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16 Heavy-Hitting Facts About the Rocky Movies

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The first Rocky—which was released 40 years ago—told a seemingly improbable rags-to-riches story about a loan shark/amateur boxer going the full 15 rounds against a champion fighter that weirdly mirrored the improbable story of how the movie went from a distant dream of Sylvester Stallone’s to a real, Best Picture Oscar-winning film and subsequent franchise. On the 40th anniversary of the original film's release, here are some heavy-hitting, high-flying facts about the Rocky series.

1. STALLONE WROTE THE FIRST DRAFT OF ROCKY IN THREE AND A HALF DAYS.

With a little bit of screenwriting experience, and the idea for Rocky in his head for almost a year after witnessing a Muhammad Ali fight, Sylvester Stallone—who had $106 in the bank at the time—spent about 84 hours using a pad and a pen to write the first draft of Rocky. In his original version, Adrian was Jewish, Mickey was racist, the Paulie character was Adrian’s Jewish mother, Apollo Creed was Jamaican, and the script ended with Rocky throwing the fight and opening a pet store for Adrian with the money he made.

2. THE STUDIO WAS INTERESTED IN HAVING JAMES CAAN, BURT REYNOLDS, OR RYAN O’NEAL PLAY ROCKY.

United Artists offered Stallone up to $340,000 to sell them the rights to the screenplay if he agreed to not star in the movie. When the budget was lowered to $1 million, the studio was no longer allowed to keep Stallone from starring. He was paid $20,000 for the script and a SAG minimum of $350 per week for acting instead.

3. ADRIAN WAS ALMOST PLAYED BY SUSAN SARANDON.

Stallone and the producers decided that she was “too sexy." Cher was also considered. Bette Midler was offered the role but turned it down. Carrie Snodgress had in fact won the part, until her agent asked for too much money. Talia Shire auditioned at the last minute to save the day.

4. STALLONE AND CARL WEATHERS REHEARSED THEIR (FIRST) BIG FIGHT FOR FOUR WEEKS.

Director John G. Avildsen shot their rehearsals on Super 8 so that the actors could see what they were doing. When it came time for the actual pretend Creed/Balboa I, filmed at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, producers advertised that anyone who showed up to play the audience would receive a free chicken dinner.

5. ROCKY AND ADRIAN VISITED THE SKATING RINK AFTER IT WAS CLOSED FOR BUDGETARY REASONS.

Originally, Adrian and Rocky have a date during the skating rink’s operating hours. Because it would've cost money to pay for extras to skate around them, Avildsen asked Stallone to change the scene so that the couple had the rink all to themselves.

6. IT WAS A FAMILY AFFAIR FOR THE STALLONES.

Sly's brother, Frank Stallone Jr., played a street corner singer in Rocky, while Frank Sr. was the timekeeper for the fight. Stallone’s first wife, Sasha, received a kiss from Rocky during his training session in Rocky III.

7. CHARLIE CHAPLIN AND ELVIS PRESLEY WERE FANS OF THE FIRST MOVIE.

Chaplin wrote to Stallone that Rocky reminded the silent film star of a character he used to play. Stallone regretted turning down Chaplin’s invitation to visit him in Switzerland after the director died a few months later. Similarly, Stallone turned down Elvis’ offer to watch Rocky with him in Memphis months before The King passed away.

8. BURT YOUNG LOST WEIGHT FOR THE SEQUEL BECAUSE HE HADN'T PLANNED ON BEING IN IT.

He lost weight for another film; Young initially did not want to play Paulie again. Stallone wrote a line into Rocky II to address the obvious physical difference.

9. ROCKY’S FAMOUS RUN LASTED FOR 30.61 MILES.

Or his run in the sequel did, according to a 2013 calculation by Philadelphia magazine. Eight hundred Philadelphia children were used as extras for Rocky’s run from his house to the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

10. THERE WAS AN ALTERNATE ENDING TO ROCKY II.

Footage was shot of Adrian and Paulie actually witnessing Rocky and Apollo’s second fight in person, instead of back at home with the newborn baby. In that version, Adrian gets swept up into the ring with the other spectators and ends up in Rocky’s arms to end the movie.

