In the film’s final fight, Rocky sports a pair of white trunks with a red waistband and stripes down each leg. This simplicity juxtaposes him with Apollo Creed sporting American flag trunks. Prior to the fight, he sees a giant poster of himself hanging from the stadium rafters, but he isn’t wearing white trunks with red striping in them. He’s wearing red trunks with white striping. This was actually a mistake. Speaking with Philadelphia Magazine back in 2016 about the making of “Rocky,” director John G. Avildsen recalls how an art department mix-up perfectly added to the sense of how the world saw Rocky Balboa:
“You’ll recall there are two giant posters of the fighters in the arena. The artist who had painted the poster had a Polaroid of Sylvester in a pose, but he had the wrong colored trunks. We didn’t have any time or money to redo, so I said, Maybe when he’s there the night before the fight, Rocky says that the trunks are the wrong color, and the promoter says too bad. And again we feel sorry for the guy.”
We rarely talk about Avildsen as a director today, but in the 1970s, he was one of those sturdy journeymen who just knew how to put together a good piece of work, including films like “Joe” and “Save the Tiger.” It takes someone who totally understands the story they’re telling to see an obstacle like that and weaponize it instead of wasting time and money they didn’t have. It’s such a great moment because Rocky has finally been put on the primetime stage, but he never stops being an underdog. Much of directing is problem-solving, and this is an excellent example of not just solving a problem but making it a blessing.