Sylvester Stallone Was Rejected From A Huge Movie Before Rocky

Sylvester Stallone was actually turned down for a movie early in his career and it's surprising he didn't land this

By Mark McKee | Published

Sylvester Stallone

Some actors seem to loom larger than life. Their roles tend to help them jump from decade to decade, defining an entire generation’s view on what entertainment would become. On the shortlist of action stars who have changed the face of the industry are Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sylvester Stallone. The last of the group seems to have this ageless ability to keep making the same franchises he made nearly five decades ago while the others fade into the background. Stallone got his start with his Academy Award film, Rocky, then followed it up with Rambo.

As he built those franchises out over the next few decades, he also starred in countless action movies in many different subgenres, establishing himself as one of the greatest action stars of all time. But he wasn’t an overnight success, and he heard no more than yes for a long time. 

Sylvester Stallone’s journey to get Rocky on screen (and in the ring as the favorite underdog) is well documented. He heard “no” more than many of us could stand before he finally was allowed to put the gloves on. But his rejection in Hollywood began before he tried to pitch his beloved Rocky Balboa. According to Movieweb, the actor went to Paramount and asked if he could be in a different movie four years earlier. The Rambo star said that he asked to be an extra in the background of the wedding scene in The Godfather. Unfortunately for Stallone, the studio didn’t believe he was the right fit for the part. Stallone couldn’t believe that he wasn’t the right fit to disappear in the background behind a cake, and the Italian Stallion moved on with his career, having never gotten to scratch that itch to be in a gangster movie. 

Sylvester Stallone has a long list of “almosts” in his back pocket of roles he nearly took on. Just at a glance, some of these parts on film wouldn’t have been anywhere close to what they are now had he taken them on, for better or worse. He landed the part of Axle Foley in Beverly Hills Cop but began rewriting the role without the comedy and with more action, which caused the studio to go with Eddie Murphy. We can’t imagine that role with anyone else involved.

He was also among the hundreds of people considered for Han Solo in Star Wars. Sylvester Stallone turned down the role of John McClain in Die Hard before it went to Bruce Willis. He and fellow muscle-bound actor Arnold Schwarzenegger were considered initially for the leads in Face/Off. And he was even considered for Superman at one point. 

Among some of his almost hits is another curious film. The Godfather III. After they turned him down for the original in 1972, the studio wanted to cash in on his star 18 years later and considered having him star and direct the third installment of the series. Sylvester Stallone is primed to get his chance to star in a gangster project as he will lead the Paramount+ project from Taylor Sheridan, Tulsa King. He exclaimed that all things come to those who wait.