In previous Rocky films, young Robert Balboa was either an excuse to get Adrian out of the ring, a precocious tot or a vehicle for Sage Stallone. Now Robert Balboa is a full fledged character, played in Rocky Balboa by Milo Ventimiglia.
Interview: Milo Ventimiglia on Rocky Balboa
"We started discussing Robert’s problem, the way he was viewing his life, his relationship with his father, everything, just his world," Ventimiglia said. "And Sly said, was talking about the boxing world, ‘It’s not about how hard you can hit. It’s about how hard to can get hit and keep moving forward.’ It’s funny see that line live as the top of the trailer. It relates so much to what the kid needs to hear and the emotion that was going on in that scene. I know both Sly and I were welling up even rehearsing it because there is so much coming to a head at that moment, so much importance on that one conversation that’s gonna serve as a starting point of where this father/son relationship goes. The emotion, I can tell you, looking into Sly’s eyes when we were doing that scene, he was right there, man, he was right there and I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to give it right back to him."
Like most 20-something boys, Ventimiglia grew up on the Rocky series. "I was negative one when the first one came out. But, by the time the 2nd, 3rd, 4th ones, I pretty much grew up in the Clubber Lange, Ivan Drago era. That was more my time. I’ve always been a fan of the films, even the 5th which I think some people didn’t’ care for as much as the first four. I’ve always enjoyed them. I thought they were great, entertaining and I really got into the underdog story and how if your mind is in the right direction and your heart is full of the right kind of stuff, then you’ll succeed. You’ll triumph over adversity, over anything."
Sylvester Stallone and Milo Ventimiglia in Rocky Balboa
Getting the part even excited his agent. "I auditioned and a week later, I met Sly and I had just moved back from New York to L.A. I kind of put my mind off it and about an hour and a half or two hours later, I got a phone call from my agent [singing the Rocky theme.] And I’m like ‘Well, did I get it?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah you got it, you got it. I got off the phone with Sly fifty minutes ago.' ‘That was an hour ago. You couldn’t call me an hour ago?’ ‘I was at lunch’. Real excitement."
Once on the set with Stallone in character and directing, Ventimiglia just absorbed. "I think I had the great good fortune to watch Sly the artist. To really watch him in all arenas. As an actor, not that many people get to watch him turn that character on. They don’t understand that he’s playing a role and when he turns that role on, he has a very slow look in his eye and a sweet smile on his face in the way that he approaches the world. To read a script that he wrote and see him composing those shots, I took it as an opportunity to quietly watch, observe someone that had created this world, that knew the world so very well but, at the same time, comfortable enough to where, if I had ideas, if I had thoughts, that I could go up and talk to him. He really did create an environment that was welcoming to ideas and suggestions, welcoming of ideas that were going to better the film and make it wholer and more rich and more real and more accessible to anybody. That’s what these films really are. They’re accessible to people."
Rocky Balboa opens to theatres this Wednesday, December 20th.
For trailers, clips, images and more movie info, go to the Rocky Balboa Movie Page.
Stay tuned for updates.