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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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11 Single Facts About Bridget Jones’s Diary
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While it's not officially a holiday movie, so much of the action in Bridget Jones's Diary happens around the most wonderful time of the year that the rom-com has become essential wintertime viewing for many movie fans. Based on Helen Fielding’s novel of the same name, it tells the story of a very single, and hopelessly romantic, working professional named Bridget (Renée Zellweger) who is determined to improve her love life. Enter two strapping gentlemen (Colin Firth and Hugh Grant) to vie for her heart. Get to know more about the timeless dramedy that’s been delighting audiences since 2001. Just as it is.

1. THE SOURCE NOVEL CAME ABOUT FROM AN ANONYMOUS COLUMN ABOUT SINGLE LIFE.

In the foreword of Bridget Jones’s Diary, author Helen Fielding wrote about how she came to conjure up the story: “The Independent asked me to write a column, as myself, about single life in London. Much as I needed the money, the idea of writing about myself in that way seemed hopelessly embarrassing and revealing. I offered to write an anonymous column instead, using an exaggerated, comic, fictional character. I assumed no one would read it, and it would be dropped after six weeks for being too silly.”

2. SEVERAL CHARACTERS ARE BASED ON PEOPLE IN HELEN FIELDING’S LIFE.


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These include Jude (Tracey MacLeod) and Shazzer (Sharon Maguire, also the film’s director). In a column for the Evening Standard, MacLeod described how she didn’t even realize she inspired part of her best friend’s story until Fielding’s book launch party. “At the launch party for the first Bridget book, I was cornered by a smug married friend, ‘So ... what's it like being Jude?’ she asked,” MacLeod writes. “I was outraged. Of course I wasn't Jude, with her self-help books and horrible boyfriend. My boyfriend wasn't anything like Vile Richard ... But as more people began to believe that Jude and Shazzer were thinly-veiled portraits of myself and Sharon, I secretly got to like the idea.”

3. TONI COLLETTE DECLINED THE LEAD, AND KATE WINSLET WAS CONSIDERED FOR IT.

Before Zellweger stole the show, Aussie Toni Collette and Brit Kate Winslet were up for the part. According to AMC, “Toni Collette declined the role because she was on Broadway starring in The Wild Party at the time, and Kate Winslet was considered but the producers decided she was too young.”

4. HUGH GRANT ONLY SIGNED ON WHEN RICHARD CURTIS WAS ANNOUNCED AS THE WRITER. 


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“The only reason [I was a hard sell] was because I didn't feel they had the script quite right for a long time,” Firth told Cinema.com. “And I kept saying, ‘It's not working. Just get Richard Curtis to come in and help rewrite it.’ Eventually they did, and as soon as Richard came on board, I signed on the dotted line. So that's all it was.”

5. RENÉE ZELLWEGER GAINED 17 POUNDS FOR THE PART.

Zellweger’s weight gain for the role had the media abuzz for a while. According to The Guardian, “In order to play the eponymous heroine in the film adaptation of Fielding's bestseller, the actress gained 17 pounds, consulting a dietitian and endocrinologist who devised a regime of three full meals a day, multiple snacks, and no exercise.”

6. ZELLWEGER WORKED AT PICADOR FOR THREE WEEKS.

Zellweger went full Method for her iconic role, and became a temporary employee of the Picador publishing house. “We came up with a plan: she would be Bridget Cavendish, Bridget for obvious reasons and Cavendish as she was to be passed off as the sister of Jonathan Cavendish, a friend of one of our company chairmen,” Picador publicist Camilla Elworthy told The Guardian. “That last bit at least is true, and no one was to know that Jonathan Cavendish was one of the film's producers.”

7. ZELLWEGER KEPT A PHOTO OF JIM CARREY ON HER DESK.


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While working at Picador, Zellweger kept a picture of Jim Carrey on her desk—which made her alter ego Bridget Cavendish seem like some sort of obsessed fan. “Under the name Bridget Cavendish, she answered phones, served coffee, and made photocopies—without being recognized by any of her co-workers, who offered career advice and wondered privately why she kept a photo of Jim Carrey (her then-boyfriend) on her desk,” noted Hollywood.com.

8. ZELLWEGER INVITED HER BOSS AT PICADOR TO BE AN EXTRA ON SET.

In Camilla Elworthy’s write-up for The Guardian, she noted how she became a part of the production. “Renée sent me a thank you letter and gift after she'd gone and I have seen her a few times since then," Elworthy wrote. "She invited me on to the film set one day. She informed me that I had to stick around and be an extra and made sure that I was put somewhere that I would be seen ... As a result, half my head can be seen for half a nano-second in the launch party scene.”

