After two supremely successful Rocky films, Sylvester Stallone was keen to switch things up for the third movie, Rocky III. He found what he was looking for when he tried to visit boxer Leon Spinks at his title fight against the legendary Mohammed Ali in 1978.
When he approached Spinks’ door, Mr T was the boxer’s bouncer and would not let him in, no matter who he was.
Mr T recalled: “I didn’t let [Stallone] in. Unless Leon told me you were coming in then I was not going to let you in celebrity or not.”
Stallone respected Mr T doing his job and went on his way. Two years later, he saw Mr T competing on America’s Toughest Bouncers throwing his opponents around with ease. The actor decided then and there that Mr T was the perfect opponent for Rocky Balboa in his next movie.
Before long, he had enlisted Mr T – real name Lawrence Tureaud – to play Clubber Lang in the third Rocky movie.
Stallone saw eye-to-eye with Mr T quickly, likely because both of them had extremely humble roots. Stallone was, at one point, homeless and a struggling actor who had to sell his car and dog just to buy food. Meanwhile, Mr T dragged himself out of the housing projects in Chicago.
Once the contracts had been signed, Stallone and Mr T started training for their on-screen brawls. But the casting directors were not happy with how Mr T was performing in the early shoots. To combat this, they tried to send Mr T to an acting school’s crash course.
But Stallone stepped in.
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Mr T’s character, Clubber Lang, was asked if he hated Rocky. He replied: “No, I don’t hate Balboa, but I pity the fool.”
Mr T later trademarked the catchphrase. He once used it in a proclamation of love for his mother, as well.
He famously said: “I pity the fool that don’t respect his mother because I am an old fashioned, overgrown, tough, bible quoting, butt-kicking Mama’s boy. I pity the fool who don’t love and respect his mother.”
This wasn’t the only change that happened to Mr T’s character during the production of Rocky III.
Stallone originally wanted Clubber Lang to be Jamaican. Mr T bought a bunch of Jamaican records and spoke with Jamaican people to learn the accent. But, eventually, Stallone had a lightning bolt of inspiration.
Mr T remembered Stallone saying: “Tell Mr T to forget the Jamaican accent. I want him to be him, be Mr T from Chicago.”
Mr T went on: “I said: ‘Oh boy, I got this now!'”