‘Rocky’ jabbed so Adonis could jab, cross and hook with the latest film in the pop-culture franchise, ‘Creed III.’
The third installment of the spin-off movie series continues the story of Apollo Creed’s son, played by Michael B. Jordan. We’ve seen Adonis, aka Donnie throughout the first two films making a name for himself in the world of boxing, and at the start of this film, he’s flying high. But things begin to change when an old acquaintance comes into the picture—”Diamond” Dame Anderson, played by Jonathan Majors.
The recipe for success comes into play for ‘Creed III’ as it did for the first two movies. We have an A-list cast of Jordan, Majors and Tessa Thompson driving the story. We have the bombastic fight scenes teased in the trailer for the film, and more so, the spirit of the ‘Rocky’ franchise living on through different POVs.
What is different this time, however, is now Jordan is stepping behind the camera as well as being in front of it, to both direct and star in this latest installment. In a global press conference, Jordan references his time and admiration for ‘Fruitvale Station’ and ‘Creed’ director Ryan Coogler as part of the reason for making the creative shift.
“I think for me, [Ryan] telling me, “Mike, you can do this too”—that was when that first seed got planted in my head of okay, maybe I could direct one day,” Jordan remembers. “I didn’t know what the film was going to be…We did ‘Creed’, and ‘Creed II’ came along. Steven (Caple Jr.) jumped into the director’s chair and had that experience. And as we grew, the third one just seemed like it was the perfect time for me to step behind the camera.”
Jordan also spoke with other actor-directors on top of his manager and Coogler for some opinions, including Jon Favreau, Bradley Cooper and Denzel Washington.
“The big challenge for me: Being behind the camera and in front of the camera simultaneously. Those people have had success at doing it, and sometimes their first project being that as well,” Jordan says. “So that really helped inform me on what to expect, even though there was nothing that people could really tell me to prepare me for what the journey was going to be like. It was one of those things you just have to live it and get through it. It’s the hardest thing I’ve had to do so far, but at the same time, I felt the most alive doing it.”
The evolution of the series and of the characters does not stop at Jordan’s Donnie. Thompson’s Bianca—the songstress who captured Donnie’s heart early on—has been a staple in the series for all three installments. We see Bianca, who suffers from progressive hearing loss over the course of the trilogy grow as a mother, a partner with Adonis, a musician, and a source of strength.
The actress recalls working with Coogler as a collaborative “co-author” for her character, and that has expanded with each creative behind the camera, and within herself over the 9 years that she has been involved as Bianca.
“The thing that I find so fascinating is the way in which our growth, our personal growth as people gets to be communicated inside of the characters,” explains Thompson. “That is a very unique thing. We’re separate in a way, but I think some of the things that our characters are contending with, and some of the things that Mike and I are contending with personally we get to explore in the context of these films. That is really a gift.”
Majors’ Damian, or Dame, is the new character to enter the ring with ‘Creed III.’ His connection to Donnie dates back to when they were kids. However, Dame has spent the last 18 years of his life behind bars and Donnie was even there when he was arrested. And we see it’s not long before old friends turn to old foes, with another fitting villainous role for the actor.
That animosity stays in front of the camera though—Majors talks a lot about getting into the spirit of the film, and director Jordan helped cement that on a personal level. Dame’s name was open for changing, and Majors took the opportunity to throw out his maternal last name, Anderson, as an option for his character. Jordan agreed.
“One of the highlights of the experience was when Mike said yes to that,” says Majors. “And then when I walked in, the day of fighting and we’ve done all our prep— you’re a little nervous, there’s a little something going on, but you look out there and you see Adonis. And you see Anderson. And that type of implication, that type of, oh, we’re here now, this is me, this is us. That was a huge gift from my director, and it just kept the process more emboldened.”
In ‘Creed III’ we see the dynamic between Dame and Donnie catalyze into a training sequence and then to the ring. It’s the formula that has kept the franchise alive, and it’s the one audiences can’t get enough of. However, this film sees some new influences from its director and his love of anime—with some of the inspiration from it playing into the film’s fight scenes and the deeper connection between Dame and Donnie.
Dame is driven by a want for freedom, and in the press conference, Majors even cites taking inspiration from his step-father’s situation among other influences to commit a drive for that. For Bianca, this film series continues to be about relationships. Thompson cites the many relationships—both given and chosen—through this franchise as cementing the idea of choosing the right partner for your “proverbial ring.”
And for Donnie, the three films have acted as an origin story for the young boxer, finding himself in Philadelphia, Russia, and now back home in L.A. for ‘Creed III.’ And similarly to Rocky Balboa showcasing the City of Brotherly Love in ‘Rocky’, Jordan wanted to showcase parts of Los Angeles for this film.
“Hollywood was his first nickname that they gave him when he went to Philly,” Jordan finishes. “So it felt very poetic to kind of come back around in that type of way.”
‘Creed III’ drops in theaters and IMAX March 3.