Rocky Has "Retired" Before
Following the release of Creed 2, Stallone declared the movie would be his final time playing Rocky. While Rocky’s role in the story supports this position, it’s not the first time he’s called time on the character. He initially thought Rocky III would make the series a neat little trilogy and planned to stop there - but he surrendered that thought when the movie proved to be a big hit. Instead, he declared Rocky V would definitely be the end, with the original script featuring the death of Rocky following his street brawl with ex-protégé Tommy Gunn. This was the plan well into filming, but both Stallone and the studio had a change of heart, with Stallone feeling Rocky’s death was against the core themes of the series.
Thus, Rocky survived, but audiences, critics, and Stallone himself would consider the movie a disappointing note to end on. Despite this lingering disappointment, Stallone once declared in the late 1990’s he would be ‘stupid’ to return to either Rocky or Rambo. Nevertheless, his dissatisfaction with Rocky V eventually inspired him to write Rocky Balboa, where he would also channel his frustrations with his own movie career. Rocky Balboa was built from the ground up as the final chapter, and Stallone declared again it would be the final time he played the role. Fast forward to Creed, where a reluctant Stallone is convinced of the wisdom of Rocky stepping into a trainer role. Creed brought Stallone some of the biggest kudos of his acting career, and he would earn a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Academy Awards.
Stallone has also called time on other franchises prematurely. He once thought Rambo III was the end of that series – despite dissatisfaction with the final product – until the success of Rocky Balboa convinced him to dust off the headband and bowie knife for 2008’s Rambo. He declared more than once that a Rambo 5 would never happen, but he recently wrapped work on Rambo 5: Last Blood. It was the same story with The Expendables, with the actor proclaiming he wouldn’t return for a fourth movie in 2017, only to later sign on.
Why Stallone Will (Probably) Return For Creed 3
Rocky is a character that obviously means a lot to Stallone. The first Rocky movie literally gave Stallone a career in the film industry, and Rocky’s on-screen journey has in many ways mirrored the ups and downs of his own life and career. Every time he’s declared himself finished, circumstances conspire to pull him back into the ring. Even co-stars like Dolph Lundgren have cast doubt on his latest retirement declaration, and that he’ll be back again even if it’s just a cameo. Stallone has had a heavy creative say in every film in the series so far; in addition to starring, he’s written every entry and directed 4 of them, though he decided not to direct Creed 2.
While Creed 2 untangles itself from the past and declares Creed 3 will be charting new territory, it’s hard to imagine Stallone won’t be involved somehow. He’s the author of the series in more ways than one, and whether he’s a producer or helps work on the script, a Rocky appearance feels somehow inevitable. Adonis and Rocky feel inextricably linked, and it would be hard to picture a scenario where Donnie needs advice or help – either in boxing or being a new parent – and wouldn’t turn to his mentor/father figure for help. The most likely outcome is that instead of being a supporting player, Rocky will make a cameo appearance next time, turning up during a couple of crucial moments. Creed is Michael B. Jordan’s franchise, and Stallone is smart – and humble – enough to recognize this, but if the past is any indicator, the bell hasn’t yet rung on Rocky’s time in the ring.