In an oral history of “Rocky” for Philadelphia Magazine, John Avildsen revealed that the City of Brotherly Love was a “Goldilocks kind of town” for their tale. Talia Shire, who played Rocky’s beloved Adrian, added that the timing was too perfect. “Never forget that this was supposed to be a celebration in the birthplace of America — 1776, 1976. You can’t forget that. Because that is the frame around this mythological piece that gave it its mythos.”
There was just one problem: Winkler and Chartoff couldn’t afford to send a Los Angeles-based union crew to shoot on location in Philly. Avildsen had no intention of shooting anywhere else, so he floated an alternative. “[I] told them I had a terrific non-union crew from New York that we could sneak in. So that’s what we did. We started shooting on November 5, 1975.”
It’s an unfortunate reality of the business, but further to Shire’s point, there’s no more appropriate way to celebrate the United States than making a classic American film with a non-union crew.