We’re making an action movie – if you’re not getting hurt, you ain’t trying hard enough...
WHEN Sylvester Stallone revealed his plans to retire the character of Rocky Balboa last week, film fans despaired. The veteran actor, who has played the celebrated boxer since 1976, dropped the bombshell via Instagram, where he told his eight million followers: “It’s been my ultimate privilege to have been able to create and play this meaningful character.”
“Though it breaks my heart, sadly all things must pass... and end,” added the 72-yearold, alongside a video of a speech he gave to his Creed II co-stars.
Suggesting his appearance in the latest blockbuster for the saga will be his last, Stallone has insisted lead, Michael B. Jordan, will now “carry the mantle”.
It seems the 31-year-old star is suitably flattered, too.
“It’s an honour, honestly,” says Michael, who put in a knockout performance as boxer Adonis Creed in original Rocky spin-off Creed and returns to the title role in the new sequel.
“I know what that character and that franchise means to him – and for him to see that same potential inside of me, I think it’s a big deal,” he explains.
“I didn’t expect him to say that and he did, so it caught me off guard,” he admits on the eve of the sequel’s release.
“But it feels special; it’s something I take seriously. He knows that I’m gonna do him justice.”
If the Californian’s previous efforts are anything to go by, there’s no doubt he will.
Hot on the heels of Creed’s success in 2016, Creed II, directed by Steven Caple Jr, sees Michael take on the next chapter of Adonis’ story, which follows the young boxer’s life inside and outside of the ring as he deals with fame, family, his father’s legacy, and his continuing quest to be the best.
The sequel sees the introduction of Viktor Drago: a young, undefeated heavyweight contender, played by real-life Romanianborn, German-raised boxer Florian “Big Nasty” Munteanu.
He’s the son of Ivan Drago (played by Dolph Lundgren), the Russian boxer who killed Adonis’ father Apollo in the ring three decades earlier.
Deciding he has a score to settle, Adonis prepares, with the help of trainer, Rocky, for a showdown.
“I don’t think he ever felt like a champ,” says Michael.
“He never felt like he was the sure-win, which is an interesting thing to play.
“He’s always felt like he has
He’s the star of Creed II and hot property in Hollywood, but the uber-talented Michael B. Jordan is taking it all in his stride. He talks fighting, fame and films with GEMMA DUNN
something to prove.
“And out of nowhere, this blast from the past arrives which forces Adonis to go down a dark road, to really reflect on and figure out why he fights,” adds Michael, who earlier this year received critical acclaim for his standout portrayal of villain Erik Killmonger in Marvel’s Black Panther.
“This film shows that sometimes you have to go through darkness and the fire to realise what’s important.”
To get back in the ring, full stop, was going to take some serious training, especially if Michael was to square up to
6ft 4ins Munteanu.
“For the first film, there’s no way I could imagine what I was going to be doing – the second time around, it was worse,” he confesses, with a laugh.
“I have to believe when I was stepping into the ring, I am a fighter,” he says. “I would work out to exhaustion, day in and day out. Sometimes twice a day, going home with swollen knuckles and all.
“A boxer has a certain look and has to make a certain weight.
“To get in shape for this one, we definitely amped up the cardio along with the boxing, which itself is an amazing workout, two times a day, every day for six weeks.”
Fitness aside, the highaction fight scenes still resulted in a number of hospital visits – on both sides. Not that it deterred Michael.
“It’s a badge of honour, honestly,” he quips, smiling. “We’re making an action film and if you’re not getting hurt, then you ain’t trying hard enough.
“So I feel like it just means that we were putting it all on the line for the perfect shot. For the perfect scene.”
Has he had any pinchyourself moments, given the success this role has earned him?
“I think the first time I finished the fight scenes, in the first movie, was a pinch-myself moment of like, ‘Oh, we did that’.
“Especially working with director Ryan (Coogler)!
“That was our second film we’ve done together (the pair previously collaborated on Fruitvale Station and have since joined forces for Black Panther) and I felt like, ‘We did it again’. It was such an accomplishment.”
The fact Michael served as an executive producer on Creed II also left him feeling “more conscious” of his involvement, he reasons.
“I’ve always been producing or always trying to add to the story or character of the film in some type of way. I’m a team player, so I just want, as a whole, for the movie to do well,” he follows.
“For me, you’ve got to do it one movie at a time, one scene at a time, and just try to do your best,” he says. “Give it your all, every day, and at the end of it, if you’ve got something great, then people are going to let you know.”
As for the fame, Michael, who is in hot demand in Hollywood, is taking it in his stride.
“I’m the same guy, I’m not changing,” he protests. “It’s an adjustment when you have your privacy taken away but that’s what comes with it.
“I love my fans, I love the love that I get for what I do, so I just try to reciprocate it as much as possible,” he finishes.
“You’ve got to throw your energy back out into the universe and it will send it back to you.”
Michael B. Jordan on the red carpet
Creed II stars Dolph Lundgren, Brigitte Nielsen, Tessa Thompson, Michael B. Jordan, Steven Caple Jr. and Florian Munteanu at the European premiere
Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan in Creed II