‘John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs’ Reveals Story Behind ‘Rocky’ Ice Skate Scene (Exclusive Clip)

First dates can be awkward under any circumstances. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the creative team behind the 1976 classic Rocky initially struggled to decide how Philadelphia pugilist Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) should impress shy pet store employee Adrian Pennino (Talia Shire) after successfully asking her out on Thanksgiving night. This exclusive clip from the new documentary John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs — a feature-length profile of the Oscar-winning Rocky director, who passed away in June — reveals the backstory of how the two lovebirds eventually spent their first date in an ice rink after hours. (Watch the exclusive clip above.)

As Avildsen recounted in the new film, which premieres on August 1 on the documentary streaming service Chassy and other VOD services, Stallone’s original script simply had Rocky taking Adrian to the local diner in their blue-collar Philadelphia neighborhood. That choice struck the director as “really boring,” so instead he suggested a bowling or ice skating date. Trying to stay under the radar of the local Teamsters union, whose services they weren’t able to afford, the production attempted a surreptitious shoot at a Philadelphia ice rink during business hours, when it would be populated with “free” extras. But that plan fell apart when the Teamsters caught up with them, and they were forced to retreat to Los Angeles to film the remaining interior scenes.

Watch the ice rink date from Rocky below:

Back in California, the producers insisted on sticking to the diner scene in Stallone’s script, but Avildsen held firm. “Maybe the rink is closed and no one’s there,” he suggested as a way to avoid having to shell out the funds to hire extras. Stallone was tickled by that idea and rewrote the script to have Rocky strike a deal with the Zamboni operator to let them take a lap around the ice for 10 minutes. “It’s so much sweeter and unique that way,” Avildsen remarks in the documentary. “And we didn’t have to pay the extras!”

Watch a trailer for John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs:

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