Sylvester Stallone is undoubtedly one of the biggest Hollywood stars of all time. The 1980s movie legend is not only known for Rambo, Demolition Man, The Specialist, and countless other popular franchises.
But his biggest and best film series of all time is without question the Rocky series – which hits TV screens tonight at 10:15pm on ITV.
Before Rocky became a worldwide phenomenon, however, Stallone was a nobody; just a simple man in Hollywood trying to make ends meet.
At the time, in the mid-1970s, He had a pregnant wife, Sasha Czack, and no money in the bank. He was travelling around Hollywood trying to sell the Rocky movie to all of the major production companies, but when nobody would agree to make the movie, he was left stuck and penniless
Stallone, who is now worth a reported $400 million, had a tough decision to make to keep food on the table.
Stallone wrote the script for Rocky, but he had a few stipulations for the final movie. He wanted to star in the film as the titular hero, and he wanted full creative control over the final movie.
These demands were a little too tough for most companies, so he was left with no income, a baby on the way, and rising rent.
In an act of desperation, he went to a local liquor store and started begging people to buy his precious dog, Butkus, for $100. When Stallone eventually found a buyer, he walked away crying.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the only taker he had was offering him a meagre $50. Distraught, he made the deal and sobbed all the way home.
He spoke about the event in 2013, saying: « Yeah, I sold my bull mastiff Butkus to a little person. I tied my dog up at the store with a sign that said a hundred bucks. I got $50 from this guy called Little Jimmy. »
Stallone was absolutely heartbroken that he had to sell his beloved pup – but his luck finally turned.
Just a week later, Stallone sold the Rocky script to United Artists for the massive fee of $1 million. Although it wasn’t a lot of money for a feature film, it was enough to carry out the first thing on his to-do list: get his dog back.
But there was one massive problem in his way: Little Jimmy.
Stallone recalled: « When I sold the Rocky script, I went to see Little Jimmy and begged for the dog back. He lined up his children [and said]: ‘Oh my kids love the dog.' »
Stallone replied by saying: « You’ve only had him for one f*****g week! » He remembered: « [Little Jimmy] wanted to fight me and he said he was gonna kill me – he was a crazy little person! I couldn’t fight him – they’d arrest me – so I offered to pay double. »
Stallone explained he received « several threats » from Little Jimmy before the pair settled on the fee of £3,000 to buy his dog back.
He did end up giving Little Jimmy a massive break in his own career, however.
Stallone revealed how he gave Little Jimmy a role in Rocky when it was eventually released in 1976. He said: « I ended up putting him in the movie. Do you remember in Rocky, when the little guy goes: ‘Hey, did ya win?’ and I go: ‘What are you, deaf?’ and he goes: ‘No, I’m short!’ That’s him. »