This post is a little different from most of the other stuff you may have read on Fun Time Internet. This isn’t a comedy article. This actually happened:
On my birthday last year I received an unusual gift from Dave Hodgson – a Bankers Box full of vintage Hollywood movie scripts. But these weren’t just any old scripts. They were all written by my personal screenwriting idol, Sylvester Stallone.
In this box were autographed shooting scripts for all my favourite Stallone-penned Stallone outings – Cobra, Over the Top, and Rhinestone. Not to mention some of his lesser vehicles like Paradise Alley, F.I.S.T., the first two Rambos, and the first four Rockys.
But the real treasure in this trove was a crumpled up ball of paper I found at the bottom of the box. At first I assumed it was garbage and was going to throw it away. But if my experience as a Stallone film fan has taught me anything it’s taught me that garbage is the gift that keeps on giving. (Seriously, go watch Rhinestone again. You’ll thank me later.) The crumpled up paper turned out to be a crumpled up 8-page rough draft story outline for Rocky V, dated June 1987!
Full disclosure: Rocky V is my least favourite entry in the saga. It’s depressing. Rocky doesn’t even box in it. And there’s absolutely no mention of Paulie’s robot wife from Rocky IV. And apparently Rocky was originally supposed to die in it until the studios made them change the ending.
So it was with great shock and delight to discover that this rough outline pretty much avoids all those problems! Except for the part about Rocky dying. But it’s dealt with in such a shocking way that – you’ll just have to read it for yourself!
This version of Rocky V isn’t the down-to-earth downer that made it to the big screen. If anything, it makes the bombastic Rocky IV look like Rocky I.
In this version of Rocky V, Balboa’s victory against Ivan Drago in Rocky IV ends the Cold War. Literally. He even wins the Nobel Peace Prize. This catches the attention of a race of space aliens (yes, space aliens) who pride themselves as the best boxers in the universe. They threaten to turn the earth into space dust if Rocky refuses to face their boxing champ, a hulking four-armed, genetically engineered mutant named Gorblax the Destroyer. Last time Rocky fought for his country. This time he’s fighting the War of the Worlds.
This Rocky V is pure ‘80s Stallone ego. It’s Sly simultaneously at his best and worst. It’s the most ludicrous fever-dreamlike thing I’ve ever read. Yet one has to remember that Stallone drew inspiration from his own life when writing the Rocky saga. The first Rocky was about Stallone’s struggles to find success and his fear of forever being labeled a loser. Rocky II focused on his insecurities with newfound fame and fortune and his fear of having to repeat himself in order to remain successful. Rocky III examines his fear that his own hubris would cost him everything he’s worked so hard to achieve. Rocky IV explores his anxieties about aging and his unhealthy obsession with body image. And this version of Rocky V seems to hint at Stallone’s desire to reinvent himself for audiences of the late ‘80s and ‘90s, audiences that had grown increasingly tired of his films.
It almost seems as if Stallone knew that muscle-bound machine gun-toting action stars would eventually be replaced by comic book superheroes. In this story outline he’s attempting to bridge the gap. Even with such a preposterous premise, this proto-Rocky V manages to stay truer to the spirit of the series than the Rocky V that was actually produced. I can only assume this high concept story was scrapped in favour of a downbeat down-and-dirty film because the pre-digital special effects would’ve been prohibitively expensive. After all, Stallone had suffered a string of hits and misses in the mid-to-late ‘80s. Studios would’ve been wary of such an ambitiously weird and pricy project.
Neither Dave nor I can confirm the authenticity of this document. Dave contacted the Hollywood memorabilia storeowner who sold him the box of scripts. He said he obtained it through an online auction. I e-mailed the online auction seller. He couldn’t remember where he got it from and didn’t remember any crumpled up ball of paper. Dave reached out to a number of online film journalists to help us verify this outline, but no one responded. I tried to contact Stallone’s people and never heard back from them.
Whether this story outline is real or not, one thing is for certain: I’ve been obsessed with it for the last year. It is the most blissfully baffling thing I’ve ever read. It is beyond the labels of “good” and “bad.” Forget Jodorowsky’s Dune. Forget Kubrick’s Napoleon. The 1987 outline for Rocky V is the greatest film never made.
And now you can read it and judge it for yourself.