Sylvester Stallone Was Homeless and Sold His Dog to Make Rocky-Mostly Truth!
Summary of eRumor:
Sylvester Stallone sold his dog as a broke aspiring actor and later bought the dog back for $15,000.
It’s true that Sylvester Stallone sold his dog before starring in “Rocky,” but some parts of the young actor’s story have been sensationalized over the years.
The rumor started with a story that first appeared on the website Endless Human Potential in 2009. The tale was later posted on Facebook, and Stallone’s rags-to-riches legend was born.
The story goes that Stallone sold his dog outside a liquor store for $50 in the early 1970s because he was broke and nearly homeless. Then, once the actor managed to write and sell the script for “Rocky,” he bought the dog back for $15,000 so it could star in the upcoming movie.
The basic facts of the story are true. Stallone and his wife moved from New York to Hollywood with his bullmastiff, Butkus, in the mid 1970s, Stallone said in an interview:
“On our way from New York to Hollywood to seek our fortune, the heat became so intense that we had to pack old Butkus in cracked ice for two days. I promised him that if we survived, he’d someday get treated like a king. But I almost changed my mind when he practically got us killed in a wildlife preserve. An exceptionally large ostrich decided to peck him to death and attacked the car. Rather than being diplomatic, Butkus jumped out in a counter attack and I practically got slaughtered trying to separate them. By the time I got him back in the old car for a quick escape, the thing stalled and a herd of unhappy buffalo descended and attempted to upset the car with us in it. In the middle of all that confusion, Butkus jumped in the back seat and went to sleep.”
Then, six months before Stallone hit it big with “Rocky,” he sold his dog to a family to help make ends meet. Stallone eventually talked the family into giving Butkus back so that he could star in the movie, the actor explains:
“The other family had owned him for six months,” Stallone says. “They weren’t exactly thrilled, but I said, ‘Please.’ I said, ‘This dog belongs in the movie.’ He had suffered along with me for two years. I said, ‘Please let him have a shot in the movie.’”
Mercifully, the family relented and Stallone’s dog starred in two “Rocky” films. He even appears in the credits as Butkus Stallone.
So, it’s true that Stallone sold his dog before his big break. But Stallone didn’t sell his dog to an unknown man outside a liquor store, and there’s no proof that he paid 15,000 to get Butkus back, as the eRumor claims.
It’s not uncommon for the line between truth and fiction to blur for dramatic effect in the retelling of rags-to-riches stories like this one. Another example is the legend of Stallone writing and selling “Rocky,” which is also repeated in this eRumor.
It’s been widely reported that a fight between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner inspired Stallone to write the original script for “Rocky” in less than a day. Much of that is true, but again, parts of it have been fictionalized.
In a 1976 interview with a New York Times reporter, Stallone said it took him 10 months to write the script after watching the Ali-Wepner fight:
”I was watching the fight in a movie theater,” he said, ”and I said to myself, ‘Let’s talk about stifled ambition and broken dreams and people who sit on the curb looking at their dreams go down the drain.’ I thought about it for a month. That’s what I call my inspiration stage. Then I let it incubate for 10 months, the incubation stage. Then came the verification stage, when I wrote it in 3 1/2 days. I’d get up at 6 A.M. and write it by hand, with a Bic pen on lined notebook sheets of paper. Then my wife, Sasha, would type it. She kept saying, ‘You’ve gotta do it, you’ve gotta do it. Push it, Sly, go for broke.”’
So, the key points of this eRumor are true. But details have been added to Stallone’s “rags-to-riches story” over the years for dramatic effect.