Actor/writer/director Sylvester Stallone decided against casting his own son Sage in the role of Robert Balboa for the final film of the Rocky franchise. Instead, Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes) landed the role of Rocky's grown son in Rocky Balboa, also starring Burt Young and Antonio Tarver.
Being a Part of the Rocky Film Franchise: Ventimiglia says he grew up watching the films and its still a little strange to think hes now a part of one. I was negative one when the first one came out. But by the time the second, third, and fourth ones came out, I pretty much grew up in the Clubber Lang, Ivan Drago era (boxers in Rocky III and 4). That was more my time. Ive always been a fan of the films - even the fifth film which I think some people didnt care for as much as the first four. Ive always enjoyed them. I thought they were great, entertaining. 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 youll succeed. Youll triumph over adversity, over anything.
Working with Writer/Director/Actor Sylvester Stallone: Ventimiglia described the experience by saying it was kind of frightening and exciting at the same time. When you first meet someone of his stature where its literally, Oh my God, I cant believe Im in the room with Sylvester Stallone But he disarms you. He looks you in the eye when he talks to you and he speaks clearly. Hell make you laugh. Hes very kind and warm-hearted. Being on the set with him and actually going through the process of playing his son, he created a world of comfort so that I could play the part and be expressive.
Stallone as a Mentor: I think I had the great good fortune to watch Sly the artist, said Ventimiglia, to really watch him in all arenas. As an actor, not that many people get to watch him turn that character on. They dont understand that hes 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, [he was] 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 [more whole] and more rich and more real, and more accessible to anybody. Thats what these films really are. Theyre accessible to people.
Milo Ventimiglia Left the Boxing to Stallone: I think over the course of my life Ive seen a handful of boxing bouts on television with some friends, but I never followed it too much. I saw my first match when I was in Vegas and we were shooting the film. We saw Bernard Hopkins and Jermain Taylor fight. What was the bigger surprise to me wasnt the match itself but the fans. These people just were excited for the bloodletting. It kind of reminded me of Roman times where theres a coliseum and peoples excitement to see if the lion was going to get the gladiator. It was just an amazing spectacle.
Ventimiglia confessed he never felt the urge to get into the ring with Sylvester Stallone. No, I dont want to get hit. That was one thing watching Antonio [Tarver] and Sylvester for 10 days. They hit each other and I realized I dont want to be a boxer, so its kind of bob and weave from as far as you can. Getting hit is no fun.
Running the Steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Milo Ventimiglia didnt actually run the famous steps but he did walk them. It was my last day of filming and it was right before it was about to snow and I was about to get on a plane. As Im walking up the steps of the museum, I see tens, twenties, a hundred people running up and down the steps jumping up and down with their arms [up]. Im like Oh, my god, youre kidding. Seriously? I watched it and as I got closer, I realized it was our film crew with all the locals from Philadelphia. Anybody that day could come out and run up the steps. They put all of these people at the end of the movie which is great. It was such a generous thing to give back to Philadelphia.
Like Father Like Son At Least in the Fictional World of Rocky: I remember that both of us, we have a little problem with our mouths. [We have] crooked mouths. I remember him telling me [in Sly voice], Make sure your mouth is warmed up because its cold out. You could see the two of us when we were filming in Philly, standing in front of heat lamps just moving our mouths. Otherwise it freezes up, which was kind of nice. We got to bond on that. We both have the crooked mouth and if its below 32, were f**ked. Our face freezes up. To see he and I before a take were outside in Philly where its 20 degrees just going, Owwwww, ahhh. But he gave me a lot of great advice. He just created that warm, welcome environment to want to bring this character to life, to do something amazing and magical with it that hadnt been done before.