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Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Producer Sheds Light On The Original Film’s ‘Depressing’ Ending

Sylvester Stallone in Rocky
(Image credit: United Artists)

The Rocky franchise is one of the most iconic film series of all time and has fans spanning multiple generations. The original movie was a passion project for Sylvester Stallone, who fought to get his vision made and to star in it. Some may not be aware, but the sports flick originally had a more "depressing" ending and, now, one of the producers is shedding some light on what exactly it would've detailed.

Producer Irwin Winkler spoke about Rocky in celebration of its 45th anniversary. The story of how the first movie was made is fascinating, and Winkler explained that the original ending was far different from the empowering one audiences know. The scene apparently would've featured a more somber moment between the titular boxer and his lover, Adrian. On why things changed, Winkler said to Yahoo! Entertainment:

Well, what happened was when we had the screenings for friends and some press, during the fight scene everybody was standing on their feet cheering and yelling and all that. And when he loses the fight he and Adrian meet up, and they walk-- the camera's in back of them, and they walk out of the arena and it's all dirt and dust on the floor. Very kind of, '70s, realistic ending. And that whole high that we were getting from the audience suddenly dipped down to a real low. And it was kind of depressing. Which by the way, the mid-seventies in America was pretty depressing. You had the Vietnam War and Watergate. I mean, you had all those things going on. We had that same bad feeling at the end.

This is definitely a sharp departure from the ending fans know and love, which shows Adrian embracing Rocky in the ring after losing his fight with Apollo Creed. As the producer explains, it was much more depressing and contemplative. Although he's right in saying that it would've matched up with the societal vibe of the '70s, it may have indeed undercut the explosive energy the film had already presented. In the same interview,  Irvin Winkler went on to explain how and his collaborators went about changing things up, saying:

So we talked to Sly and he rewrote the ending, so that Adrian comes into the ring and they embrace. But we had a problem. The studio wouldn't spend the money for it. They said, if you want a new ending, you pay for it yourself. So Bob Chartoff and I didn't have a lot of money, but we said, OK, we'd put up $25,000 to do it. Well how do you do that? Because the way Stallone wrote the script was Adrian, who was standing in the back of the arena, comes walking towards the ring. And they embrace, the music goes, he says, oh Adrian. And he won-- not the fight, but he won his self-respect. And he won the woman he loves. So that's a great, great ending.

Test screenings can definitely have a massive effect on a film, though this may arguably be one of the cases in which it turned out for the better. Most would agree that the ending is one of the most iconic in cinematic history. I think many of us are likely gratefully that the production team was able to get everything reshot.

Today, Sylvester Stallone is more than keeping the franchise's legacy alive and just did so with the release of his Rocky IV DIrector's Cut, which made a ton of money upon hitting theaters. This prompted Stallone to thank fans , who were clearly excited to be able to see the classic film in all of its updated 4K glory The cut was a true labor of love, and it's caused Stallone to become reflective. He recently posted an emotional video that looks back on his career, and it really puts into perspective his position as one of cinema's greatest stars.

Stallone has been working on Expendables 4 and has also begun work on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. And of course, fans will also surely be waiting to see if he has plans for any more installments in the Rocky franchise. While you wait for any movement on that end, you can stream the original movie (complete with its iconic ending) on HBO Max now.

Jamil David

Movie and TV obsessive. A good Heist movie is the way to my heart. Enjoyer of everything from Marvel Movies to Rom-coms.