PHILADELPHIA — Nearly 50 years after Rocky Balboa sprinted up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the actor who brought him to life returned to his former hometown over the weekend to celebrate a new Philly holiday in his name.
Thousands surrounded Sylvester Stallone at the steps made famous by Rocky, the 1976 Academy Award-winning film written by and starring Stallone, on Sunday to commemorate the first-ever “Rocky Day.” This new annual city holiday honors the film that not only cemented Stallone’s place in Hollywood history, but also put Philadelphia on the silver screen for the whole world to see. Dec. 3 was the date Rocky was released to U.S. audiences.
Stallone was accompanied by family members and his friend, actor Chevy Chase, who joked and waved to attendees, even getting one crowd member to shout, “Two for one! Rocky and Clark Griswold,” referencing Chase’s famous role as Griswold in the National Lampoon’s Vacation franchise.
Addressing the crowd, Stallone called those in attendance and the residents of Philadelphia the true heroes.
“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart — and Rocky’s, too, because we’re very close — to all of you, who believe it or not are the real-life Rockys, because you live your life on your own terms, you try to do the best you can, and you keep punching.”
“You inspire me, believe me,” he added.
Stallone said that the story of Rocky Balboa and its making are intrinsically tied to Philadelphia, a city where a working-class underdog can rise up to a challenge despite being kicked down repeatedly. Before the world met Rocky Balboa, Stallone was a struggling writer and actor who despite his script being rejected countless times, pushed forward to see his dreams come true — much like the character he created.
“Naivete is great. You have all of these dreams and aspirations, and you haven’t been embittered yet when life beats ya down,” Stallone said of his younger self writing the film. “I was very ambitious because there was no ‘plan B.’ At the time, all I had to fall back on was my butt. Rocky was just a perfect storm. It came along at a time when politics were changing and people were looking for more positivity, and I just happened to fall into it.”
Dozens of people were dressed in their favorite Rocky wardrobes from his dark navy blue fedora, leather jacket, and fingerless gloves to the all-gray sweatsuit he wore in the iconic scene atop the museum steps — many reenacting the scene themselves. One such group was the Sutcliffes of Swedesboro, New Jersey. Jay Sutcliffe brought his daughter Scarlett and son Jackson to see their hero in person.
“My dad introduced them to me and I just loved it,” said sixth-grader Scarlett, who has even dressed up as Rocky for Halloween. “Today is really awesome because I grew up watching all the movies.”
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