The city of Philadelphia has long embraced Sylvester Stallone’s classic film Rocky and its messages of hope, perseverance and the underdog spirit that has resonated with many of its citizens.
On Sunday, December 3, some of those Philadelphians braved a chilly day of rain to watch the iconic actor receive a key to the city on what’s been deemed ‘Rocky Day’ in honor of the film’s 47th anniversary.
The event, held near the steps of the Philadelphia Museum Of Art where a statue of Rocky stands, also served as a grand opening event for the Rocky Shop, which sells licensed merchandise from the Hollywood leading man’s brand.
In the film Rocky, the world was introduced to a struggling club fighter from South Philly, who despite being an honorable man with a lot of heart, never could seem to get that big break in his chosen profession as a boxer.
But it was Rocky’s run up those steps to the museum to the inspiring song Gonna Fly Now that would alter both the character’s fate but also the man who had created him during a three-day writing session in March 1975.
‘You get to the top, you feel inspired, you feel special, hopeful, happy, and most of all, proud of yourself,’ Stallone, 77, said, before adding that people become a ‘champion of their dreams’ by reaching the top of the stairs.
‘Life is a fight,’ Stallone declared while addressing the large crowd gathered, according to WHYY News in Philadelphia.’It’s a tough fight and get ready. You’re going to win some and you’re gonna lose a lot.’
The actor then embraced the film’s underdog and rags to riches themes by adding, ‘But the real victory is in never giving up and going the distance for yourself, your loved ones, and standing at the top of these steps you’re reminded that all things are possible. Keep punching.’
The Rocky Shop is located inside the Parkway Visitor Center Outpost, next to the base of the so-called ‘Rocky Steps’ and near the famous Rocky Statue that was erected back in 2006.
Stallone would make his way in front of the iconic statue, that’s a replica of his Rocky Balboa character, for a round of photos.
Still looking firm and fit, the New York City native posed with his thumbs up dressed in black fitted pants, a plaid blazer over a black leather jacket, and black leather shoes.
During the photo op, Stallone would also do the classic boxer-fighter pose with his fists out in front of himself.
For many Philadelphians, Rocky has become a symbol to don’t give up in life, as well as a homage to the grit and spirit of the City of Brotherly Love.
Not only was Rocky Balboa’s unforeseen chance at the heavyweight championship against Apollo Creed a great version of the underdog story, so was the process of getting the film made.
Stallone was still a struggling actor and writer before the release of Rocky on December 3, 1976.
In a bold move during negotiations, Stallone played a bit of hardball with United Artists when he rejected a six figure deal, said to be $250,000, to sell the film rights and refused to allow it to be made without him in the lead role.
Ultimately, United Artists agreed to cast Stallone as Rocky Balboa, which proved to be a winning combination as Rocky, and its never give up message, became a huge hit en route to becoming the highest-grossing film of 1976, earning $225 million at the worldwide box office against a budget of just under $1 million.
Along with Stallone, the cast also includes Talia Shire (Adrian), Burt Young (Paulie), Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed) and Burgess Meredith (Mickey).
Rocky won three Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director (John G. Avildsen), and Best Film Editing.
The success of the original sparked five Rocky sequels, which were followed by three spin-offs with the Creed film series starring Michael B. Jordan as Apollo Creed’s son Adonis Creed.
The film, which is revered by many as one of the greatest films of all time, was also preserved in the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry as being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.’