Sylvester Stallone’s decision to give the Italian stallion a girlfriend in the original Rocky really paid off


  • Sylvester Stallone’s decision to give Rocky Balboa a girlfriend clearly benefited the film franchise.
  • Rocky (1976) won Best Picture at the 1977 Academy Awards and grossed $117.2 million domestically.
  • Rocky III And Rocky IV surpassed the success of the original film and became an even bigger box office hit.

Nearly 50 years ago, actor Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa was a down-on-his-luck club fighter who worked as a shady collector on the docks. After six films and a Believe Spin-off franchise with three parts of its own, fans forget that the Italian stallion originally served as a muscle-bound collector for the disreputable but likeable Tony Gazzo (Joe Spinell). Rocky. And originally, Balboa was intended to be an even darker character in director John G. Avildsen’s groundbreaking film. In fact, Stallone revealed in the new Netflix documentary Cunning that it was a friend of his who convinced him to soften Rocky significantly. As a result, the character of Adrian was conceived. Stallone said (via deadline):

“She says, ‘I hate Rocky.’ I hate him. He is cruel. He hits people. He beats her up.’ I said, “What if you stopped in front of it?” Maybe he almost made it. He could have done it, that’s his job, but he doesn’t?’ “That would be nice.” I said, “What if he had a girlfriend or something?” “Yeah, that’s nice.” So I go back and start writing this: “Girlfriend.” Pretty.'”

This nice friend Adrian ended up being played by actress Talia Shire. In Rocky II (1979) Balboa and Adrian marry and later in the film their son is born. Rocky gives up working for Gazzo and the shady gangster figure no longer appears in any of the films after the first sequel. Adrian was undoubtedly the heart of the franchise and a source of true love and support for the boxer until it was announced earlier this year that she had passed away Rocky Balboa.

Related: All the Rocky & Creed Movies, Ranked

The success of Rocky



Release date
November 21, 1976

John G Avildsen

Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith, Thayer David



Drama, documentary, sports

Sylvester Stallone The decision to make Rocky Balboa a more likeable character was very helpful for the franchise and obviously helped the original film receive a total of nine Oscar nominations. Stallone (Best Actor), Shire (Best Actress), Burgess Meredith (Supporting Actor) and Burt Young (Supporting Actor) were all nominated for their brilliant performances, but none of them won an Oscar.

In the end the first Rocky won the award for best film at the 1977 Academy Awards along with two other Oscars (Best Director and Best Film Editing). Additionally, Rocky opened at the box office with a domestic gross of $117.2 million (per Box office mojo).

By 1979, it seemed as if the magic had worn off Rocky II grossed just $85.2 million domestically, but that pitted the Italian Stallion against the all-powerful Clubber Lang (Mr. T). Rocky III. The third part even exceeded the success of the original film with 124.1 million US dollars in US cinemas in 1985 Rocky IV earned a then-franchise-best gross of $128 million in its original theatrical run. Creed III eventually took over that honor with $156 million.

Therefore, Stallone’s decision to soften the hard-hitting brawler-turned-heavyweight champion was a brilliant move by the filmmaker. And the original film remains a favorite worldwide, especially among critics, 47 years later.

Charles Jones

Charles Jones is a WSTNewsPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Charles Jones joined WSTNewsPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: charlesjones@wstnewspost.com.

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