11. THERE WAS A BIG DEBATE OVER THE ROCKY STATUE.

Stallone donated the 8’6”, 2000-pound statue of Rocky Balboa to the Philadelphia Museum of Art after filming of Rocky III concluded. Philly residents were divided on whether or not the statue deserved to remain at the top of the museum steps. The Art Commission eventually placed it on the sidewalk of the Philadelphia Spectrum sports arena. It briefly returned to the top of the steps in 1990 for Rocky V, then back to the Spectrum until 2006, when it traveled to the base of the Art Museum steps for its 30th anniversary, where it remains.

12. WYOMING AND CANADA PLAYED THE ROLE OF THE SOVIET UNION IN ROCKY IV.

The epic training Rocky went through before fighting Ivan Drago was shot in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Camera, sound, and transportation equipment froze in the minus-20-degree weather. The Balboa/Drago match held in Drago’s U.S.S.R. was filmed at the PNE Agrodome in Vancouver, British Columbia.

13. DOLPH LUNDGREN SENT STALLONE TO THE HOSPITAL.

Lundgren hit Stallone so hard in the chest when shooting the first round of the Balboa/Drago fight that Stallone’s heart hit his breastbone and began to swell. Had he not been sent to the ER and then intensive care for eight days, the heart would have continued to swell until he died.

14. ROCKY WAS SUPPOSED TO DIE AT THE END OF ROCKY V.

Stallone cried writing the death of his iconic character. It was all for no reason, since two weeks into filming, Avildsen—who came back to direct Rocky V after Stallone directed parts II, III, and IV himself—was told by a studio executive that Rocky Balboa, like Batman, Superman, and James Bond, could never die. In the original script, Tommy "Machine" Gunn kills Balboa in their street fight, concluding with Adrian giving a heartfelt speech to the reporters crowded outside the hospital about how Rocky’s spirit will live on forever. 

15. BOXERS JOE FRAZIER AND CHUCK WEPNER FELT THAT STALLONE TREATED THEM UNFAIRLY AFTER HEAVILY BORROWING FROM THEIR LIVES TO WRITE THE MOVIES.

Before Rocky Balboa did it, "Smokin'" Joe Frazier ran the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and spent some early mornings punching meat at the slaughterhouse that employed him. He said in 2008 that he only received compensation for his Rocky walk-on cameo, and it was all a “sad story” for him. Stallone was initially inspired by watching Muhammad Ali fight a major underdog fighter named Chuck Wepner in 1975, who lost but managed to knock Ali down once in the match and became a local New Jersey hero. Wepner even wrestled Andre the Giant at Shea Stadium before Balboa battled the Hulk Hogan character Thunderlips in Rocky III. Wepner sued Stallone in 2003. The two settled for an undisclosed amount.

Ali, meanwhile, noted the similarities between himself and Apollo Creed. He didn’t seem to mind.

16. ROCKY’S TURTLES CUFF AND LINK OUTLIVED A COUPLE OF THE CHARACTERS.

The female red-eared sliders that appeared in 2006’s Rocky Balboa are the same turtles from the original 1976 picture.

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10 Regional Twists on Trick-or-Treating
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Walk around any given American neighborhood on the night of October 31, and you’ll likely hear choruses of "trick-or-treat" chiming through the area. The sing-songy phrase is synonymous with Halloween in some parts of the world, but it's not the only way kids get sweets from their neighbors this time of year. From the Philippines to the American Midwest, here are some regional door-to-door traditions you may not have heard of.

