Sam Upton grew up a fan of Sylvester Stallone and “Rocky.”
The 1976 film still ranks as one of the greatest movies of all time for the actor.
And since he was a child, Upton dreamed of being an actor and creating a film like “Rocky.”
He is gearing up to debut his film, “Gun” at the Beverly Hills Film Festival on April 26. Upton wrote, directed and stars in the film.
“Gun” follows ex-prizefighter Joe Gun, played by Upton on his comeback when his middleweight contender son, played by Jared Abrahamson, is wrongfully blinded in the ring.
Having grown up heavily involved in martial arts, baseball, and other sports, Upton suffered an injury and his sports career was tragically cut short.
Beaten down and wanting to give up, he instead used this setback to push himself into the next chapter of his life. Living a real-life redemption story, Upton decided to write what he knew and based the “Gun” screenplay on his own experiences, even featuring his real life son in the firm adaptation.
“In my own life, I am a journeyman fighter who never got a title fight,” he says. “I realized in life, you have to take it. I’m going to get my title fight. This is my coming out party and I’m putting all the failure and struggle into this movie.”
Upton wrote the first 20 pages in 2008. Then he wrote three awful screenplays.
“Then one day, it hit me like a ton of bricks,” he says. “It was 4 a.m. and I got up and rewrote the movie four times. I finally nailed down the script two years ago.”
So it’s been nearly a 10-year journey in getting “Gun” to the screen.
Now that it’s ready for a world premiere, Upton has a lot of feelings.
“I’m so excited and so thrilled and nervous,” he says passionately. “What’s amazing about making a film is that you are in this weird vacuum in post production. You are in this dark cave, just working. Now I see the light at the end of the tunnel. And I want to show this film to the world.”
“Gun” also stars Mark Boone Junior, boxer/Muhammad Ali daughter Laila Ali, Kate Vernon and features real punches by professional boxers and MMA fighters including MMA star Jared Abrahamson, and Chicago Golden Glove Boxing Champion, Derek Zugic.
Though mostly set in the ring, Upton says it’s a story about fathers and sons and the importance of letting go of the past in order to forge ahead with a new future.
“It’s about resolution,” he says. “That’s one of the biggest things in life.”
Directing the film was a different outlet for Upton.
“I found myself directing and it’s given me a whole new outlook on the art form,” he says. “I love acting but there’s something so thrilling about directing and having the entire project be your vision. Aside from getting married and having kids, this is the next biggest accomplishment.”
After years of cutting his teeth in the film industry, Upton is ready to make his name as a director.
It’s a long journey from when he moved to California on March 1, 1999.
“I arrived with $500 and a drum set,” he says. “I knew one person. I slept on a bed that I found. My dining room table was a drum stool. I had a dorm fridge. But I had all kinds of dreams. With each job, I’ve inched closer to them. I’ve learned a lot.”
Upton has worked alongside Hollywood’s heavyweights including Christopher Walken, Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Amanda Seyfried and countless others.
After the premiere in Beverly Hills, Upton plans on submitting “Gun” to film festivals.
“I’ve submitted to the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival,” he says. “Hopefully we’ll be able to continue this conversation in October.”