As the seventh installment in the Rocky franchise and a soft-reboot in its own right, Creed had a lot to live up to. The film tells the story of boxing champion Apollo Creed’s son Adonis, (Michael B. Jordan) as he fights to emerge from his father’s long shadow, training with Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and struggling to achieve greatness. A moving film that boasts what some are calling the best performance from Stallone in years, the film managed to not only honor the story that came before it, but stand on its own.
After a slew of positive reviews the film has now amassed $100 million domestic, and can safely be called a success. With the advantage of hindsight, taking on this project now seems like a no brainier for Stallone who enjoyed quite a bit of success thanks to the original franchise. In fact, the opposite was true for the star, and we now have more information about why the actor was so hesitant to step back into the ring and what it was about writer/director Ryan Coogler‘s pitch that brought him around.
In an interview with Deadline (via Indiewire) Stallone reveals that the ending of 2006’s Rock Balboa – which at the time spawned talk of a spinoff with costar Milo Ventimiglia as the lead – was enough for him, and he didn’t want to mess with a good thing.
“It took [Coogler] about two years to convince me. I had been very, very grateful the way last chapter of ‘Rocky Balboa’ wrapped up his story in a satisfactory way for the audience. When Rocky waves goodbye, that was a goodbye to the audience and a thank you. I just thought, ‘Finally,’ and thought it was a wonderful send-off. Rocky stayed dormant for six or seven years, and then this fellow comes in, and says, ‘Oh, can we dig him up?’ I go, ‘No, no, no, no.‘”
Stallone was also uncomfortable with the subject matter as the aging fighter struggled with health issues while he trained Adonis stating:
“My first reaction was it was disconcerting. It shows Rocky outside the ring, fighting the fight that he really can’t win. It’s a fight against the greatest opponent in the world; life. I said, ‘No, kid, I think we’re tampering with something here we should leave alone.’“
It turns out it took seeing the success of the previous Jordan and Coogler pairing Fruitvale Station, and hearing Coogler’s passion for the subject to bring him around to the idea.
“So he goes away and does Fruitvale Station. Wins all these awards, and he’s offered multiple job opportunities and he keeps coming back to Creed. I see this and say, this fellow here obviously is functioning on a different kind of energy. It is heartfelt, not monetary, not ego. It’s as though he has to finish a mission, which was a love letter to his father who had been very, very ill and that stimulated the idea. There was just something about this kid, who was very, very physical in his manner, but sensitive and emotional. It kind of reminded me…of me, truth be told. So I finally said, ‘You know what? Someone took a chance on me, once. I’m just going to throw caution to the wind and let him run with it.‘”
This pitch clearly illustrates the writer/director’s close relationship to the story, something that was rendered clearly onscreen. It was lucky for everyone involved that Stallone put his full support behind the movie and given the high emotional stakes of the franchise, it seems appropriate that Stallone’s motivations for moving forward with the project were emotional, rather than financial. It remains to be seen if the film’s success will lead to a Creed II, but with so much talent involved, it certainly is an intriguing idea.