Cannon Films were the kings of B-action movies in the mid-eighties, but they wanted to move into the big leagues. They set their sites on Sylvester Stallone, then at the peak of his popularity, to star in movies for them. Their first film together, Cobra, was not a typical Cannon movie. It had a huge budget – $25 million and was a co-production with a major studio, Warner Bros. It was meant to be a blockbuster and indeed was a financial success grossing $48 million at the domestic box office and about twice that domestically. Yet, it was considered a mild disappointment because Marion Cobretti did not become the next Rambo. Even still, Cannon had to be happy, and they doubled down on Sly, offering him the highest salary ever paid to a movie star at the time – $12 million – to star in 1987’s Over the Top.
Based on a script by actor Gary Conway and David Engelbach, the film was pitched as a low-key character-driven drama, with the lead earmarked for a guy like Don Johnson. The story of a man trying to win back his estranged son, once writer Stirling Silliphant, the writer of In The Heat of the Night, The Poseidon Adventure, and The Towering Inferno was brought in, it was pumped up to become an epic Rocky-esque tale, so who else could they get on board but Stallone?
The result was a major box office flop whose entire domestic gross didn’t cover Stallone’s salary, but in the decades since its cult status has grown to the point that it’s now one of Stallone’s most popular eighties movies.