Mike Kunda’s life was changed forever when he saw “ROCKY” at age 11. Almost 40 years later Mike’s fascination with the Rocky character continues to shape his life in ways he could have never imagined.
A special screening was held last month in Detroit for “The Pretender”, a new documentary focused on the story of Mike Kunda, best known in the Rockyverse as being Philly’s greatest Rocky Balboa impersonator. A packed house with over 250 audience members, the film received great reviews, including a spot on the local Fox affiliate.
But Mike’s story is more than just being a Rocky fan and getting to live in his hero’s skin for special appearances around the City of Brotherly Love, or conducting his unforgettable Rocky filming location tours around the city.
“The Pretender” has been in the works at Free Age Productions for the past seven years as director Jim Toscano and editor Danny Gianino labored to craft the real story behind what on the surface might look like just a guy in a Rocky costume. It’s a work of humanity and passion, the motivation behind one man’s commitment to his dream. That’s something we can all connect with, Rocky fans or not.
A REAL LIFE ROCKY
We love this film because many fans easily identify with the idea of wanting to emulate on-screen heroes that we look up to, those who provide such inspiration for the hard game of life. But few among us have fought through life with the aim of BEING a beloved character and incorporating the threads of someone else’s story into their own.
Meet Mike Kunda, “a real life Rocky.”
Kunda, who has perfected his Stallone slur and Balboa mannerisms to a tee, has spent the last 40 years of his life focusing on every aspect of the Rocky films and on his fictional hero Rocky Balboa. A pillar of the Rocky community, Kunda is as close to a Professor of Rocky as any fan can get, and that’s because he’s so much more than just a fan.
As “The Pretender” reveals, Mike has spent much of his life searching for meaning in his Rocky obsession and to become the person he truly wants to be. The story isn’t one so much about Rocky as it is about each of us discovering what truly drives and motivates us, and why it’s okay to live out those things we are most passionate about. This story and its telling was captivating to us because there’s something in “The Pretender” for all of us.
“Mike’s journey,” the filmmakers explain, “is an emotional trip through themes of obsession, passion and inspiration, in the end showing that even the most seemingly unrealistic goals might prove to offer the most rewarding and fulfilling life of all.”
“I want people to see this film and truly be inspired to follow their own dreams, no matter how crazy or intimidating those dreams might be,” says director Jim Toscano, himself a lifelong Rocky fan.
We were fortunate enough to screen the film and highly recommend it, so much so that we’re anxious to get the word out to fellow Rocky fans to help promote the documentary which has thus far been entered into several film festivals, including Tribeca. Know of a festival that “The Pretender” needs to be part of? Please contact the filmmakers at [email protected] and spread the word!