The Original 'Rocky III' Idea Had The Italian Stallion Hanging Out With The Pope

Rocky III saw Sylvester Stallone's persistent pugilist stepping into the ring to battle Mr. T, but according to Stallone, there was an even crazier idea for the film at first. In an old interview, Stallone revealed his original Rocky III idea had a half-blind Rocky Balboa duking it out in Roman Coliseum, with the Pope himself in the audience.

It's hard to believe now, with Creed II about to punch its way into theaters, but at one point, Sylvester Stallone wanted Rocky III to be the final adventure of Rocky Balboa. In Rocky III as it exists now, Rocky Balboa has become lazy due to his successes. He's put to the test when he has to go up against opponent Clubber Lang (Mr. T). To make matters worse, his trainer Mickey (Burgess Meredith) dies. Rocky turns to his former former adversary, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), to help get prepare for his big fight. That's a fairly straightforward premise, but according to Stallone, an alternate Rocky III idea was much, much different.

ScreenCrush highlighted an old Roger Ebert interview with Stallone (from 1979), in which the actor, screenwriter and sometimes director of the Rocky franchise revealed his original Rocky III idea. "I'll tell you what's gonna happen," Stallone said at the time. "Apollo retires. Mickey, Rocky's manager, has a stroke. Rocky wants to retire, but there's this street-tough challenger and Rocky decides on one more fight, even though he's half blind, and this'll be his last fight one way or the other. He goes to Apollo Creed and asks him to be his trainer. And Apollo teaches him to fight the way he does." So far, this is close to what happens in the final film – minus the half-blind part. What comes next, though, is much different.

According to Stallone, he wanted to have Rocky's final fight take place in the Roman Coliseum, and to have Rocky meet the Pope at one point:

"His last bout will be in the Roman Coliseum, carried worldwide by satellite," Stallone said, and his voice picked up enthusiasm. "Can you see it? Rocky in the Coliseum? The last gladiator? And, for training, running up the Spanish Steps? And, Rocky's deeply religious; can you imagine him inside St. Peter's? I'm seriously gonna try to work in an audience with the Pope into the film. I dunno. Maybe with this Pope, he'll go for it. If he don't, we get another Pope."

Stallone also goes on to add, "[T]here'll never be a Rocky IV. You gotta call a halt." Of course, we all know how that turned out. Calling the quits after Rocky III might have been an interesting way to go out – especially if the Roman Coliseum ending had been kept. But in the end, perhaps it worked out for the best. The franchise eventually lead us to the fantastic Creed and the upcoming Creed II. And who knows, maybe Stallone will suggest Michael B. Jordan's Adonis Creed should hang out with the Pope in Creed III.