TODAY   |  April 01, 2014

Sylvester Stallone: No one wanted me for ‘Rocky’

Actor Sylvester Stallone sits down with Willie Geist to chat about the original “Rocky” movie, and reveals that people "scattered" at the thought of him in the lead role. He also discusses the new Broadway musical based on the Oscar-winning film.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> of willie's exclusive look at " rocky " the broadway musical . on monday, we met the actors, this morning, willie catches up with the man himself. good morning.

>> good morning, matt. it's one of the great hollywood stories. nearly 40 years ago, sylvester stallone fought hollywood producers who didn't see him as rocky balboa . well, six rocky movies later, we know how that ended. and stallone had to lace up the gloves again, this time to convince broadway producers who said " rocky " the musical would never make it to the great white way .

>> rocky balboa climbing into the ring now, the italian stallion .

>> reporter: 38 years ago, a young actor by the name of sylvester stallone created one of the biggest movie franchises ever. to date, the six rocky films have earned over $1 billion at the box office and while the iconic boxing match between rocky balboa and apolo creed is well known to generations of moviegoers, the real fight was finding hollywood producers who wanted to make the film with stallone in the lead role.

>> get a job.

>> back then, the names being mentioned to play rocky included burt reynolds , james caan and ryan o'neill.

>> they wanted every celebrated actor, they wanted other people to play adrienne like bette midler and cher. and they found out i wanted to be involved, they scattered.

>> stallone who wrote the rocky script turned down more than $300,000, the equivalent of $1 million today because he refused to sell the project and walk away .

>> at that time, because i was --

>> but his decision to hang on to the script until he found producers who would let him play the lead paid off. in 1976 , " rocky ," starring sylvester stallone won the oscar for best picture .

>> literally, i was parking cars ten months earlier, and now here we are. i rented a tuxedo and on the way, tie broke. the driver goes, you want to borrow mine? no. i walk into the oscars looking like vinny bombat. and people go, what arrogance. how dare him going into an establishment.

>> and he's still going against the establishment. at 67, stallone is climbing back into the ring with a new twist on the old story. he's taken " rocky " the musical to broadway .

>> only took me 67 years to get here. rocky moves slowly.

>> i was influenced by west side story . i always thought, you know, rocky and adrienne was very similar as a love story . and there's so much silence in the movie " rocky ." a lot of walking, a lot of talking, a lot of thinking, that gives room for song.

>> this time, it was broadway producers who had their doubts.

>> everyone said, that's a great idea for someone who is a fool because we will never --

>> nearly 40 years later, the result is still the same. sylvester stallone 's rocky is the last man standing.

>> i love you!

>> i love you!

>> and the show is already a hit on broadway . guys, when he went to bring this movie to hollywood , he said he had $106 in his bank account . he said i have to take control of my own destiny. i'm not going to do this movie unless i can be in it. he said he had a $40 car that blown up and turned down $100,000 because he wanted to be in it and boy has that paid off.

>> who has the vision at that moment? you know, to hold out for the big thing. it's amazing.

>> six movies together have made more than $1.2 billion.

>> that's incredible.

>> i think he made the right call.

>> or about as much as "frozen."