1. PANGANGALULUWA // THE PHILIPPINES

Rice cakes wrapped in leaves.
Suman

The earliest form of trick-or-treating on Halloween can be traced back to Europe in the Middle Ages. Kids would don costumes and go door-to-door offering prayers for dead relatives in exchange for snacks called "soul cakes." When the cake was eaten, tradition held that a soul was ferried from purgatory into heaven. Souling has disappeared from Ireland and the UK, but a version of it lives on halfway across the world in the Philippines. During All Saints Day on November 1, Filipino children taking part in Pangangaluluwa will visit local houses and sing hymns for alms. The songs often relate to souls in purgatory, and carolers will play the part of the souls by asking for prayers. Kids are sometimes given rice cakes called suman, a callback to the soul cakes from centuries past.

2. PÃO-POR-DEUS // PORTUGAL

Raw dough.
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Instead of trick-or-treating, kids in Portugal go door-to-door saying pão-por-deus ("bread for god") in exchange for goodies on All Saints Day. Some homeowners give out money or candy, while others offer actual baked goods.

3. HALLOWEEN APPLES // WESTERN CANADA

Kids trick-or-treating.
iStock

If they're not calling out "trick-or-treat" on their neighbors’ doorsteps on Halloween night, you may hear children in western Canada saying "Halloween apples!" The phrase is left over from a time when apples were a common Halloween treat and giving out loose items on the holiday wasn't considered taboo.

4. ST. MARTIN'S DAY // THE NETHERLANDS

The Dutch wait several days after Halloween to do their own take on trick-or-treating. On the night of November 11, St. Martin's Day, children in the Netherlands take to the streets with their homemade lanterns in hand. These lanterns were traditionally carved from beets or turnips, but today they’re most commonly made from paper. And the kids who partake don’t get away with shouting a few words at each home they visit—they’re expected to sing songs to receive their sugary rewards.

5. A PENNY FOR THE GUY // THE UK

Guy Fawkes Night celebration.

Peter Trimming, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Guy Fawkes Night is seen by some as the English Protestants’ answer to the Catholic holidays associated with Halloween, so it makes sense that it has its own spin on trick-or-treating. November 5 marks the day of Guy Fawkes’s failed assassination attempt on King James as part of the Gunpowder Plot. To celebrate the occasion, children will tour the neighborhood asking for "a penny for the guy." Sometimes they’ll carry pictures of the would-be-assassin which are burned in the bonfires lit later at night.

6. TRICKS FOR TREATS // ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

Kids knocking on a door in costume.
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If kids in the St. Louis area hope to go home with a full bag of candy on Halloween, they must be willing to tickle some funny bones. Saying "tricks-for-treats" followed by a joke replaces the classic trick-or-treat mantra in this Midwestern city. There’s no criteria for the quality or the subject of the joke, but spooky material (What’s a skeleton’s favorite instrument? The trombone!) earns brownie points.

7. ME DA PARA MI CALAVERITA // MEXICO

Sugar skulls with decoration.
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While Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is completely separate from Halloween, the two holidays share a few things in common. Mexicans celebrate the day by dressing up, eating sweet treats, and in some parts of the country, going house-to-house. Children knocking on doors will say "me da para mi calaverita" or "give me money for my little skull," a reference to the decorated sugar skulls sold in markets at this time of year.

8. HALLOWEEN! // QUEBEC, CANADA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
iStock

Trick-or-treaters like to keep things simple in the Canadian province of Quebec. In place of the alliterative exclamation, they shout “Halloween!” at each home they visit. Adults local to the area might remember saying "la charité s’il-vous-plaît "(French for “charity, please”) when going door-to-door on Halloween, but this saying has largely fallen out of fashion.

9. SWEET OR SOUR // GERMANY

Little girl trick-or-treating.
iStock

Halloween is only just beginning to gain popularity in Germany. Where it is celebrated, the holiday looks a lot like it does in America, but Germans have managed to inject some local character into their version of trick-or-treat. In exchange for candy, kids sometimes sing out "süß oder saures"—or "sweet and sour" in English.

