Sylvester Stallone Had To Call In A Favor For Rocky's Ice Skating Scene

When you watch a "Rocky" movie, it's easy to get swept up in the sweeping boxing matches. How could you not, when the Italian Stallion is up against larger-than-life opponents like Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), Clubber Lang (Mr. T), and Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren)? But while the fights are the main attraction, it's the moments in between that provide a greater emotional connection to the plight of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) to succeed against incredible odds.

In the 1976 film, Rocky spends just as much time trying to woo Adrian (Talia Shire), the local pet store clerk, as he does on his actual training for the big bout. The emotional catharsis of the final scene doesn't see the celebration of a victory, but the conclusion to a complicated love story. 

One of the more memorable scenes involving their courtship is when Rocky takes Adrian to an ice-skating rink. In a 2016 oral history from Philadelphia Magazine, Shire recalled how the "Rocky" crew wanted the scene, but "we couldn't afford to shoot in Philly." There was even a version of the scene in the original script where there would have been other skaters there too. Ultimately, Shire explains, Stallone was able to call on a friend to use the now-defunct Ice Capades Chalet rink in Los Angeles. In the original version of Stallone's script, however, Rocky and Adrian's first date was kind of boring.

A cafe date

Rocky and Adrian's first date nearly took them to a much different location, but director John G. Avildsen felt that they should be doing something more active. "Adrian and Rocky went on their first date to a cafe and talked for seven or eight pages," Avildsen told Philadelphia Magazine. "I thought that was deadly, and I said, let them go bowling or ice-skating."

While it could have been interesting to go down that route, Avildsen had the right idea. Besides being more dynamic than a sit-down cafe scene, we learn that ice-skating is one of Adrian's favorite things to do. Given how reserved she is, being in a familiar place with a stranger presents an opportunity to open up to Rocky. Avildsen may have decided to nix the cafe meeting, but that idea kind of lives on through Adrian's, the restaurant Rocky operates in honor of his late wife around the time of "Rocky Balboa." The latter half of the film, coupled with the sequels, shows two people who truly love one another. Looking back, however, the scene is not quite as romantic as I'd remembered.

An emotionally abusive Paulie (Burt Young) nixes the turkey she was making out the back door, leaving Rocky as her only means of escape. We're well aware that the Italian Stallion possesses a good heart, but the scene plays a bit differently through a modern lens. I can't help but see an introvert worn down by the whole idea until she eventually succumbs to his charm. I suppose that's the point, and Adrian does come to love Rocky on her own terms, yet it's easy to forget how persistent he comes across initially. It just goes to show how times change.

"Rocky" is currently streaming on Paramount+ and Netflix.