Great Scene: “Rocky”

How budget issues helped to create the memorable ice rink scene.

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A while back, I was talking with a friend Kevin Wild and asked him for a Great Scene suggestion. He said, “Hey, you should do some that came about because of budget issues.” And he immediately thought of the ice-skating scene in the movie Rocky (1976).

As Kevin remembered it, the scene as written in the original script was supposed to include a bunch of skaters on the ice rink for Rocky (screenwriter, director and leading man Sylvester Stallone) and Adrian (Talia Shire) to circumnavigate. But Kevin said, “I think they had to cut the other skaters because they couldn’t afford the extras.” So I Googled “rocky ice skating scene budget extras,” and sure enough, Kevin was right. In this article from 2001, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the movie’s release, there’s this:

It was like the independent movies of today — it was about taking a risk,” Shire said. “It wasn’t about having so much money at stake, where you tend to forfeit your ideas and solve your problems in a more formulaic way. In ‘Rocky,’ there wasn’t that much money. And because the risk factors were changed, little eccentricities were allowed to happen.

One of those eccentricities, Shire said, was the memorable scene in which Rocky took her ice skating. The scene called for a crowd of people, but there wasn’t enough money in the budget to hire enough extras.

“That turned out to be something that just suited the scene beautifully,” she said.

Here is the scene as it was scripted without the extras:

That’s a great bit of business with the Cleaner calling out the minute count, then finally “Time!” It puts just enough comedy and edge in the scene to cut away any hint of schmaltz. And it adds a layer of tension on top of the scene which combines with the sexual tension playing under the scene. Wonderful stuff. Here’s the film version:

H/T to Kevin for the suggestion. How about you? Know of any great movie scenes that were inspired by or forced into being due to lack of funds?

And for all you Rocky fans, please feel free to add your stories — personal or otherwise — about this ‘small’ movie that created a huge sensation in 1976.

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