8. Rocky's Next Bouts
Rocky would prove to be a tough act to follow. After the film, Stallone would go on to work on the likes of F.I.S.T. and his own Paradise Alley, but the lure of the ring eventually proved too great.
"You're talking about making a film that will be compared to one which won an Academy Award," he said. "I didn’t want a Planet Of The Apes series. Sequels are usually bad. But a miracle happened for us. All the people from the first Rocky came back."
Well, not quite everyone - Avildsen was AWOL. "He didn't like the script," said Stallone at the time. "He suggested I do my own directing, so I did."
Focusing on the man's rising fame, the second film, released in 1979, features a big scene where kids run alongside him on one of his recognizable training sprints.
"We advertised for any child who wanted to run with Rocky to come down," laughs the actor. "Well, about four kids and 99,000 adults showed up. You know, guys from the Philadelphia Striders track club).
"They were beating me. So we said, 'OK, you beat Rocky.’ Now will you please bring your kids down?' When the 13-year-olds showed up, they were beating me, too. Finally we got some nine- year-olds and Rocky beat them."
Rocky II would enjoy some of the success of the first film, earning a healthy return on its investment, but no Oscars this time around.
Rocky III (1982), on the other hand, is better known for introducing Mr T's Clubber Lang and Hulk Hogan's Thunderlips to the franchise, and for the now iconic 'Eye Of The Tiger' used as the theme (though Stallone initially wanted Queen's 'Another One Bites The Dust'.
Another writing and directing job by Stallone himself, the film was successful enough to keep the character popular, though by this time Rocky was being viewed as a patch on Stallone's career - something to bring out every time it began to fade.
But immediately following the third film, he scored his other signature role - that of John Rambo, and it was largely expected that Rocky would be allowed to retire with his trilogy complete.
Nope… Along came Rocky IV in 1985, with Stallone once more in charge. This time, Rocky squares off against Dolph Lundgren's Ivan Drago, a Russian-sponsored, hulking killing machine of a boxer who nearly finished off our hero.
And though it was seen as something of a desperate act, it went on to become the top-grossing film in the series, with $300 million in the bank worldwide.
By the time Rocky V (1990) rolled around, even Stallone was seemingly done with the story since, in the first draft, the Italian Stallion was set to die fighting.
But he eventually changed his mind, agreeing to make Rocky Balboa, which sees the fighter as a much older man, dealing with the loss of his true love and the way his life has turned out….
Next: Balboa And The Future…