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Rocky Balboa News Article


BRUSH with FAME

City Natives Share Screen Time with Stallone

Thursday, January 11, 2007

BY RICK SNIZEK
Editor

For a good ten seconds their faces splash across the silver screen as they pump their fists in the air, cheering for their hero as he slugs it out in the battle of his life. But for the two friends � ambitious Fall River filmmakers in their own right � the moment was not so much about acting as it was about expressing their admiration as fans for a true Hollywood heavyweight.

So far, Robert Manuels, 32, and Ernie Resendes, 34, have been to the movies four times to see "Rocky Balboa," the sixth, and reportedly final, installment of the vaunted "Rocky" franchise, including a private screening after which they were even able to socialize with Sylvester Stallone � the film's writer, director and star � themselves. For the past year the pair, both graduates of Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School before pursuing studies in the arts, have wondered if any footage of them cheering for Rocky even survived the cutting room floor.

It was in November 2005 that Resendes applied via the internet for he and Manuels to be extras in the film, the fight scenes for which were being shot in Las Vegas. The two were ecstatic to learn shortly thereafter that they had been accepted. Although they had to pay their own way and expenses for the opportunity, it was the chance of a lifetime.

"When I found out they were casting the new "Rocky" movie my eyes lit up and I registered right away," says Resendes, an artist who has created paintings and drawings of his hero Stallone to share with other fans.

"It was unbelievably amazing to see Stallone working right in front of you. We appear for about 10 seconds in the background while round 2 of the fight is happening," adds Manuels, who has made several independent films himself, including "Two Good Guys" and "Broken Love," both of which debuted at the Galaxy Cinemas at the New Harbor Mall. He has also worked as an extra on the Steven Spielberg film "Amistad" and the John Travolta film "Civil Action."

Manuels had to hurriedly ask for a couple of days off from the new job he had just started with National Grid in order to head for Vegas. There, he and Resendes showed up early on the set at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino where the fight scenes were being shot. They quickly learned how things worked in Hollywood and jockeyed for prime spots close to the action. When the filming began, they were only a couple of rows back from the boxing ring. They even caught the attention of Stallone, who focused in like a laser beam on their row, juggling the extras around to get the camera shot he wanted. "We were like kids on Christmas morning; we were the first ones there," Resendes says.

A fan of the classic rags-to-riches Rocky storyline created by Stallone, which has followed the successes and disappointments of a rough-and-tumble Philadelphia boxer over the course of now six major motion pictures from the very beginning, Manuels was awed by the experience on both a personal and professional level. "To watch his movies and have him direct you now was unbelievable," he says. "Years ago, he was doing the very same thing we're doing now [as young filmmakers]."

Six years ago, Resendes and Manuels became pals after being introduced by Don Raposa, a mutual friend. They had much in common: both are filmmakers, but more importantly, both can consider themselves among Stallone's most devoted fans. "I support every movie he ever made," Manuels says. "They've inspired me to do a lot of things."

In 1990, a decade before the two would ever meet, they each rushed to see the local opening of "Rocky 5," acknowledging they both could have very well been in the same theater for the showing. Despite the passage of 16 years since the release of "Rocky V" Resendes feels there is a symbolic message for everyone that comes through quite clearly in "Rocky Balboa."

"We all have obstacles to overcome," Resendes says, noting how much a labor of love the film, which took in more than $51 million at the box office in its first two weeks alone, was for Stallone. He made this picture on a comparatively shoestring budget of $24 million, with Hollywood uncertain of how Rocky Balboa's saga would play to a new generation. "It's defied a lot of people's expectations," he adds, feeling that Stallone's intended soulful approach to living one's life resonates with audiences young and old.

In one scene in the movie, unfortunately one that did land on the cutting room floor, Resendes actually rushes out of his seat at the end of the bout thrusting both hands into the air in victory to congratulate the champ as he makes his way from the ring.

Although the pair came in very close proximity to Stallone during the filming, they didn't get a chance to speak to him about their admiration for his work. But little did they know at the time that such an opportunity would present itself before the film would be released.

Just as improbable as it may have seemed to them to be picked from among thousands who applied via the web site: beinamovie.com to volunteer as extras for the film, they would defy the odds yet again after applying a couple of months ago to be part of a small, select audience for a private screening of the film in Boston before its release. Even better, the opportunity included a personal meeting with Stallone following the screening. "It was absolutely amazing," Manuels says of the Dec. 6 meeting at the Ritz Carlton Hotel with his film idol. "To keep yourself in that kind of shape at 60 is unbelievable."

Each of the participants was able to ask questions of Stallone, and Manuels asked the star to clear up something that had been nagging at him for years, since he began collecting trading cards of scenes from some of the early "Rocky" films. On one of his cards was a scene he could never recall seeing in "Rocky 2." Stallone flashed a broad smile and came the short distance over to their table to see the card for himself. He immediately remembered the scene as one he had cut from the film in post production because he wasn't fully satisfied with it.

Resendes, whose wife Kristine is about to give birth to the couple's first child, a daughter, in March, told the star that his wife said she had felt her baby kick for the very first time the night before, and asked him for his philosophy on raising a child. "You can't be too much like Rocky or Rambo, you've got to shape your child like a sculptor," Stallone told him.

The experience was indeed a dream come true for Resendes and Manuels, one which they say has inspired them to push even harder to achieve their goals in life. "Just believe in your dreams," Manuels says. "I'm a big dreamer, but after shaking his hand, I feel anything is possible."


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