It’s been almost forty years since the boxing classic Rocky hit theaters. Since then, there have been seven films that chronicle the story of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). The latest installment in the series shifts its focus to a new character, Apollo Creed’s son Adonis (Michael B. Jordon).
Directed by Ryan Coogler, Creed offers a raw yet sentimental depiction of grief and determination. It breaths new life into the series while retaining what has made it so timeless. Like the previous films, it centers on the rise of an underdog and the people that help elevate him.
Here are fifteen things we learned based on what they discussed.
- Michael B. Jordan was inspired by boxers Timothy Bradley, Pernell ‘Sweet Pea’ Whitaker and Andre Ward while creating Adonis’s fighting style.
- Ryan Coogler was in pre-production on Fruitvale Station when he first met with Sylvester Stallone to discuss Creed. Their meeting lasted only an hour.
- Fruitvale Station helped Coogler’s sophomore effort get the greenlight. The acclaimed indie caught the attention of producer Irwin Winkler, who at first wasn’t interested in another Rocky installment but changed his mind after seeing the award-winning drama.
- Winkler can be credited with discovering Stallone. The actor pitched him the first Rocky and insisted on starring in it, even turning down the $250,000 the studio offered to buy the script and have Ryan O’Neil or Burt Reynolds play the title character.
Stallone was initially apprehensive about revisiting “I said ‘no, no, no’” the Oscar winner said of his first response to Coogler’s pitch for the project. “It was a struggle to get the last one done and I was so happy with Rocky Balboa and the conclusion of Rocky’s story that I though ‘We don’t need to go any further with it.’ I dismissed his idea.” But it was the director’s persistence that led him to reconsider.
- Creed marks the first Rocky film that Stallone did not write. Coogler penned the script along with Aaron Covington. They both consulted the star while developing the story, in order to nail down Rocky’s voice.
- Coogler, who grew up watching the Rocky films with his family, wanted to tell a personal story much like he did with Fruitvale Station. The built in fanbase and pop culture appeal was a bonus.
- The first draft of the script was 204 pages and was trimmed down, with the ending changing several times. Two different conclusions for the film were shot.
Jordan credits Stallone with putting him at ease while he joined a cinematic legacy. “Sly did the biggest thing for me, which was to take that pressure off of me… to not worry about competing or living up to what the other Rocky films were – just to be myself.”
- Portraying Rocky’s physical deterioration was a humbling experience for Stallone. “When you sit in the chair and you come as one person and then you open your eyes an hour and a half later and you’ve been transformed to a person who’s not healthy… it’s very relatable,” the 69-year-old said. “This is what people live through every day… it made me definitely realize the clock is ticking.”
- Coogler wanted to uphold the series’ father/son theme. “It’s a sport where you need to lean on other people,” the filmmaker said. “You see fighters have this bond with their trainer. We saw it with Tyson and Cus D’amato. We saw it with Rocky and Mick. It’s a very special bond. We wanted to capture that.”
- Tessa Thompson worked with Coogler to make sure her role was more than just that of the love interest. “Ryan really wanted to show a girlfriend character in the context of a sports movie that was complicated, that had her own life and own dreams,” the actress said. “I think that’s something we hope women can relate to.”
Composer Ludwig Göransson worked with Thompson, who plays a musician, to create nine original songs for the film. The two explored Philly’s rich music scene for inspiration.
- The Swedish born Göransson, who also scored Fruitvale Station, worked to find a contemporary soundtrack that mirrored the iconic songs from the previous films. He also focused on giving Adonis his own theme.
- Stallone has expressed his pride in being a part of a story that has remain relevant for decades. “What’s amazing is that this character and these stories have stayed around without any special effects, without any car chases, without blowing anything up, which is what I usually do, no bullets, no cursing, no sex scenes,” Stallone said. “That’s what I think is so phenomenal. That a generation that wasn’t even around when we did the third one, forget the first one, would embrace this and take it to a new level.”