Steven Caple Jr. first got major attention when his student film A Different Tree won HBO’s Short Film Competition in 2013. His first feature film The Land premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and was acquired by IFC Films. Caple’s most recent film is Creed II, the sequel to Ryan Coogler’s critically acclaimed Creed.
Screen Rant: There's enough pressure coming in directing a big-budget movie, but not only are you directing Creed as a franchise, but also one of the most celebrated franchises of all-time, Rocky. When you got the job, how did wrap your head around that and what did you specifically want to bring to the sequel?
Steven Caple Jr.: Great question. (Breathes) I mean I breathed just like I did now when I found that I had the job. But they contacted me first after watching, The Land, my first feature film. It was totally unexpected. I was on this different path of writing my next feature and really it was a conversation with Mike and Sly. I was curious where they were going with it. I knew that the Dragos were coming back. But I also was like I wanted it to feel real. And when I saw that we were all kind of on the same page, that's where the real excitement kicked in. I think at first it was a bit of the nerves. Right? It's like I want to step into it but, Creed was really good so I just wanted to make sure that everyone was on the same page to do something better. And when you hear that from the actors and the producers of the film, you're like everyone's on the same page. It's not just about trying to make money. It's about trying to tell a story and make it be good. So that was exciting. What I brought differently, or what I wanted to do. Was to add a little different taste and flare to the fight scenes. I wanted to make sure that it was a character driven piece still on all angles.
Screen Rant: Absolutely. Because you do something really interesting in this film. Because you get to a point where you kind of sympathize with Ivan and Viktor as well, to an extent. So talk to me. The U.S.S.R. and Russia in the 80's was a lot different than it is now. Talk to me about Viktor and Ivan specifically and where they're at in the film.
Steven Caple Jr.: Yeah yeah. So ultimately they are not in Russia... We went from the last image of when we saw Ivan Drago from Rocky IV with his head down and then everyone kind of backed off of him and he felt isolated. And his girl was kind of there, but she kind of wasn't. You know what I mean? Without giving away too much... So you saw her look, but she wasn't patting him on the back or anything. And that image alone can kind of tell you a story. So we took that...the backstory. Is he still getting that support? If not would he even still stay in that country? What would that be like? You are supposed to be on top of the world and all of sudden you've let everyone down. It's kind of like we don't even want to deal with you. So, he went away from that. And from there we kind of developed a character that has these layers alone. Then what we do just kind of peel them back along the way. At first started with like 'Aw this dude is the bad guy, he's the villain.' But then as you follow the story and getting the pieces of the history as we go. And that made us feel for him.
Screen Rant: With Sylvester Stallone being a producer on this, you got to direct him as well. Talk to me about how hands-on he was with advice on set, or did he kind of let you do your own thing?
Steven Caple Jr.: No, he definitely let you do your own thing. He was hands-on, but it was more so for the fight scenes. But the hands-on is definitely...it's a formula to Rocky fights and the franchise. So he just kept that in the back of our minds as we did it. I know he did the same with Ryan because Ryan told me to 'make sure to listen to dude, because he knows his stuff.' And so, that was definitely good to have, you know? Because when you dealing with so much fighting and you are trying to do this film in such a fast way. He's been here before, so you have to pay attention as like a mentor. So, you have that aspect. Then on set and directing him in scenes, he wanted you to try something. If you didn't he will call you out in a joking way. "I've did this before." (Laughs) He wants you to try something new, you know? So that was really cool. Because you don't know...At a certain point you probably like he wants to stick to his own model... Naw, he's really passionate about this series. He wants greatness and that pushes you in many different ways. Yeah, Sly was great...
Screen Rant: You did a great job because every time Adonis got hit I felt it too!
Steven Caple Jr.: You felt it? Awesome. Perfect!
- Creed 2 (2018) release date: Nov 21, 2018