Sylvester Stallone Thinks Talia Shire Deserves More Credit For Rocky's Success

For all the unbridled machismo that defines the "Rocky" franchise, more credit does need to be given to the woman that stood in Rocky Balboa's corner. Talia Shire played Adrian with a quiet resignation in "Rocky" that really tapped into the feelings of desperation that the character had before meeting the Italian Stallion. She has accepted her fate. She's going to work in that pet store forever and take care of her abusive brother Paulie until he croaks. Shire portrays Adrian's devastating shyness beautifully. When Rocky starts chipping away at her defense, she slowly starts to come alive the more attention is paid to her. Rocky and Adrian's relationship is about transformation, and in order for Rocky to truly believe in himself, he needs to make Adrian believe in herself first. The closer they become, their dynamic changes gradually until Adrian is the one that's holding Rocky up, not the other way around. 

When Sylvester Stallone was busy re-tooling "Rocky IV" for the "Rocky vs. Drago" director's cut, his longtime friend John Herzfeld chronicled the process in the documentary "The Making of Rocky vs. Drago." Stallone basically gives a free film school class in the documentary, and also talks in length about how important Talia Shire was to the success of the original "Rocky" and the sequels. There are so many stories surrounding "Rocky" getting made that they've reached a near-mythic status in Hollywood. One thing that's not mentioned enough is the contribution Shire made and how much she humanized the future heavyweight champ. That's something that Stallone seems determined to rectify. 

'We got very lucky'

In the documentary, Stallone is seen watching the moment when Adrian visits Russia during his intense training to get him ready to battle Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). Stallone looks on during editing and starts reflecting on Shire's impact on "Rocky IV" and the entire franchise:

"I don't think that she was ever given the full credit for the success of the whole 'Rocky' series because without her there is no him. He just wanted to redeem himself, that he wasn't a bum from the neighborhood and that, in his eyes, he could look in the mirror. 'Wow I amounted to something' and that was due to her."

Adrian gave Rocky a purpose that went beyond fighting Apollo Creed in the ring. Shire also really gave a voice to those that are rarely portrayed as the main love interest in a major motion picture, something that wasn't lost on Stallone it appears:

"Her incredible, understated acting ability embodied an entire silent majority of women that kind of live in this pressure cooker existence and never really get to blossom and you see her blossom. You see her go from a dying plant to a rose."

Cher and Bette Midler were considered for Adrian at one point, but luckily, Shire got the role. She disappeared into the role of Adrian in a way that more high-profile actors would likely have not been able to achieve. As Stallone rightfully pointed out, "acting with her is like being up against a great change-up pitcher [...] we got very lucky."