His parents fought so much they neglected him, so he spent many years in foster homes as a child. The doctor severed a nerve in his face when he was born, leaving him partially paralyzed with slurred speech. He struggled at school, and was always in trouble. He was expelled from 14 different high schools.
In the early 1970s, he moved to New York City to follow his dream of being an actor, but could only get small parts. He had to work at a zoo cleaning lions’ cages and as an usher at a movie theatre. He was so broke, for 3 weeks he slept at a bus station.
One day, he watched a boxing match that inspired him to write a screenplay about an up-and-coming boxer. He stayed up writing for 20 hours straight and finished the whole screenplay in 3 days.
“It was either do that movie or rob someone, because I was at the very end of my rope.” ~ Sylvester Stallone
When he tried to sell the script, nobody wanted it. He couldn’t afford to feed his dog Butkus, so he sold him for $50 and walked away crying. He had $106 in the bank and his wife was pregnant. He finally met producers who wanted to buy the script but he refused to sell it unless he was allowed to be the main actor. He felt only he could bring the passion the role needed, but the producers wanted a real Hollywood star.
They offered Stallone $125,000 for the script with the condition that he wouldn’t play the lead. He refused, so they offered him $250,000 and then more, for just the script … still he refused. Finally, the producers relented, bought the script and let him star in the movie but only paid him a fraction of their initial offer.
Right after he sold the script, he bought Butkus back for $3000. Rocky won 3 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The Rocky movies have made over $1.4 billion, making it one of the most successful franchises of all time. It is one of the most successful movies in history, making $200 million off of a $1 million budget.
“It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving on. That’s how winning is done” ~ Sylvester Stallone