Sylvester Stallone has 'zero ownership' of 'Rocky' franchise

Sylvester Stallone believes his ultimate legacy is Rocky Balboa, but he will forever regret not owning the rights to the beloved boxer, nor the franchise itself.

"It’s like my brother. It’s the only voice that I can say what I want without being ridiculed, or being silly, or being precious or sentimental, because he is that way. Rocky can’t keep quiet," Stallone, 73, told Variety in an interview released Tuesday. "He just talks and talks and spills his guts. And as a writer, if you do that quite often, it looks as though you’re just lost in the world of exposition. But he’s actually saying something, and because of the way he speaks and his naiveté and gentle quality, you listen. Rocky can say things that my other characters can never say."

That very naiveté, Stallone alleges, cost him millions in the actual deal for the first underdog classic.

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Stallone says he made a total of about $2.5 million for the first "Rocky," but the breakdown wasn't ideal for him: "I got $35,000 for the first one. The screenplay was about $25,000, then $360 a week before taxes. It shot for only 25 days," he explained. "Luckily there were the WGA minimums. I made about $2,000 for acting." The bulk of his pay for the film came from 10 "net points" on the movie, which are a share of a movie's net profits.

This image released by Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures shows Sylvester Stallone in a scene from "Creed II." Stallone said he has "zero ownership" of the "Rocky" character and franchise.

This image released by Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures shows Sylvester Stallone in a scene from "Creed II." Stallone said he has "zero ownership" of the "Rocky" character and franchise.

Stallone says he made $75,000 for "Rocky II" and $120,000 for "Rocky III," the latter of which he also earned millions of dollars on the back-end, according to Variety. Still, he could have made more if he'd retained ownership of the franchise, he says.

"I mentioned it a few times because after 'Rocky II' came out and made a ton of money and then 'Rocky III' hit and made more than all of them, I said I’d like to have some ownership since I invented it. And that never happened. So I have zero ownership of 'Rocky,'" he said.

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Stallone says his attorney Jake Bloom told him he wouldn't be able to get a stake in the movie, adding, "To tell you the truth, I was so preoccupied with other things I didn’t belabor it." Bloom declined to comment for the piece, but a source close to Stallone griped, “He made money from every angle, and still does, so I don’t know what he’s complaining about.” Another insider noted that Stallone made more than $10 million each as a producer on "Creed" and "Creed II."

Sylvester Stallone punches Dolph Lundgren in a scene from the film "Rocky IV" in 1985. Stallone said Lundgren nearly killed him during filming, but that they're close friends today.

Sylvester Stallone punches Dolph Lundgren in a scene from the film "Rocky IV" in 1985. Stallone said Lundgren nearly killed him during filming, but that they're close friends today. (Getty)

"I never really pushed it, and by the time we got around to 'Rocky Balboa' I was in a pretty weak position to say anything. I was in a slump, and it was pretty intense," he admitted. "There was a great sense of finality about it. I couldn’t get arrested. I was let go by my agency. Dropped — fired basically."

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He added that he confronted the studio in 1985 just before the release of "Rocky IV," recalling, "I said, 'Does it bother you guys that I’ve written every word, I’ve choreographed it, I’ve been loyal to you, I’ve promoted it, directed it and I don’t have one percent that I could leave for my children?' And the quote was, 'You got paid.' And that was the end of the conversation."

"They had 100 different licenses, and they said this is all going to be put into the pot, which would have meant hundreds of millions of dollars over 45 years. I’ve never seen that pot," he said, adding, "'Rocky' is on TV around the world more than any other Oscar-winning film other than 'Godfather.' You have six of them, and now you have 'Creed' and 'Creed II.'"

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Still, despite his misgivings, the "First Blood" star doesn't hate Hollywood as a whole, noting, "I love the system — don’t get me wrong. My kids and their kids, they’re taken care of because of the system. But there are dark little segues and people that have put it to ya. They say the definition of Hollywood is someone who stabs you in the chest. They don’t even hide it."

To date, "Rocky" (1976) has a box office gross of $117,235,147 (domestic); "Rocky II" (1979) $85,182,160 (domestic); "Rocky III" (1982) $125,049,125 (domestic); "Rocky IV" (1985) $172,600,000 (global); "Rocky V" (1990) $119,946,358 (global); "Rocky Balboa" (2006) $155,721,132 (global); "Creed" (2015) $173,567,581 (global) and "Creed II" (2018) $214,115,889 (global).

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Perhaps the deal is part of why Stallone hinted in November that Rocky Balboa's story would soon come to a close.

"I just want to thank everyone around the whole wide World for taking the Rocky family into their hearts for over 40 years," Stallone wrote on Instagram in a caption to a video in which he shared similar sentiments. "It’s been my Ultimate privilege to have been able to create and play this meaningful character. Though it breaks my heart, Sadly all things must pass... and end. I love you Kind and generous people, and The most wonderful thing of all is that ROCKY will never die because he lives on in you."

Fox News' Matt Richardson contributed to this report.