We’re mak­ing an ac­tion movie – if you’re not get­ting hurt, you ain’t try­ing hard enough...

Warwickshire Telegraph - - SCREEN SHOTS -

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

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