10. TRIQUI, TRIQUI HALLOWEEN // COLOMBIA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
Rubí Flórez, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Kids in Colombia anticipate dressing up and prowling the streets on Halloween just as much as kids do in the States. There are a few significant variations on the annual tradition: Instead of visiting private residencies, they're more likely to ask for candy from store owners and the security guards of apartment buildings. And instead of saying trick-or-treat, they recite this Spanish rhyme:

Triqui triqui Halloween
Quiero dulces para mí
Si no hay dulces para mí
Se le crece la naríz

In short, it means that if the grownups don't give the kids the candy they're asking for, their noses will grow. Tricky, tricky indeed

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11 Thrilling Facts About Dial M for Murder
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In 1953 Alfred Hitchcock was looking for a new project after a film he’d been developing fell through. Sensing a need to go back to his safe space of murderous thrillers, he opted to adapt a stage play that had already proved to be a hit on British television. Though he had no particular attachment to the project, Dial M for Murder would ultimately become one of Hitchcock’s best-known—and best-loved—classics.

From the film’s use of 3D to the debut of Grace Kelly in Hitchcock’s filmography to a pivotal murder sequence that made the director lose weight from stress, here are 11 facts about Dial M for Murder.

1. IT’S BASED ON A STAGE PLAY.

Dial M for Murder is, in terms of locations and number of characters, a relatively sparse film that barely leaves its primary set. This is because it was based on a stage play by Frederick Knott, which premiered as a BBC TV special in 1952 and later opened at London’s Westminster Theater and, eventually, Broadway. After seeing the BBC production, producer Sir Alexander Korda purchased the rights to make the film version, and later sold them to Warner Bros. for $75,000.

2. ALFRED HITCHCOCK THOUGHT HE WAS “COASTING” WHEN HE MADE THE FILM.

By 1953, when Dial M for Murder arrived at Warner Bros., Hitchcock was developing a project called The Bramble Bush, the story of a man who steals another man’s passport, only to find out that the original owner is wanted for murder. Hitchcock wrestled with the story for a while, but was never satisfied with it. When Dial M for Murder landed at the studio, Hitchcock knew the play had been a hit, and opted to direct it. As he later told fellow director François Truffaut, he found the film to be “coasting, playing it safe,” as he was already known as a thriller filmmaker.

3. IT’S HITCHCOCK’S ONLY 3D FILM.

In the early 1950s, the 3D movie craze was raging, and Warner Bros. was eager to pair it with the fame of Hitchcock. So, the director was ordered to use the process on Dial M for Murder. This meant Hitchcock had to work with the giant cameras necessary for the process, but there was also a trade-off that makes the film fascinating—even in 2D. In order to make the film look appropriately interesting in 3D, Hitchcock added a pit into the floor of the set, so the camera could move at lower angles and captures objects like lamps in the foreground. As a result, the film looks like no other Hitchcock ever shot, particularly for the infamous scissors murder that’s the film's thrilling centerpiece. Unfortunately, by the time Dial M for Murder was released in 1954, the 3D fad was dying out, so the film was shown in 2D at most screenings.

4. IT WAS HITCHCOCK’S FIRST FILM WITH GRACE KELLY.

Of all of the iconic blonde stars Hitchcock cast in his films, the most famous is almost undoubtedly Grace Kelly, the actress-turned-princess who first joined him for this film. Hitchcock once described Kelly as a "rare thing in movies ... fit for any leading-lady part,” and it was said he had the easiest working relationship with her of any star. They worked so well together that they went on to make two more films, Rear Window in 1954 and To Catch a Thief in 1955.

