The Sixth Coming of RockyJOHN J. MILLER
Stallone returns to his religious roots.
The images of Sylvester Stallone’s character as he trains for his sport and battles the likes of Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers), Clubber Lang (Mr. T), and Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) are instantly memorable. The scene of Rocky running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, to the magnificent music of Bill Conti, must rank as one of the most stirring ever recorded on film.
Despite this familiarity, probably only a few die-hard movie buffs will remember that the very first person that viewers see in the very first Rocky movie isn’t anyone who wears golden gloves — but rather someone who explains the golden rule. That initial scene begins with a picture of Jesus on a wall in an old church that’s been converted into a gym. Then the camera pans down to Rocky and Spider Rico punching each other in a ring. In the background hangs a sign: “Resurrection A.C.,” as in “Resurrection Athletic Club.”
That’s called symbolism, folks, and in a series of interviews to promote Rocky Balboa, the new movie, Stallone has reminded listeners of this beginning and told them about his newfound Catholic faith. “I wanted to signal that this man will make a journey,” he said at a recent event in Washington, D.C. (Stallone not only has starred in each of the six Rocky movies, but he has written them as well — and that first screenplay has been ranked among the best ever.)
“I really wanted to end the series on this note,” said Stallone in Washington. “I ended it badly in Rocky V. I was in a different place. I wasn’t feeling spiritual at the time. I wasn’t going to church. I was doing it all on my own. See how I do it on my own? Not very good!”
Rocky V, which was released in 1990, is widely considered the worst in the series. At the box office, it earned a pittance compared to earlier ones. “I felt so guilty that I had let everyone down and let my lifestyle ruin Rocky,” said Stallone. “I started to pray more.”
Stallone credits his faith with helping him get the Rocky series — and his life — back on track. “This thing is a spiritual journey,” he said, referring to the seven years it took for him to convince a studio to get behind Rocky Balboa. “I believed it was destined to have a final sendoff that would leave people with hope.”
He also wanted to film it before he grew much older: Stallone recently turned 60. In this sixth and presumably final installment, Rocky comes out of retirement for a final exhibition match. His determination recalls that of George Foreman, who got back in the ring and captured his second heavyweight title at the age of 45.
Stallone, the man of reborn faith, has a new slogan: “The church is the gym of the soul.” In this audio interview, Stallone explains that he knows a lot about exercise, and then expands: “You need help, you need a trainer, you need to go to a gym and you need guidance. You cannot train yourself. And I feel the same way about Christianity and I feel the same way about what the church is — the church is the gym of the soul. And the priests, the reverends, the ministers, and the pastors are the trainers. They are the ones that guide you.”
John J. Miller. "The Sixth Coming of Rocky." National Review (December 20, 2006).
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