World Boxing News delves inside how Sylvester Stallone made the most significant career mistake when signing a production contract for Rocky.
At the time, Stallone was a struggling actor with no name to speak of in the movie business. He was merely just another desperate actor trying to have his first film script read by a production company.
As it happened, though, Stallone was onto something. He unknowingly had one of the greatest film franchises in the palm of his hand.
His screenplay about a Philadelphia underdog boxer-turned-loan shark named Rocky Balboa was gold and would have seen Stallone secure status as a billionaire in the future.
However, back in those days, the movie business worked differently. Getting a percentage of the profits was a rare occurrence for struggling out-of-work thespians.
Sylvester Stallone’s big break
Therefore, when interest came from Irwin Winkler and MGM Studios, Stallone was willing to do anything to get his baby over the line.
Helped by agents Craig T. Rumor and Larry Kubik brokering the deal, Stallone’s dream eventually became a reality. But little did Stallone know that a decision that would make him an action movie icon alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger would return to haunt him.
It was basically a deal with the devil regarding Stallone’s choice. He could become one of the biggest action heroes the world over. But in exchange, he’d have to forfeit any claims to profits from the franchise moving forward.
He was in no position to argue. Stallone has signed the contract unknowingly without realizing he’d never be able to re-negotiate it.
Stallone still calls the decision one of the worst to this day and holds deep regrets. He says he gets nothing from the profits of the first three movies and doesn’t “have one percent of the franchise to leave to his kids.”
Signing over the Rocky rights
It’s understandable how Stallone feels. He created and launched a series that has since cleared 1.65 billion dollars in green.
But as the late Rumar’s son Chris informed WBN when the story first broke about Stallone’s gripes, the Hollywood legend was never going to be in a position to claim any future profits.
Rumar exclusively told World Boxing News: “I think what (WBN) wrote originally is great. I believe you are correct that the Hollywood system, even today, does favor the studios and producers in terms of long-term profits over actors.
“I also agree with Mr. Stallone 100% on his overall position,” he added.
On his father’s involvement with Stallone through the years, Chris says things didn’t always run smoothly.
“My stepmother, Nancy Rumar, was married to my father for over 25 years. She is even more intimately aware of the details regarding my father’s representation of Mr. Stallone.
“She knows more about the production of Rocky. Also, about his complaints about franchise royalties and his failure to pay my father and Mr. Kubik for breaking his contract with them.
“However, I must again point out that ability to dictate long-term royalties in the film industry is based on star power and projected earnings.
“In 1975, Mr. Stallone had neither of these. He was a no-name actor that wrote what turned out to be an iconic movie franchise.
“My father and Mr. Kubik secured for him the best possible deal at the time based on who Mr. Stallone was in terms of his status in the film industry.
“Had they demanded anything more than the standard contract for acting and writing, this film would have never been made. Mr. Stallone was in no position to dictate long-term or future royalties. He was basically an unknown commodity.”
Rumar then compared Sylvester Stallone’s bid to maximize his stake in Rocky to boxing today.
“All entertainment from sports to music operates under this model. An unknown talent without a track record of earnings will not garner max or royalty-based contracts.
“I am sure that in the business of boxing that you cover, talented new boxers cannot command huge contracts and massive shares of PPV sales like an established boxer like Canelo Alvarez or Floyd Mayweather.
“If we are to believe Mr. Stallone about his Rocky contract, then Mike Tyson should have been making $5 million per fight after his first three fights. He should have controlled most of the PPV profits and been the main event at MSG circa 1985.
“We both know that would have never happened in the boxing industry.
“All I want is the truth [or as much of the truth as possible] to come out about Mr. Stallone [and the deal], the Rocky franchise. Furthermore, that’s the least I can do to honor my father.”
Sylvester Stallone re-negotiation
Having the agent’s side of the story goes a long way to explaining how the deal went down. However, you still have to feel for Sylvester Stallone when five sequels were made.
He managed to broker better terms for the subsequent movies. But never would any re-negotiating take place over the royalties and profits.
Stallone has his claims, and Rumar/Lubik did nothing wrong in their efforts all those years ago. It’s a shame that the man who invented Rocky inadvertently signed his rights away and has regretted the decision ever since.
Studios have a lot to answer for when controlling deals for such a lengthy spell without families profiting from their parent’s legacy. Hopefully, in the future, those practices will change for the better.