Liev Schreiber, like many fans of Sylvester Stallone’s Oscar-nominated performance as Rocky Balboa in 1976’s Rocky, was unaware of a crucial cinematic fact. The character of the unknown boxer who gets the opportunity of a lifetime to battle the world’s heavyweight champion was inspired by a real-life boxer named Chuck Wepner.
“I’m embarrassed to admit I wasn’t familiar with Chuck,” adds Schreiber, who portrays Wepner in Chuck (in theatres Friday in New York and Los Angeles, expands nationwide through May 26). “I was stunned when I learned this.”
Here are five significant similarities between the two boxers:
Yes, Sylvester Stallone converses with Rocky Balboa, his “imaginary companion.”
While filming ‘Rocky III,’ Sylvester Stallone consumed twenty-five cups of coffee every day.
Liev Schreiber as Chuck Wepner in ‘Chuck.’
Each Fought 15 Rounds Against the Heavy weight Champion.
In Rocky, the unsuccessful Balboa survives 15 rounds against the overconfident champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers).
Muhammad Ali fought Wepner, an obscure heavyweight from Bayonne, New Jersey, at Cleveland Coliseum in 1975. Wepner’s constantly wounded visage earned him the moniker “The Bayonne Bleeder” at the age of 78. “I had a total of 328 stitches. Thus, I bled slightly “Wepner asserts.
The bout was intended to be a joke for Ali, who had hardly prepared. Wepner devoted himself totally to training for the first time in his career, and in the ninth round, he stunned Ali by knocking him down. Ali knocked out Wepner in the fifteenth round, at which point the referee stopped the bout.
I demonstrated to the world that I belonged there. That is precisely what I desired to do “asserts Wepner.
Sylvester Stallone sues Warner Bros. for accounting abuses at the studio.
In the 2006 film ‘Rocky Balboa,’ Sylvester Stallone ascends.
This Stair Run Was Genuine.
Balboa’s famous training run concluded with a sprint up the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s 72 steps. Wepner ran the 46 steps in Hudson County Park in Bayonne.
“”I’ve spent my entire life sprinting up the stairs in movies,” Wepner says. “Everyone cherished it. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Because I was the genuine Rocky.”
At this time, fundraising efforts are underway to erect a statue of Wepner atop the stairs.
The heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, on the left, and his challenger Chuck Wepner during the 1975 weigh-in at Cleveland Coliseum.
Drinking Raw Eggs? No Way
Rocky awoke at 4 a.m. to consume raw eggs as an old-school training drink. Wepner recoils at this nauseating concept. Wepner states, “If you’re drinking raw eggs while training, you’d better be wearing Depends.” Raw meat was his favoured source of muscle-building protein.
Rocky did not punch beef slabs in a meat locker, as the actual boxer did. “I practised with punching bags in the gym and with large individuals in bars.” “Wepner explains. “I was victorious in approximately 87 bar fights.”
There Were No Cries of “Adrian!” Heard.
At the conclusion of Rocky, a bloodied Rocky cried out for his lover Adrian (Talia Shire). From an adjacent hotel room, Wepner’s then-wife Phyllis (portrayed by Elisabeth Moss) observed the incident.
Wepner gave Phyllis a powder-blue negligee and informed her that she would be spending the night with the world heavyweight champion.
“I return to the hotel to find her perched on the side of the bed while wearing a negligee. “Am I going to Ali’s room, or is he coming to mine?”” Wepner reflects. She possessed a sense of humour.
Chuck Wepner and Liev Schreiber attend the Chuck premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Wepner Wasted His Opportunity to Feature in “Rocky II.”
Stallone acknowledged Wepner as his inspiration for Rocky and sought to cast him as a sparring partner in Rocky II, released in 1979. But Wepner was in a terrible cycle that led to his arrest in 1985 for possession of cocaine and nearly three years in prison. He didn’t pass the audition.
“I was out partying for two days and showed up with a friend and a couple of strippers,” recalls Wepner, who is now “straight and clean” and happily wedded. “I simply did not perform well in the role. I did not deserve to be in the film.”