9. THE EPIC FIGHT SCENE BETWEEN GRANT AND COLIN FIRTH WASN’T CHOREOGRAPHED.

You can thank the two actors for the hilarity of the iconic scene. In a Vulture article about the greatest fight scenes in movie history, writer Denise Martin recalled the improvised spar, writing, “No stunt coordinators. No elaborate choreography. Just a perfectly realized wimp brawl between two upper-middle-class Englishmen coming to awkward fisticuffs in front of a Greek restaurant.”

10. FIELDING ASKED FRIEND SALMAN RUSHDIE TO CAMEO IN THE FILM.

Recalling how he came to be part of the film, famed novelist Salman Rushdie told Texas Monthly, “Helen Fielding, the author of the book, is an old pal of mine, and she asked if I’d come along and make a fool of myself, and I said, ‘Why not?’”

11. GRANT DIDN’T HEAR ZELLWEGER SPEAK IN HER AMERICAN ACCENT UNTIL THE FILM’S WRAP PARTY.

Zellweger was so engrossed with Bridget Jones that one of her leading love interests didn’t meet the real actress until the end of the shoot. “Not once did she stop speaking with that accent, until the wrap party,” Grant told Cinema.com, “when suddenly this weird ... Texan appeared. I wanted to call security, I didn't know who the f*ck she was!”

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15 Surprising Facts About Scarface
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Say hello to our little list. Here are a few facts to break out at your next screening of Scarface, Brian De Palma’s gangsters-and-cocaine classic, which arrived in theaters on this day in 1983.

1. IT WASN'T THE FIRST SCARFACE.

Brian De Palma's Scarface is a loose remake of the 1932 movie of the same name, which is also about the rise and fall of an American immigrant gangster. The producer of the 1983 version, Martin Bregman, saw the original on late night TV and thought the idea could be modernized—though it still pays respect to the original film. De Palma's flick is dedicated to the original film’s director, Howard Hawks, and screenwriter, Ben Hecht.

2. IT COULD HAVE BEEN A SIDNEY LUMET FILM.

At one point in the film's production, Sidney Lumet—the socially conscious director of such classics as Dog Day Afternoon and 12 Angry Men—was brought on as its director. "Sidney Lumet came up with the idea of what's happening today in Miami, and it inspired Bregman," Pacino told Empire Magazine. "He and Oliver Stone got together and produced a script that had a lot of energy and was very well written. Oliver Stone was writing about stuff that was touching on things that were going on in the world, he was in touch with that energy and that rage and that underbelly."

3. OLIVER STONE WASN'T INTERESTED IN WRITING THE SCRIPT, UNTIL LUMET GOT INVOLVED.


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Producer Bregman offered relative newcomer Oliver Stone a chance to overhaul the screenplay, but Stone—who was still reeling from the box office disappointment of his film, The Hand—wasn't interested. "I didn’t like the original movie that much," Stone told Creative Screenwriting. "It didn’t really hit me at all and I had no desire to make another Italian gangster picture because so many had been done so well, there would be no point to it. The origin of it, according to Marty Bregman, [was that] Al had seen the '30s version on television, he loved it and expressed to Marty as his long time mentor/partner that he’d like to do a role like that. So Marty presented it to me and I had no interest in doing a period piece."

But when Bregman contacted Stone again about the project later, his opinion changed. "Sidney Lumet had stepped into the deal," Stone said. "Sidney had a great idea to take the 1930s American prohibition gangster movie and make it into a modern immigrant gangster movie dealing with the same problems that we had then, that we’re prohibiting drugs instead of alcohol. There’s a prohibition against drugs that’s created the same criminal class as (prohibition of alcohol) created the Mafia. It was a remarkable idea."

4. UNFORTUNATELY, ACCORDING TO STONE, LUMET HATED HIS SCRIPT.

While the chance to work with Lumet was part of what lured Stone to the project, it was his script that ultimately led to the director's departure from the film. According to Stone: "Sidney Lumet hated my script. I don’t know if he’d say that in public himself, I sound like a petulant screenwriter saying that, I’d rather not say that word. Let me say that Sidney did not understand my script, whereas Bregman wanted to continue in that direction with Al."

5. STONE HAD FIRSTHAND EXPERIENCE WITH THE SUBJECT MATTER.

In order to create the most accurate picture possible, Stone spent time in Florida and the Caribbean interviewing people on both sides of the law for research. "It got hairy," Stone admitted of the research process. "It gave me all this color. I wanted to do a sun-drenched, tropical Third World gangster, cigar, sexy Miami movie."

