The great Roger Ebert interviewed Sylvester Stallone in Philadelphia in 1979, on the day of the Rocky II premiere. He reflected on his star-making role in 1976’s Rocky – which became the blueprint for all future sports movies – and also explained how making Rocky II affected him physically.
Stallone said; “You know what I think happened? After Rocky, I was almost set up in the eyes of the media to make a flop. The last two years have been pretty tough, public image wise. I said some things that did not exactly endear me. My ego got blown out of proportion. Rocky was so big, and I’d been so low, I was too cocky. In the year of 1972, my total income was $1,400. Now I was a bigshot. I think I’ve got things a little more straight now.”
As for Rocky II, Stallone said; “There’s a tremendous disorder in my body right now. I’m real messed up inside. When we were filming Rocky II, I took a terrible beating. I let Carl Weathers [as legendary Rocky villain Apollo Creed] really pound me. It was the most gruelling thing I’ve ever been through.”
He continued; “Broken bones, the works. The fight’s four times as long and has eight times as many punches as the first one. A lot of those shots aren’t faked. It’s as hard to learn not to hit somehow as to hit them. Right now my health is pretty bad. It’s really bad. I have to go in for extensive testing. They talk to me about enlarged intestines, rearranged insides…I’ve lost a lot of weight. Don’t worry. I’ll get it all fixed up.”
Ebert asked Stallone about putting his body through that again for further Rocky movies; “I can’t make the movie without a fight. The fight has to look right, or the movie doesn’t end right. And I want to make Rocky III in the pretty near future. Your body has a tendency to go to hell. I was 29 when I was Rocky. Now I’m 32. Time doesn’t wait, I’d like to make Rocky III In the next 18 months.”
Stallone told Ebert that he’d like Rocky’s last fight to take place in the Coliseum in Rome, training on the Spanish steps, and having an audience with the Pope. Amusingly, he also said that it would be embarrassing to play Rocky for too long. “It’s like this. I could go on playin’ Rocky forever, but it’s like even the Bowery Boys got a little embarrassing when they were 50 or 60. They shoulda been the Bowery Seniors.”
Stallone would end up playing Rocky until he was 44 in 1990. He then returned to the character in 2006’s Rocky Balboa, when he was 60. He returned again in 2015’s Creed (when he was almost 70), this time in the role of mentor and trainer.