‘Youth must be served’
Over four decades, Stallone’s insight into Rocky has grown
PHILADELPHIA – Standing inside a dark soundstage on a break from shooting a scene for Creed II, Sylvester Stallone is hanging back, letting star Michael B. Jordan get all the attention.
They’re in the midst of shooting a sequence where Jordan’s Adonis Creed is making his way to the ring where he’s about to do battle with Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), the son of Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago, the man who killed his father in Rocky IV. But the spotlight is shining squarely on Jordan.
That this is both a second Creed and an eighth Rocky movie isn’t lost on Stallone, 72. He sees this new entry as handing a torch from one generation to another.
“It’s a way to pass the mantle — both behind the scenes and in front of the scenes,” he said. Q: How will Creed II be different that the last one and the previous Rocky movies? A: I think the new instalment is really fantastic and somewhat Shakespearean, without sounding pretentious. The ancient history of myself and Drago we thought was dead and buried. But it’s been passed on to the sons and now, even though they don’t have anything against each other, they feel like they have to fight for revenge —and it’s something we really study in this movie. Do you really have to shoulder the responsibility of carrying the legacy of your father? Are you doing it to be better than your father? Are you doing it for publicity? Are you doing it because you feel the necessity to vindicate him and get revenge? So it tackles really big, broad subjects. I think it’s fantastic. I think it’s going to be as good as the last one or even better. Q: You were going to direct this at one point. Why did you step away? A: I was going to direct it, but I realized youth must be served. This kid (Steven Caple Jr.) has such great vision and energy. Making this kind of film is incredibly taxing because you’re doing (the directing) and the drama. You’re doing two things. It’s at least six months shooting, maybe a year of prep, so when it’s fin- ished, Steven will have been on this movie for two years straight. Q: You’ve been playing this character for 42 years. We can’t think of any other instance in Hollywood history where that’s happened. A: I need a lot of rehearsal, what can I say? But I got it now (laughs). I think I’ve nailed it. Q: Has the character changed? A: The irony is, as my life evolves, I find new things in the Rocky character. In the last one, he faced death and his own mortality. In this one, he’s finally completely alone. The only thing he has left is this young man. So he’s now part of the Creed universe. The Rocky universe is gone. It’s left in the graveyard. Q: Is there a sense of nostalgia? A: Yeah, there is. But it’s not going to be a down ending, it’s going to have an up ending. A very emotional ending. Q: Your colleagues on the film say they come to you for archival research about great fights. Is that true? A: That’s right. I’ve just been doing it for so long and I continue to do it. I think what makes these fights so great is we take excerpts from real fights and then inject them into this. We go, “Is that possible?” And we say, “Yeah it is. It happened in 1945, ’47.” I never thought we’d find a better boxer than Carl Weathers, who was unbelievable, but wait until you see Michael in this. His shape is unbelievable. Q: Talk a little about Florian Munteanu, who plays Ivan’s son, Viktor. A: Florian is unbelievable. You’ve heard these stories, and most of them are B.S., where the people involved in the making of a movie say, “We looked at over 4,000 people for this role.” No they didn’t. They looked at maybe 40. But we looked at every large heavyweight fighter in the world because you couldn’t use an actor. Michael’s an actor, so we needed someone in there who’s experienced. Dolph Lundgren was a world champion kickboxer, so when you saw him move, it’s something you can’t learn in a year. Florian was a real fighter. He had the moves, he had the looks and he had the size. He also had empathy. You look into his eyes and you like him, even though he’s playing a terrible character. So there’s an ambiguity in there. I can’t tell you how many men, they were incredible specimens, but the face wasn’t right and they didn’t have the look in their eyes. To get the whole package? He’s one of a kind. Twitter: @markhdaniell [email protected]media.com
Sylvester Stallone in a scene from “Creed II.” BARRY WETCHER/METRO GOLDWYN MAYER PICTURES/WARNER BROS/PICTURES/AP
Michael B. Jordan, left, and Sylvester Stallone in a scene from “Creed II.”