Sylvester Stallone shoveled lion dung before Rocky fame
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Featured Image Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Paramount+ / Sunset Boulevard/Getty Images
We all love a rags to riches story, don't we? It makes you believe that anything can be possible if you have enough grit, perseverance and work ethic.
How likely that is during a cost of living crisis is a discussion for another day.
Regardless, Hollywood has its fair share of underdog success stories and Sylvester Stallone certainly has a compelling one.
Stallone's life started on July 6 1946, but it was fraught from the beginning.
Nick de Semlyen recounted the difficult labour in his book 'The Last Action Heroes: The Triumphs, Flops and Feuds of Hollywood's Kings of Carnage'.
He wrote: "The doctor on duty clamped forceps onto his head as he emerged from the womb and pulled, too hard, severing a facial nerve above his jaw."
The accident caused Stallone to have a droop on the left side of his jaw, and caused a lifelong speech impediment.
Because of this, he was taunted at school as a boy with cruel nicknames like 'Slant Mouth,' 'Sylvia' and 'Mr. Potato Head.'
It wasn't much nicer at home as Stallone was relentlessly tormented by his father who physically abused him, all whilst demanding: "Why can’t you be smarter? Why can’t you be stronger?"
By the time he was 12, he had broken ten bones and his teachers voted him 'Student Most Likely To End Up In The Electric Chair.'
Things all changed when he was 13 and saw the movie Hercules Unchained, starring the bodybuilder, Steve Reeves.
"It was like seeing the Messiah," the Rocky star later recalled. "I said, 'This is what I want to be.'"
Stallone focused his energies on working out and arrived in New York in 1969 ready to make a success of himself.
However, it was an uphill struggle and he was homeless for a period, sleeping at a bus stop as drug addicts got high nearby.
By 1970, he was earning $1.12 an hour shoveling lion dung at Central Park Zoo.
As if that wasn't gross enough, the lions would often urinate on him whilst he was on the job.
Stallone later recalled: "Not too many people ever have the thrill of seeing lions taking giant leaks.
"Let me tell you, they’re accurate up to 15 feet, and after a month of getting whizzed on, I quit."
Breaking into films was tough, as he was initially deemed 'not intimidating' enough to play a mugger in one of Woody Allen's films.
To prove the director wrong, Stallone and his friend covered their faces in soot and returned, effectively scaring Allen into giving them the part.
All whilst doing bit parts, Stallone was writing up scripts that he wanted to turn into movies.
Eventually he settled on the story of a boxer called Rocky Balboa, and the rest is history.
The film became the top box office draw of the year, earning $117 million, beating out rival films like Taxi Driver and Carrie.
It even earned the relatively unknown Stallone Oscar nominations for Best Actor and Best Screenplay.
On the big night, it won Best Picture.