There's nothing Hollywood likes better than a good comeback story — and who better to deliver one in this awards season than the man who brought the world the perennial underdog Rocky Balboa?
Coming into the Golden Globes, Sylvester Stallone was widely considered the sentimental favorite to win the award for supporting actor in a motion picture for his understated return, in "Creed," to his signature role. When his name was announced, the 69-year-old actor took the stairs to the strains of the "Rocky" theme, as the audience gave him a standing ovation.
In his acceptance speech, Stallone noted that his win came nearly 40 years after he was nominated for actor and screenplay awards at the Globes for the original "Rocky" in 1977 — back when the Globes were a far less widely watched affair. "I got hit by a tumbleweed," he joked. "It was a long time ago and a different situation. The view is so beautiful now."
In the intervening years, even as Stallone became one of the industry's biggest stars, he was often treated like a punching bag for what many deemed his limited acting range and tendency to play monosyllabic characters in mindless action films. But the role of Rocky, to which Stallone returned in a series of sequels, remained a touchstone for him and an audience favorite.
"Rocky is the one thing I've done right," Stallone told The Times recently. "I'd say my life is about 96% failures, but if you just get that 4% right, that's all you need."
In 1997, Stallone received strong reviews for his quiet turn as a small-town sheriff in the drama "Cop Land," but the film didn't lead to the kind of validation and acting opportunities for which he had hoped. "I was hoping it would be a game-changer, but the feedback from the studio was that it confused people," Stallone said. "I didn't mean to confuse people — I was just trying to stretch. That began a long doldrum."
In accepting his Globes trophy, Stallone thanked his "imaginary friend" Balboa for being "the best friend I've ever had." In a slip, however, he forgot to thank "Creed" director Ryan Coogler or his costar, Michael B. Jordan. Even as the apparent slight was spreading across social media, Stallone ran back onstage to do so, but the moment wasn't aired.
Coogler, who was inspired to bring back the boxing franchise by his father's deep love of Rocky, wasn't bothered in the least.
"I don't know what's happening on Twitter, but I love Sly," Coogler said.
"And what he said was so nice!"
Backstage in the press room, Stallone said he was so swept up in the moment, he didn't even realize he'd gotten a standing ovation when he walked to the podium like Rocky ascending the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
"I was promising myself that I would be very aware the whole time, but as you can tell, I got very caught up in emotion. Just the mere act that they were applauding, it makes me realize that in life, it's never really over until it's over."