Unfortunately, while penning the screenplay, Stone was also dealing with his own cocaine habit, which gave him an insight into what the drug can do to users. Stone actually tried to kick his habit by leaving the country to complete the script so he could be far away from his access to the drug.

"I moved to Paris and got out of the cocaine world too because that was another problem for me," he said. "I was doing coke at the time, and I really regretted it. I got into a habit of it and I was an addictive personality. I did it, not to an extreme or to a place where I was as destructive as some people, but certainly to where I was going stale mentally. I moved out of L.A. with my wife at the time and moved back to France to try and get into another world and see the world differently. And I wrote the script totally f***ing cold sober."

6. BRIAN DE PALMA DIDN'T WANT TO AUDITION MICHELLE PFEIFFER.


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De Palma was hesitant to audition the relatively untested Pfeiffer because at the time she was best known for the box office bomb Grease 2. Glenn Close, Geena Davis, Carrie Fisher, Kelly McGillis, Sharon Stone and Sigourney Weaver were all considered for the role of Elvira, but Bregman pushed for Pfeiffer to audition and she got the part.

7. YES, THERE IS A LOT OF SWEARING.

According to the Family Media Guide, which monitors profanity, sexual content, and violence in movies, Scarface features 207 uses of the “F” word, which works out to about 1.21 F-bombs per minute. In 2014, Martin Scorsese more than doubled that with a record-setting 506 F-bombs thrown in The Wolf of Wall Street.

8. TONY MONTANA WAS NAMED FOR A FOOTBALL STAR.

Stone, who was a San Francisco 49ers fan, named the character of Tony Montana after Joe Montana, his favorite football player.

9. TONY IS ONLY REFERRED TO AS "SCARFACE" ONCE, AND IT'S IN SPANISH.

Hector, the Colombian gangster who threatens Tony with the chainsaw, refers to Tony as “cara cicatriz,” meaning “scar face” in Spanish.

That chainsaw scene, by the way, was based on a real incident. To research the movie, Stone embedded himself with Miami law enforcement and based the infamous chainsaw sequence on a gangland story he heard from the Miami-Dade County police.

10. VERY LITTLE OF THE FILM WAS ACTUALLY SHOT IN MIAMI.

The film was originally going to be shot entirely on location in Miami, but protests by the local Cuban-American community forced the movie to leave Miami two weeks into production. Besides footage from those two weeks, the rest of the movie was shot in Los Angeles, New York, and Santa Barbara.

11. ALL THAT "COCAINE" LED TO PROBLEMS WITH PACINO'S NASAL PASSAGES.

Though there has long been a myth that Pacino snorted real cocaine on camera for Scarface, the "cocaine" used in the movie was supposedly powdered milk (even if De Palma has never officially stated what the crew used as a drug stand-in). But just because it wasn't real doesn't mean that it didn't create problems for Pacino's nasal passages. "For years after, I have had things up in there," Pacino said in 2015. "I don't know what happened to my nose, but it's changed."

12. PACINO'S NOSE WASN'T HIS ONLY BODY PART TO SUFFER DAMAGE.

Still of Al Pacino as Tony Montana in 'Scarface' (1983)
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In the film's very bloody conclusion, Montana famously asks the assailants who've invaded his home to "say hello to my little friend," which happens to be a very large gun. That gun took a beating from all the blanks it had to fire, so much so that Pacino ended up burning his hand on its barrel. "My hand stuck to that sucker," he said. Ultimately, the actor—and his bandaged hands—had to sit out some of the action in the last few weeks of production.

13. STEVEN SPIELBERG DIRECTED A SINGLE SHOT.

De Palma and Spielberg had been friends since the two began making studio movies in the mid-1970s, and they made a habit of visiting each other’s sets. Spielberg was on hand for one of the days of shooting the Colombians’ initial attack on Tony Montana’s house at the end of the movie, so De Palma let Spielberg direct the low-angle shot where the attackers first enter the house.

14. SOME COOL TECHNOLOGY WENT INTO THE GUN MUZZLE FLASHES.

In order to heighten the severity of the gunfire, De Palma and the special effects coordinators created a mechanism to synchronize the gunfire with the open shutter on the movie camera to show the huge muzzle flash coming from the guns in the final shootout.

15. SADDAM HUSSEIN WAS A FAN OF THE FILM.

The trust fund the former Iraqi dictator set up to launder money was called “Montana Management,” a nod to the company Tony uses to launder money in the movie.

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