Everybody knows the story of Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone’s downtrodden Philadelphia boxer who receives a one-in-a-million shot at the heavyweight title (which he doesn’t win until “Rocky II”).
Yet few remember the story of Chuck Wepner, the real-life boxer who provided Stallone with the inspiration behind his 1976 Oscar-winner.
That’s about to change thanks to “Chuck”, an upcoming biopic (formerly titled “The Bleeder”) starring Liev Schreiber as Wepner, who was once the Heavyweight champion of New Jersey. The film chronicles the drama that ensued from Wepner’s 15 minutes of fame thanks to the success of “Rocky”, which proves to be fleeting even as Wepner desperately clings to it.
In 1975, Wepner was way past his prime as a boxer, and was eking out a living as a liquor salesman when he received the chance to square off in the ring against Muhammad Ali, with their 15-round slugfest (Ali knocked out Wepner in the 15th round) making the underdog famous — albeit not as famous as the man who took his story and used it as the basis for a Hollywood hit.
“Then some guy named Stallone wrote a screenplay inspired by me,” says Schreiber’s Wepner in the trailer. “I was like, ‘What?’”
Directed by Philippe Falardeau (“The Good Lie”), “Chuck” also stars Schreiber’s former significant other Naomi Watts, who plays Wepner’s wife, Linda.
“Chuck” hits theatres on May 5.