screenplay to "Rocky" himself and sold it with one condition: that he be allowed to play the lead role. Everett Collection
Carl Weathers played the cocky champ, Apollo Creed. "Rocky" was the ultimate underdog story. And so was Stallone at the time. Speaking to The New York Times in November 1976, he said: ''You know, if nothing else comes out of that film in the way of awards and accolades, it will still show that an unknown quantity, a totally unmarketable person, can produce a diamond in the rough, a gem. And there are a lot more people like me out there, too, people whose chosen profession denies them opportunity." United Artists/Getty Images
Stallone was nominated for two Oscars: one for best actor, and one for best original screenplay. Archive Photos/Getty Images
In another iconic scene, Rocky does an interview with a TV reporter after punching beef in a meat locker. Archive Photos/Getty Images
"Rocky" was also a love story, as the "Italian Stallion" wooed the shy pet-store worker Adrian (played by Talia Shire). The movie is "about a guy who's just trying to get something out of life," Stallone said in a 2010 interview with GQ magazine. "He knows he's a ham 'n' egger. He says: 'I'm not even worth giving a title shot to. I'm a joke. But I've got me this girl.' That was great. I said, 'If we can go there, and the byproduct is he happens to fight, there's a movie.' If it was just about the fight, you'd be bored." United Artists/Getty Images
Rocky and Apollo face off before their big fight. The country was celebrating its bicentennial that year, hence the champ's Uncle Sam outfit and the fact that the fight was held in Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Archive Photos/Getty Images
Burgess Meredith played Mickey, Rocky's cantankerous trainer. "I truly feel without his participation in the film, it would never have had its emotion core," Stallone said after Meredith's death in 1997. United Artists/Getty Images
Stallone told The New York Times that the climactic fight was choreographed by him and director John G. Avildsen. ''There were 14 pages of left, right, right, left, left hook,'' he said. ''What looked like haphazard throwing of punches was an exact ballet.'' Archive Photos/Getty Images
Rocky stops to talk to his two pet turtles, Cuff and Link. Everett Collection
Rocky and Adrian are threatened by Paulie, Adrian's brother and Rocky's best friend who had become jealous of their relationship. John Springer Collection/Corbis/Getty Images
Stallone told Deadline magazine that before "Rocky," he was so broke that he had to sell his bull mastiff, Butkus. "I had to sell my dog. At a 7-11. For 50 bucks," Stallone said. "Then, when the movie happened, I tried to buy him back. The guy goes, 'Well, I want $1,500.' I went, 'Oh my God.' He ended up being in the movie, Butkus. I figured that poor dog had suffered with me in New York for five years. He deserved to be in the movie." United Artists/Getty Images