Associated Press AP
William Keck
May 11, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

In the right corner, fading action hero Sylvester Stallone! In the left corner, intrigued — but apparently wary — MGM! The subject of their current scuffle? ”Rocky 6.” You read right: Six! You probably thought the Italian Stallion had been put out to pasture, but Stallone tells EW he’s cranked out yet another script about everyone’s favorite marble-mouthed meat pulverizer.

An exec at MGM — which owns the 24-year-old Rocky franchise — says the studio’s ”anxious” to see the pages (despite the relatively weak $41 million box office of ”Rocky V”). But the star refuses to show execs anything until they ratchet up their proposed $10 million budget. ”We need at least $20 or $22 million to do it,” says Stallone. ”I mean, you gotta pay [Rocky’s wife] Talia Shire something.”

So what’s in those closely guarded pages? The movie — which Stallone imagines as a grittier, ”Raging Bull” type epic — finds the boxer, aging and broke, climbing back into the ring to raise money for a Christian youth association. ”I’ve tried to emulate a few things in reality, such as the George Foreman story,” says Stallone, noting that like the real-life boxer, who retired at age 48 after a controversial defeat in 1997, Rocky is ”probably going to lose.”

The 53-year-old actor would shoot ”6” after his next project, ”Champs,” a flick about NASCAR racing directed by Renny Harlin (”Deep Blue Sea”). ”It’s already been 10 years since ‘Rocky V.”’ says Stallone. ”What are you going to do, wait 20 years? It’s now or never.” Oh, but think of the dialogue: ”Yo, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

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