Entertainment & Arts

Creed: Bringing Rocky to a new generation

Sylvester Stallone and Michael B Jordan in Creed Image copyright Warner Bros

The director and star of Rocky spin-off Creed talk about bringing the franchise back to life for old fans, while satisfying a new generation.

Sylvester Stallone fans were delighted when it was announced in 2013 he would be returning to his Rocky character in new film Creed. But this movie isn't about the boxing champ with six films to his name - instead, as the name points out - it focuses on the son of Rocky's old rival, Apollo Creed.

The film has been widely praised by critics and has seen Stallone collect a Golden Globe and score a best supporting actor Oscar nomination for the role - the same character which earned him his first Oscar nod 40 years ago.

The movie's success is no mean feat, taking into consideration the film was written and directed by a 29-year-old with only one feature under his belt.

Ryan Coogler had only 2013 real-life drama Fruitvale Station to his name, starring Michael B Jordan in the lead. Subsequently he concluded there was no better person to play Creed's son, Donnie Johnson.

Coogler and Jordan spoke to the BBC about reviving the franchise and bringing Rocky to a new generation.

Ryan Coogler

Congratulations on all the film's award nominations - did you ever imagine it would be received so well?

We hoped people would embrace it, but you never know so it's hard to really think about it like that.

I think the studio thinks about it a little more than the film-maker does, in terms of who is going to go and see it and how much money it's going to make. But I was definitely trying to make something that people would connect to.

You met Sylvester Stallone to get his blessing to make the film - I imagine that's like asking a girl's dad for his permission to marry her.

At the time when I went to meet him I had nothing to lose. I hadn't made a feature film as it was so early in my career and I was too foolish to know what I was doing but I was definitely nervous. But Sly was really nice - he is so charming you're kind of disarmed by it, so I pitched to him and he was like "that's cool", and then he signed some stuff for my dad and I went to make Fruitvale. Then, I went back and we spoke some more.

How conscious were you about making a film that would appeal to Rocky fans while also appealing to a new generation?

It was something we were always conscious of. We wanted to really thread that needle and make something that stood on its own and had its own style, but at the same time, people who were fanatics about the other ones would still recognise it.

Image copyright Warner Bros

Why did you decide to cast real boxers in the film, like British boxer Tony Bellew as Donnie Johnson's main opponent?

It was really important. We wanted it to look as authentic as possible and take an immersive approach in Mike's research. I figured if we were surrounding him with a real fighters it would rub off on him and he would pick up on stuff through osmosis.

Did you have any problems understanding Tony's Liverpudlian accent?

His accent isn't even that strong, man! It gets stronger when he's around his friends, but I have no problem understanding him. While I was in Liverpool [where some of the film was shot] I met a few people who I struggled to understand, but with Tony I've never had any problem understanding him.

I definitely met a few people in Liverpool though where I was like, "I've got nothing, you're definitely talking another language", but with Tony that wasn't the case.

MGM has just announced a Creed sequel, but you've also just signed up to direct Black Panther - are you on board?

It's going to be complicated, so we'll have to figure it out.

Image copyright Warner Bros

Michael B Jordan

Do you feel any pressure coming into a big franchise like Rocky?

I think people think I do, but I don't. Only because that pressure was taken off me from the beginning from Sylvester Stallone - the man who created that world himself. He told me not to try and imitate or live up to anything of what the Rocky franchise was, just go into it with a clear head and this is 'Creed One' not 'Rocky Seven' and just do your thing.

What was day one of filming with Stallone like? Was it intimidating?

The first day I filmed with him, it wasn't intimidating, it was a lot of fun. The scene we first worked on was a fight scene and when we walked into the arena it was electric. The crowd were chanting his name and there was a standing ovation for five minutes.

You look in great shape for the film, what was your training regime?

I did about a year-and-a-half of training like a real fighter - going to the gym, doing the ropes, push ups, speed bag, sparring and changing the diet completely.

It all starts with the diet - the grilled chicken, broccoli, brown rice and drinking a gallon-and-a-half of water a day. When you eat every two-and-a-half hours and work out three times a day your body is going to change dramatically.

Image copyright Warner Bros

What could you not eat?

All the refined sugars, bread, pasta, dairy - everything that is good in the world was out the window.

Did you have a binge session after you finished filming?

Exactly! Philly cheese steak sandwiches, pizza, pasta and everything I could eat.

And did you quit working out after?

Nope, I'm still training. It's a lifestyle now - when you start seeing abs you've never seen before you want to keep them.

You must be excited about the confirmation of a Creed sequel. What can you see the character doing?

There are so many places, I don't want to begin to speculate. But the one thing we didn't see in Creed was that he didn't have a clear villain, so it'll be good to have a clear antagonist for the next film.

Creed is out in cinemas now.

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