In 1975, 29-year old Sylvester Stallone was out of money and time. His wife was pregnant; he hocked her jewelry and sold his dog for $50.
In a desperate 24-hour writing spree, he wrote the script for Rocky. United Artists became interested, gradually raising their ofter to $300,000 to have either Burt Reynolds, James Caan or Ryan O’Neal play the role of Rocky.
“I got a monumental headache,” Stallone recalls. “I didn't know that much money existed. They kept insisting they needed a big name star. But the story was about not selling out, about having faith in yourself, about going the distance in a million-to-one shot.”
The price went to $350 000. What did Stallone do??
What would you have done?
Stallone knew how low, low can be. Homeless for several days and sleeping at a bus station, he saw a notice looking for actors for an adult-video. He took the job, paying him $400 for four days work. "It was either do that movie or rob someone, because I was at the end, the very end of my rope," Stallone said.
So being that low, did he take the $350,000?
“I would sooner burn the thing than have anyone else play Rocky Balboa. Not for a million dollars,” he said.
United Artists offered Stallone $25,000 to star in it. He got his wife's jewelry out of hock, bought back his dog and the rest is history.
To be honest, I would have taken the money and written another acting vehicle for myself. But that's why you didn't see me at the Academy Awards saying, "And to all the Rockys in the world, I love you."
Hindsight is easy. But we don't always win when we take a risk. As Stallone said recently:
"Sometimes you're rewarded for risks. Sometimes you're punished. But I'll bet that once a week when I'm walking around I think, 'Thank God I held out to play the part. At least I did one thing right.' Sometimes if you do one thing right it makes up for the other 999 things that you did wrong."
So we have to choose when and how much we risk, and take responsiblity for that risk, as well as keep our eyes open for that 'one right thing'.
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