William Keck
May 19, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

In the right corner, fading action hero Sylvester Stallone! In the left corner, intrigued but apparently wary studio MGM! The subject of their current scuffle? Rocky VI. You read right: Six! Stallone tells EW he’s penned yet another script about everyone’s favorite marble-mouthed meat pulverizer. An exec at MGM — which owns the 24-year-old franchise — says the studio is ”excited” to see the pages (despite Rocky V‘s relatively weak $41 million box office). But the star refuses to show MGM anything until it boosts its proposed $10 million budget. ”We need at least $20 or $22 million,” 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, reentering 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 ’97 defeat, Rocky is ”probably going to lose.”

The 53-year-old actor wants to shoot VI pronto. ”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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