A. Thomas Schomberg Interview, Part II

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.

Were you a “Rocky” fan prior to taking on the project?

Absolutely. I’m one of the loyal and it’s not out of my association with the movie. I like “Rocky” on a personal level. I hardly see a movie more than once and I went three or four times to see “Rocky.”

Which “Rocky” is your favorite?

“Rocky” is my favorite even though my piece appears in “Rocky 3" and “Rocky 5.” “Rocky” felt authentic and touched emotions in all of us. In “Rocky Balboa” Sly did it again.

Do you ever speak to Sly these days?

We do. Not often, but we do communicate every year or so.

What does it take to get started, both mentally and physically, on a sculpture? Do you ever experience a creative block?

I don’t think that I’ve ever experienced a major creative block. What I do when I begin is take notes, write, read, research and meditate. Most of the time the work I do is 1/4 life size. Can I get stumped? Without a doubt. I may even move on to another piece, but I love working it out. I try to model every day. I try to think about the process every day.

When did you realize just how popular and inspirational the “Rocky” statue had become?

When you hear from a person fighting cancer who has pinned up a picture of it for inspiration... when you hear from a Golden Gloves fighter who tells you how it represents so much to him... when you see people from all over the world making a special trip to see the statue... Rocky isn’t a Buddha... he is not someone for spiritual guidance, but he is an inspiration.

What does the statue mean to you? I know that you’ve visited Philly and personally seen people’s reactions to the statue. Can you describe the experience?

Seeing people’s reactions are an ego rush. It makes you really proud. I was at the site of the statue and 15 high school students were around it. My friend told them that I was the artist that created it and their response was amazing. A basketball team from Belfast, Ireland was also there at the time. They had made a special trip to provide inspiration for a tournament that they were in. This is a much bigger thing than I am. I just try to be a noble representative.

What did you think about all the controversy regarding the placement of the statue at the Art Museum?

I knew early on that Sly wanted to give it to the city. I knew it would be difficult. The museum culture had changed. Had it been done in the 1920's, it would have been accepted. I was hoping that they would be brave enough to accept it, but I realize and respect the decision that had to be made.

Art in contemporary society changes. Prior to the 19th century the artist was a part of society. Then it changed so that the artist was more of a bohemian bum. It becomes so naive. Art is art. In the 70's no one would mention Norman Rockwell... that is changing.

What did you think about the final decision to place the statue at the bottom of the steps?

It’s an acknowledgment. The top of the steps would have been great, but...

Have you made any other statues for movies?

I haven’t. We’ve received requests for my works to appear in background scenes, but nothing has been made specifically for other movies.

What is your favorite subject for sculpting?

The human figure. I love doing it. The human figure... only a God could produce a gift of such magnitude.

What will you sculpt next?

I am 100% engaged in a series describing 9-11. It’s now a part of our society... of who we are. I don’t personally know anyone who died on that day, but I know the tragedy. The figures will represent the full range of emotions.

One last question about the Rocky statue... I know that over the years you received many offers to make the “Rocky” statue available to collectors. Why did it take so long for it to happen?

The “Rocky” statue was a labor of love. This time everything seemed to fall into place. The technology to reduce to a smaller scale and keep the quality was there. The ability to create three levels of mini-statues, with at least one level affordable to the blue-collar guy was a rewarding experience. “Rocky” was a blue-collar guy, a man from the streets... it would have been wrong to alienate the real “Rocky’s” of the world from being able to afford one.

Mr. Schomberg, I want to thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. You statue has long been and continues to be an inspiration to us all.

Thank you, Craig. I am just a small part of the “Rocky” phenomenon. I try to be a good representative of the ideals that “Rocky” represents. You should also be commended for your role in creating the StalloneZone and providing a place for “Rocky” and Stallone fans from around the world. What you’ve undertaken is a noble task and you should be commended.

 

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