Sylvester Stallone: The actor who sold his dog to become a movie star
Now a Hollywood legend, but when he started out he was desperate.
Before he made it as an actor, he cleaned out the lion cages in Central Park during the day and at night he would usher at a cinema.
You can imagine how low he must have felt. Literally, shoveling shit every day at the Zoo wondering where his life was going, and then watching actors perform in movies he wished he could be in at the cinema.
He tried over and over to win acting roles, but no one was interested. He was told he was too short, too Italian and that he talked funny.
Then, things got even worse. He had no money to pay his rent, so he had to ask his wife to sell her jewellery. You can imagine how that must have gone down and how bad he felt about it.
But it got even worse.
The following month, he had nothing to sell or so he thought. He said that he looked around his apartment and spotted the one thing left that had any value – his dog.
He took the desperate step of taking his dog to the local off license with the intention of selling him.
Stallone said, “I tied my dog up at the store with a sign that said a hundred bucks. I got $50 from this guy called Little Jimmy.”
That day, he walked home very depressed to his apartment and turned on the
TV and there was a boxing match on – Muhammad Ali vs. Chuck Wepner.
The fight went all 15 rounds and both boxers could hardly stand at the end.
Suddenly, Sly had an idea for a movie.
He went to his local library and wrote the script for Rocky in about 48 hours.
He knew this was his chance and he visited a lot of production companies
with the script. Most said they weren’t interested, but eventually someone did show an interest; but they didn’t want him – an unknown actor – playing Rocky.
They offered him $300k (the equivalent of $1 million today) for the script and for him not to play Rocky. At the time of being offered that he had exactly $106 in his bank account, but he stood firm and refused to sell unless he could play Rocky.
Finally they did a deal where he was allowed to play Rocky plus he got $30K and percentage points for profits at the box office.
When he got the cash, he went and bought his dog back.
He recalls, “When I sold the script for Rocky, I went to see Little Jimmy and begged him to give the dog back. He lined up his children and said, ‘Oh, my kids love the dog!’ I said, ‘You’ve only had him for a week…’
“Jimmy wanted to fight me and said he was gonna kill me; he was a crazy little person. I couldn’t fight him, they’d arrest me, and so I offered him to pay $3,000 and put him in the movie.”
The rest is history.
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