Thursday, October 27, 2011

THE REAL ROCKY: The Bleeder Gets His Due

Several years ago, the documentary filmmaker Jeff Feuerzeig came to PDX to promote The Devil and Daniel Johnston, for which he'd recently won best director at Sundance.  I had asked him what he was working on next during the post-screening Q&A.  Feuerzeig's face lit up as he proudly filled us in on his upcoming project: a documentary about Chuck "The Bayonne Bleeder" Wepner, one of the few men who went toe to toe with Muhammad Ali, knocking the heavyweight champ down during their remarkable 15-round bout.  Now, over five years later, Feuerzeig's project has finally seen the light of day with this past Tuesday night's premiere of The Real Rocky on ESPN.

Like Feuerzeig, Wepner's not exactly a household name to the uninitiated but this tale is a fascinating one, even for non-boxing fans.  In addition to his defining moment in the ring with Ali, he was purportedly the inspiration behind Sylvester Stallone's Academy-award winning Rocky franchise, something which the piece spends a lot of time substantiating via archival footage and much anecdotal evidence.  The reason for all the effort proving that link: Chuck never saw a dime of the billions of dollars raked in by the 1976 classic or its many sequels.  To that end, The Real Rocky chronicles Wepner's many ups and downs, including his lawsuit against Stallone for the use of his life story.

The entire film can be viewed in four parts on YouTube now.  Jump on it, 'cause you never know how long this will last before ESPN asks for its removal.  And this is really must-see stuff, folks...even if you actively dislike boxing.  It's a human story, humanely told by a real talent.

And, yeah, that is André the Giant in that last clip.  Are you curious now?

Those interested in seeing more of Feuerzeig's work should check out The Devil & Daniel Johnston, Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King and The Dude; a short film about Jeff Dowd, the inspiration for Joel and Ethan Coen's 1998 comedy The Big Lebowski.

The Dude can be streamed HERE.

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