Rocky Balboa may be known for fighting hard in the ring, but it’s his golden heart and caring attitude that helped cement the character as a cinema icon. However, the era that the original “Rocky” came out in nearly influenced how the hero would be depicted, and it’s thanks to a close friend of Stallone’s that his personality would greatly alter.
Stallone reveals in “Sly” that Rocky was originally set to have a more aggressive persona. In particular, he took inspiration from the characters of Martin Scorsese’s films, such as “Mean Streets,” a defining entry of the New Hollywood era that emphasized seedier protagonists with questionable morals. Not long after, a friend got ahold of Stallone’s screenplay and felt that he was taking the wrong approach. “She goes, ‘I hate Rocky. I hate him. He’s cruel. He hits people. He beats them up,'” he shared in the documentary. Stallone was in line with the sentiment after reexamining the character, which would go on to birth some of Rocky’s most defining aspects. He continued, “I said, ‘what if you stop short of it?’ Like, maybe he almost did. He could have, that’s his job, but he doesn’t?’ ‘That’d be nice.’ I said, ‘What if he had a girlfriend or something?’ ‘Yeah, that’s nice.’ So I go back, start writing that: ‘Girlfriend. Nice.'”
It’s nearly impossible to imagine Rocky now without his charming personality or his wife Adrian by his side. But whether it came from the name of a street or the urging of a confidante, we’re all thankful for every little piece that helped make Rocky into what we know today.