“It ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
Rocky Balboa (written by Sylvester Stallone)
Today we’re going from The Rock to Rocky and it happened very organically. Yesterday’s post, Hitting Rock Bottom with The Rock, touched on Dwayne Johnson’s hard times after he left the University of Miami. After I wrote that post I saw on Facebook were Robert Rodriguez and the El Rey Network just put online an interview with Sylvester Stallone. Great stuff and a perfect follow-up to the posit on Johnson.
“There was an audition for Death of a Salesman—never even heard [of the play]— and just for some reason I was drawn into that room. And I read and got the part of Biff. I still remember the dialogue to this day. Then we did the stage production and the director there was a Harvard graduate and said, ‘You know, you should do this professionally.’ And that was it.
“Then I headed to the University of Miami and The Ring Theatre and it just didn’t happen. We’re doing improvs, playing The Hunchback of Notre Dame, this and that, and that was also where failure was a great impetus. Okay. Crossroad. You’re not getting any acting parts. You’re not connecting with any of the professors, they think you mumble, you’re just not what they consider acting material—and that’s when I started writing. And that was the beginning. And I can’t emphasize how important that was. If I’d been very successful at the University of Miami I never would have written, if I never wrote, I’d never had done Rocky.
Producer/director/writer/actor Sylvester Stallone
The Director’s Chair with Robert Rodriguez on the El Rey Network
Earlier this year I wrote the post The Perfect Ending about director and University of Miami grad David Nutter giving a shout-out to the late Ralph Clemente upon winning an Emmy for his work on Game of Thrones. Well, a pretty nice ending to Stallone’s University of Miami experience is while Stallone left Miami without a degree, in 1997 he was granted his BFA degree, if I recall correctly, based on his Rocky script to make up his missing credits.
P.S. In my post Miami vs. Florida there is a Stallone quote tucked inside which I think is the secret formula which leads to great writing:
“My first eight to 10 scripts were pretty horrendous, but I stayed at it, stayed at it, and stayed at it, until I eventually found a voice and a subject like Rocky that people were interested in.”
Meaning he wrote at least 8-10 scripts before he sold one. Every once in a while someone like Diablo Cody knocks one out of the park in her first at bat, but Stallone’s rocky road to success is more common. (And even Cody talks about writing poems and short stories everyday for 15 years before she wrote Juno.)