Director John Avildsen, who won the Oscar for the first “Rocky” in 1976, tells me he has another fight film waiting for the starting bell. “It’s the Hand That Shook the World,” the story of John L. Sullivan, the last bare-knuckle champion — who lost the title to Gentleman Jim Corbett.
Yes, Avildsen knows the first version was made by Raoul Walsh, starring Errol Flynn as Corbett in 1942. It also starred Alexis Smith, Jack Carson, Alan Hale and Ward Bond — as Sullivan.
Recalling “Rocky,” Avildsen says the film was made for “under $1 million — made over $150 million” — for which he’s very grateful as he had 10% of the profits. He also directed “”Rocky V” and reports Rocky was supposed to die in that one but the studio nixed his demise, saying “James Bond doesn’t die, Superman doesn’t die — Rocky doesn’t die.” (“But,” said Avildsen, “Rocky V died.”)
And talking of death — Avildsen said he was talking with Sly a couple of months ago during filming of “Rocky Balboa” “And when he told me that Adrian Balboa (Talia Shire) is dead in the opening sequence I told him “You’re nuts — she should die in your arms — not off screen. It would be a great way to have the audience in your hands!”” Avildsen says he hasn’t seen the film.
I’ll give you my opinion after I see “Rocky Balboa” sans Talia Shire.