A great fighter once said, “It’s not about how hard you can hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” – Adonis Johnson
It takes strength and determination to be a world-class fighter. But for Adonis Johnson, even with boxing in his blood, it will take something more: Rocky Balboa. To step out from the shadow of Apollo Creed, the father he never knew, Adonis must get Rocky back in the ring.
Although the former champ has been out of the fight game for some time, Adonis reminds him of the tough, young upstart he himself once was. After some prodding, Rocky agrees to train him, his way.
The challenge of re-envisioning the ultimate underdog story that began with “Rocky” was one that writer/director Ryan Coogler considered even before he was out of film school. “I grew up watching ‘Rocky’ movies with my dad; it was our thing,” he states. “Rocky is a character that people just connect with – action fans, drama fans, hopeless romantics, even just movie fans – everyone likes ‘Rocky’ movies because they have something for everyone.”
Before Adonis could coax Rocky into coming back, Coogler had to receive Sylvester Stallone’s blessing to work with the character, and the actor’s commitment to put the gloves back on. Stallone, also a producer on the film, has played one of the most legendary and beloved characters in film history in six “Rocky” films over nearly four decades. He says, “The impression Rocky has left on people is both confounding and extraordinary to me. I’ve always felt a relentless responsibility to keep the character intact because of that. So when Ryan came to me with the idea of Adonis Creed coming into the picture, I thought it was incredible, this filmmaker who is so young and yet so captivated by what we’d begun all those years ago. I admit, I was intrigued.”
Coogler smiles when recalling his first meeting with the icon. “I could tell he was a little apprehensive. I hadn’t even made a feature film yet, so he was probably thinking, ‘Who is this kid coming in talking about making a “Rocky” movie?’ But I could tell he was also thinking about every different way it could work.”
The filmmaker also mentioned the idea to his “Fruitvale Station” star, Michael B. Jordan, during production on that film. Jordan recalls, “Ryan is so talented, such a smart guy and so great to work with, so when he first mentioned the project to me I thought it sounded great, and that if it ever happened I’d definitely want to do it. Then over time, as it started to get real and I became more invested, I began looking at the situation like, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of responsibility; this is the 40-year legacy of Rocky.'”