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Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro are both known for starring in iconic boxing movies. In 2014, the two veterans would come together to create their own boxing film with Grudge Match.

But initially, Stallone was unsure about collaborating with De Niro on the project.

Sylvester Stallone felt ‘Grudge Match’ was like ‘Rocky’ vs. ‘Raging Bull’

Sylvester Stallone attending a photo call for 'Grudge Match' with Robert De Niro.
Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro | Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

Grudge Match was a 2013 sports movie starring Stallone and De Niro as two aging boxers getting back into the ring. Stallone and De Niro already both starred in two critically acclaimed boxing movies years before Grudge Match. To this day, both Stallone’s Rocky and De Niro’s Raging Bull are considered some of the most influential movies in cinematic history.

Stallone was well-aware that their roles in Grudge Match could remind fans of Rocky vs. Raging Bull. But that was far from a negative for the actor.

“Since those films have pretty well gone the way of extinction, this is some way of realizing them again,” Stallone once told ESPN. “Movies are enjoyable, but they’re not sacrosanct; they’re not sacred cows. Here we are in the magical world of boxing where Rocky is fighting Raging Bull. I mean, of course, no one’s under any illusions that it’s anything other than that. This is the beauty of fantasy.”

Sylvester Stallone had his doubts about ‘Grudge Match’

Stallone wasn’t completely sold on the project when it was first offered to him. At the time, he was still protective over the legacy of his Rocky franchise. And he thought Grudge Match risked tainting it.

“I had a great many reservations. [Robert De Niro] is relentless, don’t let that quiet demeanor fool you. I was being precious about Rocky. I was very happy with the way it ended. But Bobby just kept hammering away,” Stallone once told Empire (via Contact Music).

Eventually, De Niro would sell Stallone on the idea, which became an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“Finally, he made sense. I talked to my wife and said, ‘Maybe it would be interesting to take the good baggage and pit it against another iconic character because it’ll never happen again.'”

This was the best outcome for De Niro, who could only picture Stallone in the boxing ring with him.

“I was ready to go, but I knew the only way it would work was the two of us. I called him up and said, ‘Let’s try it,'” De Niro said.

Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro really hit each other in ‘Grudge Match’


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Stallone and De Niro went through rigorous training to get into the shape that they were in during Grudge Match. The Cop Land star was also impressed with De Niro’s dedication and work ethic for the role. The two stars didn’t train together, however. This might have led to the pair accidentally hitting each other during the fight choreography for their movie.

“Once he commits, he goes all the way,” Sly once told reporters according to Page Six. “He took some serious hits and falls. He won’t admit it, but he did . . . He was on the East Coast and I’m training on the West Coast. It’s the equivalent of having a ballet recital and you don’t meet your partner till the curtain goes up and you hope it all works out and it did.”