The violent grudge match is over. Adonis Creed, son of former heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, has defeated Viktor Drago, the son of Russian boxer Ivan Drago – who killed Apollo in the ring nearly 40 years ago. Rocky Balboa, who trained Creed for the fight, looks at his fighter with pride and admiration and reaches for a mitten. As the retired “Italian Stallion” assures the descendants of his former rival in this climactic moment of “Creed II,” the eighth installment in the venerable “Rocky” franchise, “It’s your time.”
Michael B. Jordan understands the sentiment.
Since breaking into the fact-based “Fruitvale Station” ten years ago, playing a young Bay Area man who has a deadly encounter with transit police, his meteoric rise has paved the way for a gallery of critically acclaimed performances in projects such as “Black Panther’, ‘Without Remorse’, ‘Just Mercy’ and the ‘Creed’ movies.
With “Creed III,” the latest chapter in the saga, the phrase takes on a whole new meaning: The film represents the most important – and riskiest – venture of Jordan’s career, taking ownership of Stallone’s creation, the most successful sports franchise in the world. movie. history, injecting it with themes of personal and cultural significance absent from other “Rocky” films.
In addition to reprising his muscular character, Jordan is also making his directorial debut. The setting has been moved from Philadelphia to Los Angeles and the presentation is epic: the brutal battle sequences were filmed with Imax cameras to fulfill Jordan’s mission to put the viewer “in the middle of the battle”. Creed’s nemesis is played this time by the red-hot Jonathan Majors, who gets swept up in his own “it’s your time” buzz.
Not that the heightened expectations have upset Jordan. Sitting in a Beverly Hills hotel suite a few days before the movie’s star-studded Hollywood premiere, he’s the chill personification, displaying the air of an artist secure in his ambitions and leadership. He admits he has some big gloves to fill, taking charge without the regular presence of Stallone or his frequent collaborator Ryan Coogler, the director of “Fruitvale Station”, “Black Panther” and “Creed”.
But he made it clear he had no choice. He was driven to follow his artistic instincts to take the “Rocky” franchise in a new and more current direction, aware that the challenges would be formidable.
“There’s nothing anyone could have told me to prepare me for what I was doing,” Jordan said, leaning forward on a sofa. “People have tried and I’ve listened, and there’s still no comparison to what my wildest challenges were. But I have to take my swings.
Jordan’s impressive involvement in “Creed III” is proof of just how far he’s surpassed the label of heartthrob, having once scored People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive.” In addition to acting, he has produced most of his projects, including ‘Creed III’, and his production company Outlier Society has prioritized discovering and empowering diverse creators.
He knows his move into directing will be scrutinized: “As a person who’s always been compared to someone else, who’s had an opinion and been picked apart as far as he’s been in front of the camera my entire career – well, I’m used to That. But it’s never been on this scale, this level. And never before have I had this personal connection to what I do.
“But there is a lot of pride and excitement with this opportunity to be seen like I’ve never seen before. That’s pretty cool.”
“Creed III” is set several years after the end of “Creed II”, with Creed retired and enjoying life with his musician wife, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), and their young daughter, Amara (Mila Davis). -Knows). Their calm is shattered when Creed’s childhood friend and aspiring boxer Damian “Dame” Anderson (Majors) reappears after serving an 18-year prison sentence for a violent incident involving Creed.
Dame’s menacing agenda sends the former friends on a collision course that forces Creed to retire and return to the ring for a brutal showdown.
Key to Jordan’s vision was reflecting the parallels between Creed’s life and his own: “My personal life and this character have been connected for the past nine years. It’s super weird to play a character who’s going through the same things as me. Yes, the franchise has been a one-way street. But this isn’t Rocky. This is ‘Profession of Faith’. Their experiences will be completely different. They look different. I live in reality.”
While respecting the “Rocky” formula, Jordan wanted to combine the louder action with more intimate explorations of black masculinity and its toxic potential, childhood trauma, and the challenges — and power — of forgiveness.
“The only way to tell that story was to make it feel primarily like an origin story, a sequel, and part of the trilogy all in one,” Jordan said. “I have to fulfill the invisible contract I made with my audience, which is what they expect from these Rocky-Creed movies, but I also have to put my spin on it. We show what is true for Adonis as a black man living in America.”
