Last night, GITS reader-editor-writer-director and major movie buff Kevin Wild stopped by, so I asked him for a Great Scene. He said, “Hey, you should do some that came about because of budget issues.” And he immediately thought of the ice-skating scene in the movie Rocky (1976). As Kevin remembered it, the scene as written in the original script was supposed to include a bunch of skaters on the ice rink for Rocky (screenwriter, director and leading man Sylvester Stallone) and Adrian (Talia Shire) to circumnavigate. But Kevin said, “I think they had to cut the other skaters because they couldn’t afford the extras.” So I Googled “rocky ice skating scene budget extras,” and sure enough, Kevin was right. In this article from 2001, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the movie’s release, there’s this:
It was like the independent movies of today — it was about taking a risk,” Shire said. “It wasn’t about having so much money at stake, where you tend to forfeit your ideas and solve your problems in a more formulaic way. In ‘Rocky,’ there wasn’t that much money. And because the risk factors were changed, little eccentricities were allowed to happen.
One of those eccentricities, Shire said, was the memorable scene in which Rocky took her ice skating. The scene called for a crowd of people, but there wasn’t enough money in the budget to hire enough extras.
“That turned out to be something that just suited the scene beautifully,” she said.
Here is the scene as it was scripted without the extras:
INT. ICE SKATING RINK - NIGHT Rocky and Adrian enter a deserted skating rink. ROCKY Looks quiet, y'know. ADRIAN I think it's closed. ROCKY I think mebbe we're early or somethin' -- From across the rink a CLEANING MAN yells at them. CLEANER Hey, whatta ya doin' here -- we're closed... Yo, we're closed! ROCKY (yells back) Are ya closed to the General Public or to just everybody. CLEANER (starts to walk over) Hey, the rink is empty 'cause we're closed -- ya ain't allowed in here so do me a favor an' not stay here. ROCKY Wait here, gotta smooth this guy out. ADRIAN (softly) We could go somewhere else an' -- Rocky approaches the Cleaner. CLEANER Yo, pal, what's with you -- The place ain't operatin'. ROCKY Listen, I gotta problem. This girl ain't feelin' well, y'know -- The doctor says she should exercise, y'know once in awhile an' ice skatin' is the best thing -- CLEANER This a con? ROCKY Look at her, ya can see she ain't feelin' good -- needs a few minutes exercise -- CLEANER Few minutes? ROCKY ...Ten minutes. CLEANER Ten minutes for ten dollars. ROCKY ...Yeah, give 'er the Blades. INT. ICE SKATING RINK - NIGHT Adrian has on skates. Rocky follows her onto the ice. He wears street shoes. ADRIAN ...Aren't you skating? ROCKY Ain't skated since I was fifteen -- That's when I started fightin' -- gotta watch the ankles. Yeah, fightin' use to be tops with me, but no more. All I wanted to prove was I weren't no bum -- That I had the stuff to make a good pro. ADRIAN And you never got the chance? The Cleaner yells from the sideline. CLEANER Nine minutes! ROCKY Hey, I ain't cryin'... I still fight. Kinda do it like a hobby. See I'm a natural southpaw an' most pugs won't fight a southpaw 'cause we mess up their timin' an' look awkward -- Southpaw means lefthanded... But I guess in the long run things probably worked out for the best, right? ADRIAN But you never had a chance to prove yourself. ROCKY Absolutely. CLEANER Eight minutes! Adrian slips and Rocky breaks her fall. ROCKY I just dislocated my finger. ADRIAN Ohh! CLEANER Seven minutes! ROCKY It ain't your fault -- I originally done it in the Baby Crenshaw fight. (opens his wallet) That's me fightin' Big Baby Crenshaw -- Big Baby was the size of an airplane an' I broke my hands on his head -- I lost, but it's a nice picture, don't ya think? CLEANER Six! ROCKY How 'bout some Cokes? CLEANER Cost ya a buck. ROCKY This guy is beautiful -- get the Cokes. Adrian does a slight turn and Rocky has to speed up and nearly falls. ROCKY (continuing) See, I ain't graceful, y'know -- I don't move good -- Stink as a dancer too -- But I can really swat, I hit hard, real hard, but I'm a southpaw an' nobody wants to fight a southpaw! -- Havin' a good time? Adrian nods and is very nervous... The Cleaner moves carefully across the ice. ROCKY (continuing) Y'know how I got started in the fight racket? ADRIAN By accident? CLEANER Here -- Three minutes. ROCKY Yeah -- My ol' man who was never the sharpest told me -- I weren't born with much brain so I better use my body. For the first time, Adrian laughs. ROCKY (continuing) What's funny? ADRIAN My mother told me just the opposite. She said, 'You weren't born with much of a body so you'd better develop your brain.' CLEANER Time! The Cleaner walks over as Rocky and Adrian get off the ice. CLEANER (continuing) That's ten bucks. ROCKY I must be goin' deaf 'cause I thought ya said, 'ten cents.' Rocky hands him a dime. CLEANER (weakly) ...How 'bout for the Cokes? ROCKY Charge it. Rocky and Adrian start to leave. Rocky pauses at the door and fishes into his pocket and hands over eleven dollars. ROCKY (continuing) Had ya goin', didn't I, huh? He grins and leaves.
That’s a great bit of business with the Cleaner calling out the minute count, then finally “Time!” It puts just enough comedy and edge in the scene to cut away any hint of schmaltz. And it adds a layer of tension on top of the scene which combines with the sexual tension playing under the scene. Wonderful stuff. Here’s the film version:
H/T to Kevin for the suggestion. How about you? Know of any great movie scenes that were inspired by or forced into being due to lack of funds?
And for all you Rocky fans, please feel free to add your stories — personal or otherwise — about this ‘small’ movie that created a huge sensation in 1976.