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Black Panther and Creed director Ryan Coogler has high praise for Steven Caple Jr., the man chosen to take over directing Creed 2. Coogler’s Creed, a continuation of the Rocky franchise starring Michael B. Jordan as the son of Rocky character Apollo Creed, was a surprise box office hit with a domestic gross of $109 million. Sylvester Stallone earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his performance in Creed as an older Rocky Balboa. Coogler would go on to direct Black Panther, the MCU movie that has now grossed over $500 million worldwide in only a week of release.
After the success of Coogler’s Creed, a sequel became almost a foregone conclusion. Indeed, Stallone wasted no time announcing that he was writing a script for a Creed follow up. Stallone later said he would direct the film as well, with Coogler having moved on. However, plans must’ve changed because Stallone will not in fact direct the film. Instead, directing chores on Creed 2 go to Steven Caple Jr., a young filmmaker with only a single Indie feature on his resume. Of course, Coogler himself had only the Indie Fruitvale Station on his resume when he wrote and directed Creed. Tessa Thompson also returns for Creed 2 as Bianca.
Speaking to the Variety hosted “Playback” podcast, Ryan Coogler talked about handing off Creed 2 to Caple Jr. Coogler has nothing but praise for Caple, who he knows from film school. He also talked about how much of a personal experience the first Creed movie was for him. Host Krisopher Tapley asked Coogler if returning for Creed 2 was ever something that was possible for him. Coogler replied:
Michael B Jordan in Creed Ryan Coogler Praises Incredible Creed 2 Director
“I mean of course it was possible. Creed was about my dad and me, so it’s a movie that I find difficult to watch. It’s difficult for me to even think about it, I’ve got so many emotional ties to it, not to mention you know how much I care about the people involved. I care deeply for Mike, obviously, deeply for Tessa, and I grew incredibly close with Sly in making that. These are people that I wanna see do well and win at all costs. There’s timing, and that film for whatever reason it had to go when it’s going. I think it’s a blessing that it’s going, man. It’s amazing that they found an incredible filmmaker in Steven Caple Jr., who’s a guy I actually went to film school with, who I have a lot of love and respect for. I can’t wait to see what he does with it.”
Coogler’s Creed more-or-less rebooted the Rocky franchise by taking the emphasis off Rocky and instead placing Jordan’s Adonis Creed at the film’s center. Though Adonis begins in a very different place than Rocky, being a child of privilege and not a kid from the streets, the movie still works as an underdog story. Adonis doesn’t have to overcome poverty, but he does have to fight to be taken seriously and escape the shadow of his father, Rocky’s old nemesis-turned-friend Apollo Creed. Coogler’s direction infused the story with a more up-to-date urban attitude, making the formula feel as fresh as when John G. Avildsen directed the original Rocky in 1976. The underdog sports movie of course has become a cliche in the years since Rocky. But Coogler cleared away all that sense of routine and made something that felt alive.
Creed 2 will reach into history and resurrect Ivan Drago, the Russian boxer who in Rocky IV killed Apollo Creed. Rocky of course already got revenge against Drago at the end of Rocky IV. But now Adonis will get his own shot at payback in his father’s name, by taking on Drago’s own son, played by Florian ‘Big Nasty’ Munteanu. Dolph Lundgren returns to play Drago, hopefully not as the wrestling-heel cartoon character he was in Rocky IV. We’ll see if Steven Caple Jr. can work the same magic on Creed 2 that Coogler did on Creed.