Steven Caple Jr. has been tapped to direct Creed 2, the next installment in the Rocky franchise. Sylvester Stallone at one point looked ready to take the director’s reins on the film which he also wrote, but plans clearly changed. Tessa Thompson will also return for Creed 2 in the role of Bianca.

The Rocky franchise seemed dead until writer-director Ryan Coogler revived it with 2015’s Creed, starring Michael B. Jordan as the son of Apollo Creed. Sylvester Stallone earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his Creed performance as an older, cancer stricken Rocky Balboa. Plans for a Creed sequel came together in 2017, with Stallone taking on writing duties. The new film, set to go before cameras in January 2018, has Adonis Creed (Jordan) squaring off against the son of Rocky’s old nemesis Ivan Drago. Dolph Lundgren will return as the Russian behemoth Drago, the man who killed Apollo Creed in the ring.

Related: Creed 2 Gets Official Release Date

Stallone at one point confirmed he was directing Creed 2, but now Variety reports that plans have changed and Steven Caple Jr. will take the job. Stallone is still on-board to play Rocky Balboa, marking his eighth onscreen appearance as the character. Stallone wrote the script along with Luke Cage writer Cheo Hodari Coker. Variety also reports that Tessa Thompson will come back as Bianca, Adonis Creed’s love interest from the first film. Ryan Coogler will stay involved as executive producer.

Rocky Balboa Creed Sylvester Stallone Creed 2 Gets a New Director; Tessa Thompson Returning

According to Variety, Stallone elected to back off directing Creed 2 after talking things over with Michael B. Jordan and studio execs. Stallone has helmed Rocky pictures in the past, and also directed the first Expendables and 2008’s Rambo. But Stallone’s background mostly as a director of schlock may have alarmed Warner Bros. and MGM execs hoping to repeat the success of Creed. Ryan Coogler brought a style and character sense to Creed that is nothing like Stallone’s ham-fisted directorial touch. Stallone has graciously handed the reins over to Steven Caple Jr., saying in a statement:

“The character of Adonis Creed reflects this generation and its challenges. I believe it’s important for the director to also be a part of this generation like I was in mine, to make the story as relatable as possible. We are extremely lucky to have the talented young filmmaker Steven Caple Jr. step up and accept the role of director. I am confident that he and Michael B. Jordan will hit it out of the park!”

Jordan and Stallone chose new Creed 2 director Steven Caple Jr. together. Studio execs are said to have been impressed by Caple’s feature film debut, the 2016 coming-of-age film The Land, which Caple directed right out of USC. Producers clearly believe Caple has a better chance of creating an awards worthy, character driven drama like Creed. The first Creed was a surprise hit, grossing $109 million in the U.S.

The third major Creed cast member, Tessa Thompson, has also agreed to reprise her role for Creed 2. Thompson has vaulted to a new level of stardom since Creed, starring as Charlotte Hale on Westworld, and playing Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok.

MORE: Dolph Lundgren Trains For Creed 2 Return

Source: Variety

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