Because Rocky's life is so different in this film from the first two films, Sylvester Stallone wanted this film to look different from the first two, so as to reflect the changes in the character's life. Stallone felt that one of the biggest prices of fame is a loss of privacy, and the intrusion of the media into every aspect of a celebrity's life. He felt that people get to know celebrities primarily through news and documentary footage, so he wanted the film to feel that way - as if the camera was 'secretly' filming Balboa, who had given up all rights to privacy. This is why there is so much hand-held material in the film.
According to an interview given by Mr. T, he attended the movie's premiere with his mother. During the scene where he yells lurid remarks at Adrian, his mother turned to him and said, "I did not raise you to talk to a lady like that." She then stormed out of the theater.
During the making of Rocky III (1982), a nine foot tall, 1,500 pound bronze statue designed by A. Thomas Schomberg was placed at the top of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Arts. After filming wrapped, Sylvester Stallone tried to donate the statue to the museum but they said they didn't want it, sparking a huge debate between the Museum and the City's Art Commission about what constituted 'art'. The museum claimed the statue was nothing more than a "movie prop", and didn't want it. Local people were outraged, and the statue was ultimately placed in front of the Wachovia Spectrum in South Philadelphia. It was later returned to the Art Museum for the filming of Rocky V (1990), after which it was again moved to the front of the Spectrum. Later the statue was put into storage, and then moved to a park at the foot of the famous stairs leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Arts.
A song titled "You're the Best" performed by Joe Esposito was recorded for the film. But Stallone rejected it in favor of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger". "You're the Best" was later used in The Karate Kid (1984).
Thunderlips (Hulk Hogan) is billed at a height of seven feet, despite Hogan only being 6'8". This was because in the first two films, Rocky was billed as 6'1", whereas Sylvester Stallone is only 5'10". Because Hogan is genuinely ten inches taller than Stallone, to maintain the illusion that Rocky was over six feet tall, Thunderlips had to be billed as being taller than the actor portraying him.
Hulk Hogan received the initial offer to be in the movie after a wrestling match against André the Giant at Shea Stadium. At first, he thought one of the wrestlers was trying to pull a prank on him. When he returned from a tour of Japan, Hogan received a Western Union letter he had to sign for. The contents: Sylvester Stallone's offer to be in the movie. He immediately signed on for the role of Thunderlips.
The montage of Rocky's celebratory appearances features a scene of him on The Muppet Show (1976). The footage used is actually a real episode featuring Sylvester Stallone from January 9, 1979. For the movie, Jim Henson dubbed in Rocky's name during Kermit's introduction. Stallone's actual appearance at the 1976 Academy Awards is also seen during the montage.
As he had done with the first two films, writer Sylvester Stallone incorporated biographical elements from his own life into Rocky's story. In particular, he chose to focus on the 'unreal' aspects of Rocky's life, and how out of touch he has become with 'normality'. When making this film, Stallone was at the height of his fame, and much of the over-the-top celebrity exposure experienced by Rocky was based on experiences Stallone had had himself.
Before the start of the second bout between Rocky and Clubber Lang, Rocky's weight is given as 191 pounds. This would have meant Rocky would be classified as a cruiser-weight, rather than a heavyweight. This would not preclude him from challenging for the heavyweight title however. The original limit was 190 pounds; raised to 200 pounds in 2003. That makes him a heavyweight.
Earnie Shavers was initially the favorite to land the role of Clubber Lang. According to Shavers, Sylvester Stallone called him and told him the role was his once they got a formal audition out of the way. The audition was set up, with Shavers and Stallone sparring. As Shavers tells it, Stallone kept goading him not to hold back and to hit him with everything he had, but Shavers was reluctant to do so. Eventually, after Stallone began to hit him, Shavers lost his temper and punched him under the ribs, doubling Stallone over. Stallone was helped out of the ring without saying a word, and according to Shavers, he never heard from Stallone again. Interestingly however, this story has never been corroborated by anyone involved with the film.
