There’s more depth to Sylvester Stallone’s story than what the action movies that he starred in would let you think.
Sly knew what he wanted to do in his life since he was very young: he wanted to be in the movie business. But having little acting experience, a partially paralyzed face, and a slurry speech, he was turned down by hundreds of agent offices. To get one of his first acting jobs, he literally stayed overnight in one of the agents offices. After that nothing more came out for a while. He kept moving forward, rejection after rejection. Meanwhile he was starving, married, broke, jobless and desperate. He refused to get a regular job, to avoid being caught up in the rat race, to avoid being seduced with the comfort of a salary. He wanted to remain hungry for achieving his dreams.
He finally realized that wasn’t working, he changed his approach, he decided to start writing. He wrote a bunch of screenplays, but still, rejection after rejection, he kept trying until he sold 1 screenplay for 100$ (Paradise Alley that was shot a few years later). He kept going. At that time, he barely had 50$ on him. He was so broke he couldn’t even feed his dog anymore. He went to a liquor store and sold his dog for 25$. He was so attached to his dog that he went out of the liquor store and wept like a kid. It was the lowest point of his life.
A few weeks later, while he was watching a Mohammad Ali boxing match, he had the idea for “Rocky”. As soon as the fight was over, he started writing the story for several straight hours. He knew he would make something out of it. He went back to agents and tried to sell it. Again, agents rejected the story claiming it is predictable and stupid. Except for one agency which believed in it. They offered him 125,000$ for his script. He told them he would accept the deal at the condition of starring in it as Rocky. They refused to give him the role because of his looks and his lack of experience, so he walked away. They called him a few weeks later offering him 250,000$ not to act in the movie. He turned it down. They came back with 325,000$ with the same condition (remember this guy was broke, and jobless). He refused, he wanted the role, he wanted to be a movie star. They finally compromised and gave him 35,000$ claiming that without any real acting experience on the big screen, he would be a big risk on the movie. (he immediately spent almost half of that sum to buy back his dog).
Rocky ended up grossing $200 Million, receiving 10 Academy Awards nominations, winning three. Sylvester Stallone’s career took off. It is said his net worth is around $500M.
Although the details of Sly’s story might have been embellished a bit over the years by the actor’s PR people, but still, I found Sly’s perseverance inspirational and very similar to the perseverance needed by young startup founders. Something I also realized over the years is that true persistence pays at the end no matter how impossible your obstacles might seem, that focusing on the outcome and overcoming fear of the uncertain is probably one the most important ingredient in reaching massive success.
Stay hungry, keep pushing, stay optimistic.
Sly knew he would be a superstar one day.
Do you know what you want to be?