Did Sylvester Stallone Really Pay $15,000 Re-Acquiring the Dog He Sold Pre-Rocky?

In the latest Movie Legends Revealed, see whether Sylvester Stallone seriously paid $15,000 to repurchase the dog that he sold pre-Rocky

Rocky and his dog Butkus

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Sylvester Stallone had so little money that he had to sell his dog before he sold the script to Rocky, and once he sold Rocky, he spent $15,000 to get his dog back.

The other day, I did a legend about a famous Shelley Winters story that had gone viral on social media recently. Long story short (but, seriously, the story is good enough that it is worth reading), I think that the story was likely either just an outright fiction or a case where what actually happened was puffed up so far that it was essentially just outright fiction.

In that story, I quoted the introduction to the autobiography of Tony Curtis, who noted, “I am determined to make this book different. I’m not interested in the Shelley Winters approach.

There’s already enough bull**** around to provide fertilizer into the twenty-first century. I want to try not to bend everything in my life to suit my own purposes, even though we all do that.”

Curtis specifically calls out Shelley Winters, but let’s be frank, that sort of thing is far from a “Shelley Winters thing.” It is a very common practice for a number of actors and media personalities to sort of cultivate a mythology about them.

I’ve covered a number of stories like this where the people involved were directly involved in spreading the fake story, like Satanist Anton LaVey being a consultant on Rosemary’s Baby or some early puffery about Steven Spielberg’s movie directing career. So this is very normal stuff, but as a result, as time passes, that early puffery sort of gets accepted as fact.


Interestingly enough, we here at CBR had a story about Butkus just a couple of months ago, so I’ll quote the appropriate part of Cassidy Stephenson’s story about Butkus:

According to Total Rocky , Stallone was forced to sell Butkus for $40 outside a 7-11 to afford food. Thankfully, the dog’s time at his new family’s home only lasted for six months.

Stallone was able to buy back Butkus for $15,000 after selling the Rocky script to producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff. The actor would later reveal on Instagram that the purchase was “worth every penny.”

So that’s pretty much on point, right? Stallone specifically says in the cited Instagram story, “A modern day miracle, the screenplay for Rocky sold, and I could buy and buy him back, but the new owner knew I was desperate, and charged me $15,000 … He was worth every penny!” So that’s that…but IS it really?


What’s interesting is that the aforementioned Total Rocky story about Butkus doesn’t actually mention the $15,000. It tells the story this way:

A short time later, when Rocky was in the works and he had the security of more money in his pocket, Sly knew he had to try to get the dog back. “The other family had owned him for six months,” Stallone says.

“They weren’t exactly thrilled, but I said, ‘Please.’ I said, ‘This dog belongs in the movie.’ He had suffered along with me for two years. I said, ‘Please let him have a shot in the movie.’” The unfortunate other family relented and released Butkus to his rightful owner.

That sure sounds a lot more normal of a story, right?

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A couple of years ago, I did a legend about Stallone and Rocky and a story that suggested that United Artists only approved of Stallone starring in Rocky because the president of United Artists saw Stallone’s only film role to that point, The Lords of Flatbush, and mistook Stallone for his co-star, Perry King.

In that story (which essentially debunked the legend), I wrote about how Rocky producer, Robert Chartoff, pointed out that there had been so many myths made up about Rocky and a lot of them involved Stallone and his underdog life.

In 2006, Gabe Sumner, the head of marketing for United Artists at the time, recalled how much of Stallone’s backstory at the time was a result of studio PR:

We came up with a tremendous publicity campaign, It was about how this unknown guy named Sylvester Stallone walked into our office with a script and the company was prepared to buy the script, but Stallone said, ‘I’m not going to sell it to you unless I star in the film.’ And we (supposedly) said, ‘No way.’ And he said, ‘Well, you can’t have the script.’

And we said, ‘We will give you $18,000.’ And that was the figure we used. And a deal was made and Stallone could star in this film which he wrote.

And he got all of $18,000. Now is this true? It was horsesh*t! But it worked. It promoted the whole underdog concept and kept on going.

I don’t have to tell you how the press feeds on the underdog story. It filled up space on entertainment pages, and in columns looking for something for the next day.

They ate up the idea that this actor loved his work so much, and was willing to sell it for a nickel and a dime in order to make it, blah, blah, blah. It all became part of the underdog fabric that brought people in. Period. They just totally bought into it.

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In 2013, Stallone said he paid $3,000 to get the dog back.

So let’s just say that if the story in 2013 is $3,000 and the story in 2017 is $15,000 that the actual story back in 1975/76 was almost certainly a much lower dollar amount.

Either way, though, the odds of it being $15,000 when he was telling the story at $3,000 just four years earlier are so infinitesimally small that I am willing to with this legend as…

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