And he’s not done yet. He’s already thinking about creating a “Creed-verse”: “You’ll see more of Creed in different forms. The intellectual property is so rich. And I am of the generation that has the hunger, the vision and the drive to make it happen.”
Stallone, co-writer of “Creed II” and listed as a producer on “Creed III,” was a vocal critic of “Rocky” producer Irwin Winkler and demanded “what’s left of my rights back” in a series of social media posts that ended summer. In a subsequent conversation with the Hollywood Reporter, Stallone called his absence from the film “a regrettable situation”: “It was taken in a direction very different from what I would have taken. It’s a different philosophy — that of Irwin Winkler and Michael B. Jordan. I wish them well, but I’m much more of a sentimentalist. I like my heroes getting beat up, but I just don’t want them to go into that dark space. I just feel like people have enough darkness.
When asked about Stallone’s complaints, Jordan was diplomatic.
“There are many things in this industry that have nothing to do with you,” he said. “This franchise started before I was even born. Let’s just start there. Then there’s the DNA of the world Sly built. The underdog spirit that has always been there.”
He paused, “We live in a different era. I have a following who love Creed for whom He is. Some of these people don’t even know who Rocky is. They’ve never seen the “Rocky” movies. But they’ve seen Creed.
“My job is to focus on the work, the story, the character, all these things that are in play, and not take all that other stuff personally. There is nothing but love and opportunity. If and when Stallone wants to be a part of this, public or private, I will always be here with open arms and a warm smile, as always.”
More top of mind for Jordan than Stallone is his “Creed III” co-star Majors. The actor, who has already been acclaimed for his work in ‘The Last Black Man in San Francisco’, ‘The Harder They Fall’ and HBO’s ‘Lovecraft Country’, has emerged as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after stars, earning high acclaim . for his appearances in the recent piece “Devotion,” Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” and the Sundance contest title “Magazine Dreams.”
The mere mention of Majors energized Jordan: “I am so proud of him. He’s a brother of mine. I know what he’s going through. I’ve had a three-picture year and I know what that can do to you. I’m happy to navigate, to help him where he wants to go. But he’s doing fine without me.”
He quieted down as he saw similarities between Majors’ experience and his own breakthrough in “Fruitvale Station,” as he and Coogler realized they were a strong team and wanted to continue working together.
“Part of me feels like I have a second chance to do that with Jonathan because I didn’t get a chance to do that with Chad —” His voice trailed off at the thought of his “Black Panther” co star Chadwick. Boseman, who died of colon cancer in 2020. The death of Boseman, who had quickly become one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors, was a devastating blow to fans and those who worked with him on “Black Panther,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Da 5 Bloods” and other projects.
Jordan was silent for several seconds as he looked into the distance. “I wanted to do more with him, you know. And I’m not letting this time pass…I’m excited about the opportunity to work with Jonathan again.
Majors, in a separate interview, called Jordan “one of the last movie stars. He’s a survivor. I have such great admiration for him. We are best friends. And he knows the Creed world better than anyone in the world.”
Thompson was also impressed with Jordan’s handling of his directing duties: “Honestly, it didn’t feel all that different from before. He still felt very much like my co-star.
She was also empowered by Adonis and Bianca’s relationship evolving into parenthood.
“The two of us would be the first to acknowledge that we’ve both had ups and downs in our personal relationships as we try to navigate what true love looks like,” Thompson said. “There’s something nice about returning over the course of nine years to a couple you can actually bet on.”
Speaking of romantic ups and downs, Jordan experienced a much-publicized breakup last year with model/influencer Lori Harvey, the daughter of comedian Steve Harvey. He joked about the split when he hosted “Saturday Night Live” in January. A few weeks later, Harvey was photographed with her new boyfriend, ‘Snowfall’ star Damson Idris.
Asked how he was handling his personal life while also celebrating his “Creed III” milestone, a publicist suddenly appeared in the room, ordering that the focus of the interview remain on the film.
A moment later, Jordan said curtly, “That’s been addressed.”
The mood lightened as Jordan continued to discuss his post-Creed III plans.
“I need to recalibrate,” he said. “I put everything I had creatively into this. I feel like I need to fill that bucket again, travel a bit, see some things, hang out with some people. Live a little so that I have more to say.”