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Stallone, Karl Share Feelings on Playing ‘Rocky’

It was a tale of two Rockys when Sylvester Stallone and Andy Karl shared the onstage boxing ring at the Winter Theater hours before a recent show.

Stallone spoke proudly of the character he created more than 40 years ago and how Karl has taken the legacy to new levels with the current Broadway show based on the film.

Back in the early 1970s, a nearly destitute Stallone wrote the screenplay and bargained for the starring role. The actor-writer gave the underdog hero his own values and the journey ended with “Rocky” winning the best picture Oscar in 1977.

Sylvester Stallone, left, who played Rocky Balboa in the 1976 film “Rocky,” poses with Andy Karl, who plays Rocky Balboa in the Broadway musical “Rocky,” in New York last October. (Photo by Dan Hallman/Invision/AP, File)

“The only difference between me and Rocky is that I wasn’t a boxer. In other words, all the feelings, those were all real. That’s my philosophy on life. Those are my ideals and they still hold true today,” Stallone said.

Instead of the relying on the unbelievable feat of coming out of nowhere to win a heavyweight title, the story depicted the more realistic approach of getting a chance and making the most of it. For Rocky, it was just about going the distance.

“That’s all it is. I know that I’m not the best actor. I know I can never be the best, but I can be as good as I can be. And that’s what the movie is about,” Stallone said. “I just want to be standing up. That, to me, is my world championship.”

The 67-year old feels the story is in good hands with Karl. And so does the Broadway community: Karl was nominated for a best actor Tony. Stallone said Karl has nicely avoided making the character “like a `Saturday Night Live’ sketch.”

“You can’t just sing, you have to be the physical type. You have to be coordinated. You have to be willing to take a beating every night. Then you have to go through the whole thing of, `Are you imitating or a cliche of the original?'” Stallone said.

For Karl, it was important to honor the honesty of the character, and not try to imitate the film. Winning a Tony isn’t his goal. “At the end of the day, I’m like if I win, who cares? I feel like I won here already,” he said.

But he found that the physical demands of simultaneously rehearsing and training as a boxer exhausted him into a realistic state.

“All these ticks are coming because your shoulders are hurting this day and you got to keep them moving and keep your head moving. And you’re speaking low because you’re tired and everything is like a heavy feeling,” Karl said.

But that doesn’t mean that he’s not excited to go to Radio City Music Hall for the ceremony. He said he just picked up his custom tuxedo. “I just met Kenneth Cole,” he said beaming.


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