By Herbert Vego
I’VE been hoping for the latest movie of Hollywood actor Sylvester Stallone, “Samaritan”, to be shown in local theaters or streamed on Netflix. The movie casts him in the role of Joe Smith, a garbage collector who becomes “superhero” in the mold of Superman to rid his neighborhood of criminals.
What amazes me is that at his old age of 76, Stallone still punches and kicks as he has been doing since his “Rocky” and “Rambo” days in the 1970s and ‘80s, respectively.
I am a Stallone fan not just because of his acting talent but more so because of his real-life heroism against all odds, which has inspired some of us to keep on working despite old age. You see, I am 72 going on 73 and still writing for a living.
“Use it or lose it” is a proverb not exclusive to sex and brawn but also to the human brain.
On a rainy day, I had the luxury of reading a book on Hollywood actor Sylvester Stallone. I learned for the first time that he had started as a frustrated actor and screenplay writer. It would be worth reviewing his life story here.
As a young man trying to launch his acting career, he thought of giving up. He had been rejected by every casting agency in New York City. By 1973, he had befriended all known casting agents, but they saw no acting potential in him even if he had done uncredited “extra” roles since 1969. And so, for sheer survival, he did an assortment of odd jobs as fish-head cutter, lion cage cleaner, usher, and bouncer.
One day, he thought of writing a screenplay for a more decent income even if he had never written one before.
Eight screenplays and a year and a half later, he had not sold any of them. But he resolved to keep on trying, affirming to himself that he was still a winner, and winners do not quit.
He recalled of his first screenplay, “I had written 180 pages of garbage but it gave me a sense of accomplishment.”
In 1975, he earned $700 from a brief role in “Farewell, My Lovely” – starring Robert Mitchum and Charlotte Rampling — but it was just enough to pay off four month’s house rent. His first wife, Sasha Czack, was pregnant with their first child.
Against his will, he sold his dog and best friend, Butkus, a 135-pound bullmastiff to a stranger for $25 and cried while walking home.
Shortly after selling his dog, he bought a ticket for a boxing match between heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali and challenger Chuck Wepner, who was a 30:1 underdog. Inspired by this fight, he began developing a screenplay. For the next three and a half days straight (without sleeping), Stallone and his wife wrote the first draft.
They rewrote it many times.
An agent managed to sell the finished script to the international film maker United Artists for $20,000 for the script, with him in the leading role for an additional $350 per week for acting work plus eight percent of the film’s profit.
After receiving the $20,000 for the script, he offered the buyer of his dog $1,000. To recall, the buyer had bought it for only $25.
“No, Sir,” the man said. “No amount of money is going to buy you this dog.”
Determined to get his dog back, Stallone eventually paid the man $15,000 and also gave him a part in the movie for the return of his dog. Nakakaiyak ito.
If you’ve seen the movie, the dog Butkus is also there.
On November 21, 1976 the movie opened in United States’ theaters and amassed $117 million in sales.
Stallone earned more than $5 million from his eight percent of the profit.
The movie was “Rocky.”
An unknown script writer and actor had turned into a big star.
What a journey it has been! Google says that Sylvester Stallone has an unbelievable net worth today of US $450 million and still counting.
Moral lesson: If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.