A. Thomas Schomberg Interview

A. Thomas Schomberg is one of the most intelligent, articulate and talented people that you could ever meet. The man is also one of the nicest. I thoroughly enjoyed my lengthy conversation with him about his career and specifically his role in creating one of the most recognized symbols in the world, the Rocky Balboa statue. Here's part one of the interview. I hope you enjoy it half as much as I did when talking to Mr. Schomberg.

When did you know that you wanted to be an artist and more specifically a sculptor?

There wasn’t any earth shaking event. As a child I always enjoyed modeling. It was my favorite part of art class. I always enjoyed drawing and sculpture. I was the youngest of three and the first compliment I ever remember getting was for art and it stuck.

In 8th or 9th grade I decided I wanted to be an art teacher. I then followed that path. I enjoyed teaching and did so for eight or nine years at the junior high, high school and then college level.

How did the opportunity to create the famous “Rocky” statue come about?

It was being in the right place at the right time. I was dedicated to making art not money. When others were doing cowboys and Indians with the Remington renaissance, I decided to stick with what I knew and loved... athletics. I did a winning and losing series... baseball... football... boxing. Boxing is the most romantic sport. It’s man against man in a microcosm of life. I did a statue of Mountain Rivera from “Requiem for a Heavyweight.” Sly saw my pieces and bingo! He purchased some of my work including the Mountain Rivera piece.

Later Sly contacted me and had me come out to California. I met with Sly and Irwin Winkler. It was a feeling out process. We hit it off and they commissioned me to create the statue.

How much time did you have to complete the statue? How did that compare to how much time you would usually spend on a project of that size?

That was the only unpleasant thing about the project. I had one year to complete it. I would have loved to have had another six months... but given that, the perfectionist would then want another six months.

The final pose is so iconic. Were other poses ever considered?

Never. Sly knew what he wanted from the start. He didn’t want the robe. He wanted Rocky in a victorious pose. The guy has a photographic memory of images and he knew exactly what he wanted. We took lots of photos and created a life mask. I created some preliminary sketches mostly for gestures.

Do you have any of those sketches around?

[Laughing] I don’t think so.

How involved was Sly during the process of making the statue?

Sly was the patron from heaven. I gave him a schedule and he said when you’re done I’ll be out

What was the hardest part about sculpting the “Rocky” statue?

Doing the enlargement in such a short period of time. I first created a 28 inch model and from there we moved to the full size statue. You have to be so precise moving to such an enlargement. With today’s technology it would be a snap, but not then!

Between the time the statue was started and finished, Sly had lost a lot of weight and buffed up. I know that you had to make modifications to the statue. Were the changes difficult?

Not really. We made the changes to the 28 inch model. We spent 8 months of the year making everything right on the 28 inch model and then took 6 weeks making the enlargement. I personally supervised the work at the foundry.

IIf you were to do the statue again would you change anything?

I would do exactly the same thing again. It’s in the style of classic sculpture. Rocky has no expression on his face... very stoic.

Part two of the interview will appear next weekend. To learn more about Mr. Schomberg, his work and the Rocky sculpture, please visit Mr. Schomberg's official site and his Rocky Statue page. Statues are still available and they make great Father's Day gifts! - Craig