Great Scene: “Rocky”

Scott Myers
4 min readMay 17, 2017

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

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:

INT. ICE SKATING RINK - NIGHTAdrian has on skates.  Rocky follows her onto the ice.  He
wears street shoes.
... Aren't you skating?
Ain't skated since I was
fifteen -- That's when I
started fightin' -- gotta
watch the ankles. Yeah,
fightin' use to be tops with
me, but no more. All I wanted
to prove was I weren't no
bum -- That I had the stuff to
make a good pro.
And you never got the chance?
The Cleaner yells from the sideline. CLEANER
Nine minutes!
Hey, I ain't cryin'... I still
fight. Kinda do it like a
hobby. See I'm a natural
southpaw an' most pugs won't
fight a southpaw 'cause we
mess up their timin' an' look
awkward -- Southpaw means
lefthanded... But I guess in
the long run things probably
worked out for the best, right?
But you never had a chance to
prove yourself.
Eight minutes!
Adrian slips and Rocky breaks her fall. ROCKY
I just dislocated my finger.
Seven minutes!
It ain't your fault -- I
originally done it in the Baby
Crenshaw fight.
(opens his wallet)
That's me fightin' Big Baby
Crenshaw -- Big Baby was the
size of an airplane an' I
broke my hands on his head --
I lost, but it's a nice
picture, don't ya think?
How 'bout some Cokes?
Cost ya a buck.
This guy is beautiful -- get
the Cokes.
Adrian does a slight turn and Rocky has to speed up and
nearly falls.
See, I ain't graceful,
y'know -- I don't move good --
Stink as a dancer too -- But I
can really swat, I hit hard,
real hard, but I'm a southpaw
an' nobody wants to fight a
southpaw! -- Havin' a good time?
Adrian nods and is very nervous... The Cleaner moves
carefully across the ice.
Y'know how I got started in
the fight racket?
By accident?
Here -- Three minutes.
Yeah -- My ol' man who was
never the sharpest told me --
I weren't born with much brain
so I better use my body.
For the first time, Adrian laughs. ROCKY
What's funny?
My mother told me just the
opposite. She said, 'You
weren't born with much of a
body so you'd better develop
your brain.'
The Cleaner walks over as Rocky and Adrian get off the ice. CLEANER
That's ten bucks.
I must be goin' deaf 'cause I
thought ya said, 'ten cents.'
Rocky hands him a dime. CLEANER
... How 'bout for the Cokes?
Charge it.
Rocky and Adrian start to leave. Rocky pauses at the door
and fishes into his pocket and hands over eleven dollars.
Had ya goin', didn't I, huh?
He grins and leaves.

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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