The 72 stone steps before the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, have become known as the "Rocky Steps" as a result of their appearance in the triple-Oscar-winning film Rocky and five of its sequels, Rocky II, III, V, Rocky Balboa and Creed, in which the eponymous character runs up the steps to the song "Gonna Fly Now". Tourists often mimic Rocky's famous climb, a metaphor for an underdog or an everyman rising to a challenge. A bronze Rocky statue was briefly situated at the top of the steps for the filming of Rocky III. This statue, now located at the bottom right of the steps, is a popular photo opportunity for visitors. The top of the steps offers a commanding view of Eakins Oval, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and Philadelphia City Hall.
In 2006, Rocky creator Sylvester Stallone recounted the genesis of the iconic scene: (while filming the 1976 movie) the film crew, bound by a tight budget, identified the steps one night while searching for filming locations around the city. Stallone first thought Rocky should carry his dog Butkus up the steps, but the big bull mastiff proved too heavy for the scene to work. Still, the view from the top of the stairs inspired him to reshoot the scene without the dog. Also in Rocky Balboa, Rocky lifts his dog Punchy when he reaches the top of the steps. The closing credits of Rocky Balboa showed a montage of dozens of people running up the steps.
Bronze Rocky statue
Before Rocky III, released in 1982, Stallone commissioned A. Thomas Schomberg to create a bronze statue of Rocky. Three 2-ton, 10-foot-tall copies were cast. One was intalled atop the steps for the filming of Rocky III, and was ultimately relocated at the bottom of the steps. The second Rocky is in the San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum in San Diego, California. The third was planned, but was not cast.
It is unknown if Schomberg ever cast the third Rocky statue, but it has been put up for auction several times to raise funds for charities. The third was listed on eBay three separate times between 2002-2005, with a starting bid of US$5,000,000, then US$3,000,000, and finally $1,000,000 to raise funds for the International Institute for Sport and Olympic History, but since it has failed to sell it is unknown if the third was ever cast.
After filming was complete, a debate arose between the Art Museum and Philadelphia's Art Commission over the meaning of "art". City officials, who argued that the Rocky statue was not "art" but a "movie prop", eventually moved it to the front of the Philadelphia Spectrum.
It was later returned to the Art Museum for the filming of Rocky V, Mannequin and Philadelphia, then brought back to the Spectrum. The statue was replaced with a bronze inlay of Converse sneaker footprints with the name "Rocky" above them.
On September 8, 2006, the Rocky statue was returned to the Art Museum and placed on a pedestal in a grassy area near the foot of the steps to the right of the Museum. The unveiling ceremony included live music, the debut of the first full trailer for Rocky Balboa, and a free showing of the first Rocky movie. At the ceremony, Philadelphia Mayor John Street said that the steps were one of Philly's biggest tourist attractions, and that Stallone, a native New Yorker, had become "the city's favorite adopted son".
In popular culture
The Rocky film scene has become a cultural icon. Many tourists visit the steps to recreate the scene themselves. E! Channel ranked it No. 13 in its 101 Most Awesome Moments in Entertainment. During the 1996 Olympic Torch Relay, Philadelphia native Dawn Staley was chosen to run up the museum steps.
The scene is also frequently parodied by the media.
On an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, the character Will, while back in Philly, trains for a big fight against a former childhood bully; the training ends with Will running up the steps to "Gonna Fly Now", and celebrating and passing out, where a passer-by steals his wallet and hat.
Participants in Philadelphia's monthly Critical Mass bike ride generally finish up by cycling to the Rocky Steps, hoisting their bicycles, running up the steps, then lifting their bikes above their heads.
In the Boy Meets World episode, "The Witches of Pennbrook" Eric says that he and Jack are going to run up the steps and had been planning it for months.
The steps are the backdrop for the annual Independence Day celebration, and have often been featured in large concerts such as Live 8.
Two journalists from the Philadelphia Inquirer spent a year interviewing people who ran the steps, and published a book in 1996 called Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope, and Happiness at America's Most Famous Steps.
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- Vitez, Michael (2006). Rocky stories : tales of love, hope, and happiness at America's most famous steps. Philadelphia, Pa: Paul Dry Books. ISBN 1589880293.
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