5. IT TAKES PLACE ALMOST ENTIRELY INDOORS.

Because Dial M for Murder is based on a stage play, the original script had very little in the way of outdoor set pieces. Hitchcock wanted to keep it that way, as he later explained to Truffaut:

“I’ve got a theory on the way they make pictures based on stage plays; they did it with silent pictures, too. Many filmmakers would take a stage play and say, ‘I’m going to make this into a film.’ Then they would begin to ‘open it up.’ In other words, on the stage it was all confined to one set, and the idea was to do something that would take it away from the confined stage setting.”

Hitchcock wanted to keep the confinement intact, so almost all of the action in the film takes place indoors, largely in the Wendices' apartment. This adds to the intimacy and tension.

6. HITCHCOCK PERSONALLY CHOSE EVERY PROP.

Hitchcock was always known as a meticulous director obsessed with detail, but on Dial M for Murder he was particularly detail-oriented, in part because the 3D cameras were going to capture objects in a way his other films hadn’t. As a result, he selected all of the objects in the Wendice apartment himself, and even had a giant false telephone dial made for the famous “M” close-up in the title sequence.

7. KELLY’S WARDROBE GROWS DARKER ON PURPOSE.

Grace Kelly in 'Dial M for Murder' (1954)
Warner Home Video

Hitchcock’s exacting eye also led to an elaborate “color experiment” to portray the psychological condition of Kelly’s character. As the film begins, the colors she wears are all very bright, suggesting a happy life in which she doesn’t suspect anything is wrong. As the film grows darker for her, to the point that she’s framed for murder, the wardrobe grows darker and “more somber,” as Hitchcock put it.

8. KELLY WON A PARTICULAR WARDROBE ARGUMENT.

For the scene in which Swann (Anthony Dawson) attempts to murder Margot (Kelly) by strangling her (until she manages to stab him with a pair of scissors), Hitchcock had another exacting wardrobe request. He had an elegant velvet robe made for Kelly, hoping to create interesting textural effects as the lights and shadows played off the fabric while she fought for her life. Kelly reasoned that, since Margot was alone in the apartment (as far as she knew) and was only getting out of bed to answer the phone, she wouldn’t bother to put on a robe.

“I said I wouldn't put on anything at all, that I'd just get up and go to the phone in my nightgown. And [Hitchcock] admitted that was better, and that's the way it was done,” Kelly later recalled.

9. HITCHCOCK WAS SO NERVOUS ABOUT THE PIVOTAL SCENE THAT HE LOST WEIGHT.

Dial M for Murder was shot in just 36 days, but the director took special care with one scene in particular: the murder sequence in which Margot stabs Swann with the scissors. Not only was it a key scene in the film, but it was also a moment that required particular care to make the 3D effects work. Hitchcock agonized over the scene to such a degree that he apparently lost 20 pounds during filming.

"This is nicely done but there wasn't enough gleam to the scissors, and a murder without gleaming scissors is like asparagus without the hollandaise sauce—tasteless,” he reportedly said after one take.

10. HITCHCOCK MAKES HIS CAMEO IN A PHOTOGRAPH.

Hitchcock became known throughout his career for making cameos in his films, ranging from the very subtle (you can see his silhouette in neon outside the window in Rope) to the more elaborate (missing the bus in the opening sequence of North by Northwest). In Dial M for Murder, his cameo falls somewhere in between. He appears in a class reunion photo in the Wendice apartment, seated at a banquet table among other men.

11. IT’S BEEN REMADE FOUR TIMES.

Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow in 'A Perfect Murder' (1998)
Warner Bros.

Dial M for Murder was a film adaptation of a stage play that had also already been adapted for television in Britain, and it proved popular enough that four more adaptations followed. In 1958, NBC broadcast a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, in which both Anthony Dawson and John Williams returned to play Swann and Chief Inspector Hubbard, respectively. A 1967 ABC television production of the play co-starred Laurence Harvey and Diane Cilento. A television movie starring Angie Dickinson and Christopher Plummer was produced in 1981, and in 1998 the play served as the inspiration for the film A Perfect Murder, starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow.

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