December 27, 2006, - 12:03 pm

Yo, Adrian: A Touching Interview with the Real-Life Mrs. Rocky

By Debbie Schlussel
As I’ve written, there is no Adrian in the new Rocky movie, “Rocky Balboa.” Yes, she’s there in flashbacks, but in the plot, she’s dead from “woman cancer,” according to Rocky.
USA Today has an interesting, touching interview with actress Talia Shire (real name: Talia Rose Coppola), the actress who played Adrian Pennino Balboa in the first five Rocky movies. Shire, age 60 and the mother of actor Jason Schwartzman, lost her own spouse in 1994.
Some excerpts from the interview:

She was ringside at every fight after the Philadelphia lovebirds met 30 years ago in 1976’s Rocky. But yo, Adrian, she is no more.


Stallone concedes that breaking the news to pal Talia Shire (Adrian) was not easy.
“She handled it with such dignity,” he says. “I told her, ‘Talia, you’re the heart and soul of this movie, but you’re just here in spirit, and that’s what’s going to drive the film. Your heart drove the first film.’ It’s what I call ‘The Adrian Factor.'” . . .
Q: How did Sly prepare you for Adrian’s death?
A: Sly showed me the script because he knew I’d lost my husband (producer Jack Schwartzman). When Jack was alive, he and I were producing movies, so I was doing much less acting and more development. I was aware of the possibility of Adrian (at one point) being in it and dying (on screen), but my being in the movie or not was not as interesting as how Sylvester was going to achieve this. Ultimately, I was wondering how in the world he was going to justify getting Rocky back into the ring.
Q: Does he?
A: Rocky is a folk hero. There was a great mythological aspect to the first one, and this film has that. I am so in his corner. Sly is so gifted, and the writing in this piece is courageous. It is Rocky’s rebirth.


Q: Do you agree with Burt Young’s feelings that Adrian is even more influential in death?
A: That’s how many religions get going. Yes, the film has great regard for the process of mourning. Sly utilizes mourning to empower Rocky, and Adrian is made very mythical.
Q: Did your own spouse’s death (in 1994) make this whole experience even more poignant for you?
A: In our culture, we like to say, “Get over it; move on.” But you don’t move on. Our past is who we are, and death is one of our experiences. I lost my husband a long time ago, but it’s always yesterday. Watching Rocky wake up from a very lonely bed, searching for her at the grave, felt very familiar.
Q: There are so many sweet flashbacks of young Rocky and Adrian – at the pet store, on the skating rink. Do you remember those shoots?
A: I remember all of it. We didn’t have a lot of money in the budget. We started shooting the skating in Philadelphia, but we couldn’t afford to stay there, so we shot the rest in L.A., on an empty rink. And it turned out brilliant.
Q: Rocky takes another woman, Little Marie (a character introduced in the first Rocky), under his wing. Was it tough for you to watch their bond grow in this film?
A: Yes, it was. But it wasn’t sexual and felt very appropriate. And I liked the actress (Geraldine Hughes) very much.
Q: Did you cry at any point during the film?
A: I lost a button on my blouse because I had an explosive moment in the boxing ring (scene), because I felt that fight was really about a man going up against time and love and courage. Adrian wasn’t there, but she was very much within him.

A very dignified, classy actress and lady.

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3 Responses

Thanks for posting that, Debbie (may I call you Debbie?). Now, I just might go see the movie. Rocky I & II were excellent; certainly among the top 10 boxing flix of all time.
Talia Shire is SIXTY YEARS OLD? Yikes! Makes ME feel that old too even tho I have several years to go.
I still won’t watch much of the Rocky movies post I & II – even tho I’m a HUGE fan of Tommy Morrison (who really IS still a big stud btw) – they just seemed to get old; relying on the same theme.
Now, if Emanuel Steward would only get the hint and do the right thing with HIS money, boxing MIGHT make a comeback in the urban grit.

Rocketman on December 27, 2006 at 12:54 pm

I remember her from Godfather I & II, mostly.

Jeremiah on December 27, 2006 at 8:10 pm

It’s always an emotionally thing to watch Rocky….A movie that gives you hype

shawn bess on December 22, 2013 at 7:02 am

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