vulture festival 2020

Henry Winkler Helped Sylvester Stallone Keep ‘Rocky’

In 1974, Sylvester Stallone was a young actor strutting around Brooklyn in a film called The Lords of Flatbush, where he met a man he would reportedly not get along with very much: Richard Gere. Gere then, uh, exited the project, and a young Henry Winkler — who could really wear the hell out of a leather jacket — stepped in. Winkler spoke about working on the film during this year’s first-ever virtual Vulture Festival, explaining that he and Stallone really hit it off. “I made good friends with Sly,” he said. “And he is brilliant, so dry and funny, so literate.” Winkler recounted that Stallone was writing something in his apartment that he was so focused on he’d painted his windows black to avoid any distraction.

Later, while Winkler was working on Happy Days, Stallone arrived in California and gave Winkler a script. Winkler brought it to ABC, who gave him money to produce it. “But then they said, ‘We’re gonna change the writer,’ that’s what Hollywood does, ‘We’re gonna bring in a new writer,’” he said. But when Winkler informed Stallone of ABC’s desire to hire someone else, he asked Winkler to stop it. “Because I was the Fonz, I had a little bit of play room, and I convinced them to give me back the script, I gave the script back to Sly, and it went on to become Rocky.” When we asked if this meant he technically saved the classic film, Winkler simply said, “I was loyal to Sly.” May we all someday have a friend like Henry Winkler.

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