Sylvester Stallone admits that after Rocky II (1979), he ran out of ideas and this and Rocky IV (1985) focus more on the fight and training, whereas the first two films had more elements than just about boxing.
The ring in which Thunderlips and Rocky fight featured the standard modifications used in professional wrestling; half-inch padding under the canvas, shock absorbers under the plywood and slightly loosened ropes.
On the marquee at Radio City Music Hall, Rocky's opponent is listed as "Joe Czack". In the first Rocky, this fighter is mentioned briefly to Apollo Creed by the fight promoter when he is looking for opponents for the New Year's Day bout. The promoter says to Apollo: "Joe Czack is a good prospect." Czack is also the maiden name of Sylvester Stallone's first wife Sasha Czack.
Even though the film opened six years after the original, the story is set only four years beyond the original. Rocky is introduced as 30 in the first Apollo Creed fight and is introduced as 34 before the rematch with Clubber Lang. This is because the movie is set three years after Rocky II (1979) which was supposed to be the following year after the original.
Artist LeRoy Neiman makes a cameo appearance as the ring announcer in the Rocky-Thunderlips charity match. Neiman would also appear in Rocky IV (1985), Rocky V (1990) and Rocky Balboa (2006). A painting by Neiman featuring Rocky and Apollo is shown in the closing credits, and can also be seen in Rocky's restaurant in Rocky Balboa (2006). LeRoy Neiman also appeared in Rocky II (1979). He was the artist wearing the white suit and white hat sketching Apollo while he was training for his rematch with Rocky.
In 1981, as an eight-year-old living in Philadelphia's Lawncrest neighborhood, Nikol Bird went door to door, gathering signatures to keep the eight-foot, six-inch, one ton bronze statue of Rocky Balboa forever at the top of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The city had refused to keep the prop in front of the world-class museum, and Sylvester Stallone shipped the statue back to Los Angeles. But little Nikol mounted a campaign to bring the statue back. She set up a table outside Veterans Stadium the night Pete Rose passed Stan Musial on the list of all-time hits leader, and gathered 2,000 signatures. In all, she collected more than 10,000 and presented them to City Council. Stallone was grateful. The statue was put back at the steps briefly in 1982 for the opening of Rocky III, and Stallone hoisted Nikol above his head at the dedication ceremony, then escorted her to the premiere at the Sameric on Chestnut Street.
When interviewed before the rematch Clubber says "No, I don't hate Balboa, but I pity the fool". "I pity the fool" would become a catch phrase used by Mr. T in many other times during his career, and this was his first time using it.
The fact that Mickey Goldmill turns out to be Jewish was surprising to fans and even Sylvester Stallone himself, as much of the material involving the character for the first two movies and scenes before his death strongly hinted he was Irish-American. The main reason for highlighting Mickey's ethnicity was the film's wish to pay tribute to the many Jewish Americans who had been successful trainers throughout boxing history, as many of these real people were as old or older than Burgess Meredith when this film released in 1982.
In this, as with nearly all Rocky films, the ringside cameras are the actual film cameras shooting the fight scenes. Along side the fake television cameras, they almost blend in except for the lenses are clearly film lens and the presence of the focus puller give them away.
The rematch with Clubber Lang at the end of this film is the last time in the series Rocky fights for the title. In Rocky IV (1985), the end fight with Ivan Drago is not sanctioned by the American boxing board (a fact that is confirmed by a commentator before the fight). In Rocky V (1990), Rocky didn't fight in the ring. In Rocky Balboa (2006), the end fight was an exhibition bout against the reigning champion, Mason "the Line" Dixon.
When Rocky and Apollo are about to fight at the end, Rocky says, "Boy, you sure move good for an older guy." This is different in real life. Carl Weathers (68) (Apollo Creed) is 2 years younger than Slyvester Stallone (70).