This article originally appeared in Philadelphia’s Abraham Lincoln High School newspaper; Sylvester Stallone was a student at the school in the 1960’s and in 1978, returned there to shoot a later-deleted scene for Rocky II. Read about the filming of that scene here.) Thanks to Mark Pricskett for kindly submitting these rare photos!
By Frank Onimus, Editor-in-Chief | The Lincoln Log
“And now to Robert ‘Rocky’ Balboa, a former student, who by his highly successful boxing career has brought great honor to Abraham Lincoln High School, we present this honorary diploma.”
This speech is included in a segment of Rocky II, a motion picture that will bring Lincoln High School, its students, building, and history into movie theaters across the country in the near future.
Yes, Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, and the production and road staff of Rocky II made their way to Lincoln High as one of their many Philadelphia on-sight filming locations on November 28 .
The movie segment filmed here at Lincoln depicts Stallone, Rocky Balboa, as an aging hometown boxing celebrity (following his championship bout with Apollo Creed) returning to his high school alma mater to be honored by its students, faculty, and administrators at an awards ceremony at which he, Rocky, receives an honorary diploma.
The filming took place in our assembly, Williams Hall, on November 28 with the shooting segment lasting approximately one hour.
Participating in the movie scene were Lincoln’s senior class, Orchestra, Color Guard, and Majorettes.
Lincoln seniors were welcomed to Williams Hall that Tuesday morning by an entourage of movie cameras, sound equipment, and bright lights along with Hollywood’s finest road and camera crews who were arranging for the shooting of Rocky II. Philadelphia television stations were also represented, capturing the event for local news broadcasts.
SLY STALLONE RECEIVES HONORARY PLAQUE
Preceding the actual filming was Lincoln High School’s second Hall of Achievement ceremony at which Dr. Harry Silcox presented Sylvester Stallone with a plaque, honoring him as a highly successful former attendant of our school. The plaque reads:
“Presented to Michael Sylvester Stallone, who has gained world-wide recognition as a movie personality. May his accomplishments be an inspiration to all the high school students of America.”
Honored guests at the presentation were Dr. Michael Marcase, Superintendent of Philadelphia Schools, and Mr. Carl Andrews, Stallone’s dramatics teacher.
Stallone, as he accepted the award, was welcomed with a standing ovation by Lincoln’s senior class. He spoke briefly to Lincoln’s students of his unsuccessful times in school (his truancy, cutting, and improper classroom behavior caused him to be expelled from numerous Philadelphia high schools) and discussed his career as a writer-actor-director.
Lincoln’s students were then told “officially” of the movie’s “Lincoln scene,” (rumors had circulated in previous weeks) leaving Stallone, the director, to take over the event. The stage was re-set, and detailed filming procedures were discussed by Stallone and the film’s producer and camera crews.
SCENE FOR THE MOVIE SHOT IN AUDITORIUM
After all the technical aspects of the shooting were adjusted to perfection, instructions were given to the senior assembly by the producer.
On Stallone’s call of “Action!” the cameras started rolling, capturing the “calling of the colors” performed by Lincoln’s orchestra, color guard, and majorettes. The principal of the high school, played by Sylvia Kauders, then presented Rocky Balboa with the honorary diploma.
On Rocky Balboa’s rising to accept his award, he was greeted by the audience, Lincoln’s senior class, with a standing ovation. Stallone performed excellently in his role as Rocky, accepting the diploma in true “Rocky form,” speaking in a sluggish, obtuse voice while using incorrect grammar, in the best traditions of the Stanislovsky method of acting. Following his acceptance, Rocky exited off-stage, accompanied by Adrian, (Talia Shire) again, to a standing ovation.
This scene was filmed several times in similar fashion, with added close-ups, and again with the cameras relocated in order to film the audience.
STALLONE DEDICATES SCREEN-USED BOXING GEAR TO THE SCHOOL
Following the filming session, Stallone once again spoke to Lincoln’s students, praising them on their performance, and to show his appreciation toward Lincoln High School he dedicated the actual boxing gear used in the movie in his battle with Apollo Creed: the boxing gloves, trunks and cape which bears the inscription “Italian Stallion” on the back. The production company also donated one thousand dollars to Lincoln. The colors of his costume-black and gold-were patterned, by Sly, after Lincoln’s.
After the senior class was dismissed from Williams Hall, the crews again re-located their cameras in order to film close-ups of the members of the cast seated on-stage during the presentation of Rocky’s award. The entire sequence was filmed again, from the principal’s speech to Rocky’s departure.
LUNCHEON WITH STALLONE, TALIA SHIRE
After all the shooting was completed, road crew members disassembled the set along with the lights and filming equipment. A catered luncheon was served in our school’s library for all cast members of the movie along with the production and road staffs. Also invited were the guests present at the Awards Ceremony and Lincoln High’s stage crew.
Members of the Lincoln Log staff were able to attend the luncheon and obtained brief interviews with Sylvester Stallone and Talia Shire.
Stallone informed us that the movie Rocky II is a United Artists presentation and is a seven million dollar effort. Filming sites, he told us, are in Los Angeles along with the on-site locations in Philadelphia.
We asked Stallone to give us a summarization of the plot of Rocky II. Sly said:
“In Rocky II, Rocky Balboa tries to earn a living away from the ring. He tries to get cerebral (intellect demanding) jobs and does a few commercials. When he sees he’s not making it, he goes back to physical work and ultimately returns to the meat packing factory where he worked out in our first movie. Adrian gets pregnant and later gets sick. Rocky sees that the only way he’s going to make it is to return to boxing, and the movie ends with a fierce brawl.”
The result of that brawl? See the movie! Sylvester Stallone has made a name for himself in the movie industry in more areas than just acting, as he is also an accomplished writer and director. Stallone told us that his foremost interest in the movie industry is directing.
“I feel I’m a far better director than actor, but when I’m doing a film in which I did a lot of jobs I find myself getting pretty tired… like right now.”
In closing our interview with Sylvester Stallone, we asked him about his feelings on using non-professional actors in his pictures like he had done at Lincoln. “I prefer using non-actors to Hollywood stars, as non-actors seem to make a more natural movie, as long as they don’t look into the camera.”
When speaking to Talia Shire (Adrian, Rocky Balboa’s girlfriend and, later, wife in Rocky II) we asked her to tell us about her acting career prior to her co-starring role in Rocky I. Ms. Shire told us she had attended Yale Drama School after high school but could not seem to perform naturally.
“Before Rocky,” Ms. Shire explained, “I had been naturally very shy and frightened on stage. The experience of having my first child changed my life. It made me realize that I should not be afraid of things, and when I auditioned for the part of Adrian, I had sort of an ‘I don’t give a darn’ attitude. I developed the submissive yet respect-acquiring character of Adrian in relation to the character of Rocky.”
Before leaving, Ms. Shire told us she would like to continue acting, while also getting involved with the directing aspects of the business.
Both Sylvester Stallone and Talia Shire, despite their time-demanding schedules, were kind enough to take time out to speak to us and, in our conversations, seemed to be, despite the “arrogant” stereotype given to many actors, very interested and obliging in our interviews.
Tuesday, November 28, the day Lincoln went to the movies, seemed to end much too quickly, but the memories of Rocky Balboa and that very special day will remain locked in Williams’ Hall and in the hearts of Lincoln’s students for years to come.