It’s been nearly 40 years since Rocky first hit the big screen, but its presence is still felt in today’s fast-paced pop culture world. The film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress and won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It also launched the career of Sylvester Stallone, who was virtually unknown before writing and starring in the movie voted by the American Film Institute as the fourth most inspirational film of all time.
Rocky’s enduring legacy is most visibly seen in the six sequels that followed, including the recently released Creed, starring Michael B. Jordan. With Balboa’s character back in the spotlight, it’s time to look at where some of the actors have landed since the film’s original run in 1976.
Jodi Letizia (Marie)
Marie was the foul-mouthed girl Rocky loosely mentors. In the film, he chastises her for smoking because it makes her breath “smell like garbage,” and warns that she won’t be taken seriously if she continues with her vulgar behavior.
Letizia briefly reprised her role in Rocky V, but that scene was cut from the final edit. She went on to establish herself as a comedian with an appearance in a Saturday Night Live sketch in 1995, and a role in the off-off Broadway show Dressing Room Divas II.
Al Silvani (Cut Man)
Silvani appeared in the film as Rocky’s cut man, thanks to his real world experience as an expert boxer trainer. He coached more than two dozen world champion boxers, including Jake LaMotta, portrayed by Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull, and Rocky Graziano.
He served as a technical adviser for films like Ocean’s Eleven (1960), The Gauntlet, Stir Crazy, Rocky II and Rocky III. Silvani’s cool life also included befriending Frank Sinatra and hanging out with The Rat Pack. He died in 1996 at 95 years old.
Jimmy Gambina (Mike)
Mike only has one scene in the entire film: when he tells Rocky that his stuff has been cleared out of his locker at the gym. Behind the scenes, Gambina served as a technical advisor due to his real life experience as an actual boxing trainer.
He went on to train the likes of Robert De Niro in Raging Bull, John Voight in The Champ and Sage Stallone in Rocky V. He’s acted in bit roles for projects like The Battle for the Planet of the Apes, but remains focused on lending his expertise behind the camera. He last worked on the 2014 film Locker 13 as a boxing consultant.
Joe Spinell (Tony Gazzo)
Gazzo was the no-nonsense loan shark who asked Rocky to break a guy’s thumb when he couldn’t pay up. He’s not seen much after that, but Rocky does reference this request later in the film.
Spinell had similar bit parts in films like The Godfather, The Godfather Part II and Taxi Driver. His career never quite took off like some of his co-stars, but he did write and star in the cult horror film Maniac. He died in 1989 at the age of 52. The cause of his death has been widely speculated.
Thayer David (Jergens)
Jergens offers Rocky the opportunity of a lifetime in fighting Apollo and that’s about it. While his role is very brief, he does play an important part in convincing the club fighter to accept the challenge. That scene also became one of the iconic moments of the film thanks to a convincing delivery by Jergens.
Outside of Rocky, David was an established actor with a strong theater background. By the ‘60s and ‘70s, he focused more on television with roles in shows like Charlie’s Angels, Dark Shadows, Hawaii Five-O, and the miniseries Roots. He also starred in movies like the 1977 film Fun with Dick and Jane. He remained active in the business until his death in 1978 from a heart attack. He was 51 years old.
Burgess Meredith (Mickey Goldmill)
Mickey is the smart-mouthed owner of the gym Rocky frequently uses, and subsequently evicts him for good reason. The boxing trainer saw great potential being wasted on a measly job as a collector for a local loan shark. When he hears of Creed’s challenge, he offers to manage the club fighter but is initially rejected due to his harsh treatment. Rocky finally allows Micky to train him, and the two settle their differences.
Meredith was already an established actor by the time Rocky came along. After its release, he continued to find work in films like Clash of the Titans and The Last Chase. He never achieved leading man status like Stallone, but he did end up with a memorable part in Grumpy Old Men and Grumpier Old Men as a sex-crazed grandfather. Meredith died in 1997 at the ripe old age of 89.
Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed)
As the antagonist in this tale, Creed represented everything that Rocky was not. He was flashy, arrogant, charismatic and wealthy. He’d already established himself as the undefeated World Heavyweight Champion and needed a fight that would generate some major publicity. After choosing Rocky based on the sound of his nickname, Apollo did not take the underdog seriously enough and paid for it in the lengthy battle. Creed only wins by a split decision, which is embarrassing for the fighter, and he admits to not being at his best during the bout.
Weathers spent the ‘70s and ‘80s in action films like Predator, Action Jackson and Hurricane Smith. It wasn’t until his role as Chubbs in the Adam Sandler flick Happy Gilmore that he saw more comedic opportunities. In 2004, he landed a part in Arrested Development as a fictionalized version of himself. Since then, he’s appeared on TV shows like Psych, ER and The Shield, and in films like The Comebacks and TV short Toy Story of Terror. He recently made headlines by complimenting Stallone in Creed, quelling rumors of a fallout after denying use of his image in Rocky Balboa.
Burt Young (Paulie Pennino)
Paulie was pretty rough around the edges. With a heavy drinking problem and a tendency to lose his temper, he seemed to take out all his frustrations on Adrian. Despite an emotionally abusive relationship with his younger sister, he remained Rocky’s best friend and even helped him to train in the meat factory he worked at. He spends most of the movie objecting Rocky’s relationship with Adrian but then eventually caves.
Young went on to reprise his character in later Rocky sequels and ended up being typecast in tough guy roles. Still, he has enjoyed a steady line of work in movies like Once Upon a Time in America, Transamerica and The Adventures of Pluto Nash. He even crossed over into television with appearances on Law & Order, Tales from the Crypt, The Sopranos and Walker, Texas Ranger. Today, Young still keeps pretty busy. He has seven movies currently announced, in production or in post-production.
Talia Shire (Adrian Pennino)
Adrian presented a different challenge for Rocky. Her shy, bookish nature prevented her from saying yes to his initial advances and he had to work to get her to change her mind. It also didn’t help that her overbearing brother Paulie, also Rocky’s best friend, was so apprehensive about the situation. Nonetheless, their budding relationship brought balance to an otherwise macho film. Memorable moments include a first date at the skating rink, her gifting him with a new four-legged training partner named Butkus, and Rocky shouting her name at the end of his first tumultuous battle with Apollo.
Shire first garnered fame for her role in the crime drama The Godfather, directed by her brother Francis Ford Coppola. She solidified that popularity when she became Rocky’s girlfriend (and later wife) in the series. After the movie, she went on to have a lengthy career in film with roles in movies like I ♥ Huckabees and Palo Alto starring James Franco. She also reprised her role as Adrian for all of the Rocky sequels, until it was revealed in Rocky Balboa that she died of ovarian cancer after the events of Rocky V. She’s currently in production on two separate films.
Sylvester Stallone (Rocky Balboa)
Rocky Balboa was just an unknown boxer working as a loan collector to make ends meet before World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed virtually plucked him from obscurity. Creed’s challenge to a title fight came after his previous opponent broke his hand during training, and he really liked the “Italian Stallion” nickname. Balboa, a working class Italian-American with little formal education, wasn’t supposed to win, let alone last for 15 rounds in the ring with the undefeated champion. However, against all odds, he went the distance and the bout ended in a draw. It also laid the groundwork for an unlikely friendship with Apollo that would span several films.
The movie launched Stallone’s career as a legitimate movie star. Rocky earned 10 Oscar nominations in total, with Stallone receiving nods for Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay, and took home the trophies for Best Picture, Best Directing and Best Film Editing. Since then, he’s gone on to star in two other blockbuster franchises, Rambo and The Expendables, in addition to the Balboa saga. He either wrote or co-wrote all 13 of the movies (Creed excluded) in each of those series, and directed six of them including The Expendables and four of the six Rocky films. Stallone also lent his name to kid-friendly endeavors like 1998’s animated adventure Antz and Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over. But he just can’t shake the action genre and has agreed to star in and write a fifth Rambo film.
Who else from Rocky is still working today? Let us know in the comments!
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