“I think boxing’s pretty dumb, and I’ve never been a boxing fan.”
John G. Avildsen
Oscar winning director of Rocky
AFI lists the character Rocky Balboa on their all-time movie hero list at #7 and the film Rocky as the #4 most inspiring film of all time. Writer/actor Sylvester Stallone has understandably gotten plenty of honor for the 1976 film. But the other side of Rocky is director John G. Avildsen.
Though we may never know Avildsen’s role in guiding Stallone in the re-writing process, it’s clear his vision and direction helped Rocky win three Oscar Awards; Best Director, Best Editing, and Best Picture. Avildson’s had just released his first film just seven years before Rocky. A film shot in just seven days that he said in one interview, ”It was pretty bad, but it got me my next job and my next job.” It was also a film that he not only directed, but shot and edited as well.
While digital filmmaking and non-union work has made writing, directing, and shooting more common on short films, it’s still pretty uncommon in the feature film world outside of Robert Rodriguez. But I thought you’d find it interesting to learn where Avildsen honed his skills as a director, cameraman and editor long before he took home the Oscar Award:
“When I first started doing this I was doing industrial films for an advertising agency that did industrial shows and so forth. So I’d make this movie that ran anywhere from a few minutes to an hour for IBM or Clairol or Shell Oil to get their salesmen excited about whatever it was they were trying to get them excited about. So I was hired to direct these things and I hired myself as the cameraman and as the editor and did the things myself and it was a great learning process. It was fun to do. There was very little supervision and you could use whatever music you wanted and that’s how I started. And I figured I was a more attractive commodity to the buyer if for the same eight bucks you got three jobs instead of one. “
John G. Avildsen
John A. Gallagher Interview
Avildsen also directed the 1984 version of The Karate Kid in which Pat Morita was nominated for an Oscar.
P.S. In regard to that opening quote about Avildsen not being a boxing fan, it’s interesting to point out that Martin Scorsese originally told Robert De Niro that he was not interested in directing Raging Bull because he was not a fan of boxing.