Sylvester Stallone Doubles Down on ‘Rocky’ Ownership Complaints Over ‘Drago’ Spinoff

MGM is developing a new film about Rocky Balboa's previous foe Ivan Drago, which has revived Stallone's ire over his standing with the boxing franchise.

Sylvester Stallone has more to say about the Rocky franchise in light of MGM developing a film spinoff centering on Ivan Drago.

Stallone — who wrote the screenplay for 1976’s Oscar-winning Rocky, in which he starred as boxer Rocky Balboa — took to Instagram on Saturday to criticize Drago, the planned film that is being written by Robert Lawton, as first reported this week by The Wrap. Although Stallone did not directly name anyone in his latest post, his mention of a “94-year-old producer” is an apparent reference to Irwin Winkler, who is 91 and has a producing credit on all the films in the Rocky franchise in addition to the subsequent Creed spinoffs.

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“Another Heartbreaker… Just found this out…ONCE AGAIN , PATHETIC 94 year old PRODUCER and HIS SELFISH USELESS CHILDREN are once again picking what is left OFF THE BONES of another wonderful character!!!” Stallone wrote about Drago. “Seriously, how do you weasels look in mirror???”

The star continued, “I am sorry to the FANS , I APOLOGIZE to the FANS I never wanted ROCKY to be exploited FOR THIS GREED .. # no shame #sad day #Parasite.”

Drago is set to revisit Ivan Drago, portrayed by Dolph Lundgren in 1985’s Rocky IV and later in 2018’s Creed II. Lundgren had previously teased a potential spinoff film in a November 2021 interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

The next day, Stallone posted a message that named Winkler and said, in part, “Return my rights, bloodsuckers!” He also referenced Lundgren in the post by writing, “Dolph, why? Not a phone call?”

Also on Sunday, Lundgren addressed Drago on Instagram by clarifying that the spinoff is in early stages and that he was “under the impression that my friend Sly Stallone was involved as a producer or even as an actor.” He continued, “In touch with Mr Balboa – just so all the fans can relax…There ya go.” 

Stallone’s message follows his Instagram post from July 16 that criticized Winkler by name, referring to him as “the remarkably untalented and parasitical Producer of Rocky and Creed.” The post also criticized Irwin’s son David Winkler, who is credited as a producer on the Creed films, including the 2015 first film that starred Michael B. Jordan and earned Stallone an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor for reprising his role as Balboa.

In a follow-up post on July 17, Stallone wrote that he was upset over an ownership dispute related to the franchise. “I really would like [to] have at least a little WHAT’s LEFT of my RIGHTS back, before passing it on to ONLY YOUR CHILDREN – I believe That would be a FAIR gesture,” wrote Stallone, directing his vitriol at Irwin.

Both of those earlier posts have since been deleted.

Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff are credited as the sole producers on the first five Rocky films. The 2006 franchise-reviving Rocky Balboa credits six producers, including David Winkler and Irwin’s other son, Charles Winkler.

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The Creed films center on Michael B. Jordan as the son of the late Apollo Creed, portrayed in the Rocky films by Carl Weathers. Stallone and Irwin Winkler are both credited as producers on the Creed movies, as are David and Charles, in addition to others. Chartoff was a producer on the first Creed before his 2015 death.

Last month, Stallone told Metro that he had “bowed out” of appearing in Creed III due to the story changing directions but that he supported the film. Creed III, hitting theaters March 3, 2023, counts Jordan as both director and star.

The character of Rocky Balboa originated with Stallone’s Rocky script in 1976, and his deal stipulated that he would play the title role. Stallone told Variety in 2019 that he had “zero ownership of Rocky” and that he was “furious” about this.

“Our commitment to him was that he could star in it,” Winkler recalled to The Hollywood Reporter in 1983 about making the first Rocky with Chartoff. “We convinced United Artists to give us the money to make it. They would only give us a limited amount of money, and they said that we had to put up our houses as collateral. We really mortgaged ourselves to make sure that we brought it in on time, and we did.”

Representatives for Irwin Winkler and Stallone did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

July 31, 4:35 p.m. Updated with Stallone’s follow-up post and Lundgren’s response.