The ESPN 30 for 30 documentary The Real Rocky is about the man behind the iconic movie.
Director Jeff Feuerzeig tells the story of retired heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner, the man Sylvester Stallone has said was the inspiration for his Academy Award winning boxing drama, Rocky.
Let’s just say that one man’s “inspiration” is another man’s “jacked my entire life story."
Feuerzeig said of the film, “In my opinion, Sylvester Stallone hijacked Chuck Wepner’s soul. This film is my attempt to help Chuck get his soul back.”
Actually, that makes a lot of sense considering Stallone would have needed a soul after he sold his to the devil for an acting career.
Stallone’s overacted, overrated, overly sentimental Rocky franchise has over-performed at the box office to the tune of a $1.25 billion worldwide gross. As if that alone isn’t criminal enough, for more than 30 years the actor didn’t give Wepner anything more than the ocassional shout-out.
Stallone kept Wepner at bay for years with the vague promise that one day he’d come through with some tangible way to say "Thank you for lending your life to make my own."
Stallone offered him a part in Rocky II, but it ended up on the cutting room floor. Then Stallone promised Wepner another part when the right movie came along—and 20 years passed with with nothing.
The final straw was in 1997 when Stallone filmed Cop Land, a gritty mob movie shot within minutes of Wepner’s New Jersey neighborhood, and didn’t even have the decency to give him a call.
That’s when things changed for Wepner. He felt used and stupid and grew increasingly embarrassed every time someone would ask him about the films that had stolen his life story. In 2003, Wepner filed suit against Stallone for cashing in on his life story without ever paying out a dime.
After years of outlandish lies and denials, Stallone was advised to settle with Wepner out of court. In 2006 they reached a settlement for an undisclosed sum, the USA Today reported.
Some people argue that it’s actually Wepner who owes Stallone and not the other way around.
Stallone certainly tried to make that argument. After all, where would Wepner be today if it wasn’t for "Rocky"? He’s made his living for decades as the real Rocky and he is guaranteed a lifetime of fame because of it.
Those people are ridiculously misguided.
Without Rocky, Wepner would still be a local hero.
Sure he’d have less money, but he’d still be living in New Jersey and have the same friends and family he’s always had. Without Rocky, perhaps Wepner would be in the Boxing Hall of Fame rather than Stallone; someone who simply pretended to be a character inspired by Wepner, and earned the plaudits his real-life muse could never ascertain.
Without Wepner, Stallone wouldn’t have launched a movie franchise that came to define him. Who hasn't seen some homage to running up a set of stairs in Philadelphia—an iconic montage moment in Rocky.
He wouldn’t get paid obscene amounts of money to star in nonsensical drivel that nobody likes and he certainly wouldn’t have amassed a $275 million fortune. All of that and it took Stallone 30 years and a lawsuit to finally make things right with Wepner.
Maybe this documentary will help Wepner get his soul back; he deserves it. Unfortunately for Stallone, nothing will ever bring his back.