vester Stallone is opening up about his life as a struggling actor before writing and starring in the Oscar-winning film Rocky.
“I lived in basically this flop house, $26 a week, very transient, and you shared a floor with 10 people,” Stallone revealed in an interview with Robin Roberts for the ABC News special Journey to the Oscars.
The actor, who this year notched his third Academy Award nomination with his supporting turn in Creed, admitted that the low point in his career was being turned down as an extra in The Godfather.
“I couldn’t even get cast as an Italian,” Stallone said with a laugh. “I’ll never forget, there’s a party scene – it’s 300 guests! They said no. I said, ‘What part of me didn’t pass the Italian identification aspect?’ ”
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At the time, Stallone said he felt like “God is telling me something.”
But instead of giving up, he decided to take control of the situation and write his own screenplay. Three-and-a-half days later, he had finished the script for Rocky.
“I just didn’t understand how the rules of life were played at that point but this character I understood,” he explained.
Despite receiving a $360,000 offer for the script, Stallone refused to sell unless he could star as the film’s titular character.
The resulting film received 10 Oscar nominations at the 1977 Academy Awards, winning three: Best Picture, Best Director and Best Film Editing. In addition, Stallone joined Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles as the third person to be nominated for both acting and writing in the same year.
Nearly four decades later, Stallone is back in the Oscar race for his turn in the Rocky revival film Creed, directed by Ryan Coogler and starring Michael B. Jordan. Ironically, it’s a role Stallone said he almost turned down.
“I never wanted to do this movie. I thought sick Rocky is exactly what is so counter-intuitive to what the optimistic aspect of what Rocky really is designed for … If you’re afraid of something, that’s the commitment of the artist. That’s his duty to pursue the unknown, to go someplace where he’s literally at odds with himself,” Stallone said.
Now, nominated again for the first time since 1977, Stallone could not be happier to celebrate the movie’s success.
“This is a really special moment in my life because there are not that many moments left. You know they are really getting very special,” he said.
Watch our Live from the Oscars Red Carpet show on PEOPLE.com starting at 5:30 ET/2:30 PT on Feb. 28 – and the 88th Academy Awards at 7 ET/4 PT on ABC. Click here for a handy ballot of this year’s Oscar nominees!