For Michael B. Jordan, playing a boxer in “Creed” meant more than just a getting a meaty role. He was being asked to take over the iconic and hugely profitable “Rocky” movie franchise.
“The Rocky story is done,” says Sylvester Stallone, whose 1976 sleeper hit “Rocky” launched seven films. “This is now the beginning, hopefully, of a new series.”
But Jordan, 28, says he felt no pressure.
“I think it is more of an honor to be accepted into this legendary world that’s been around for 40 years — longer than I’ve been alive,” he says. “To be trusted with these characters that Sly built his career on, it’s an honor.”
The challenge is smoothed, Jordan says, by being reunited with “Fruitvale Station” filmmaker Ryan Coogler, who directed and co-wrote “Creed.” He says, “I’ve never felt more safe and willing to take risks and chances and experiment.”
He also credits Stallone for handing over the reins. “Creed,” the story of the son of Rocky Balboa’s former opponent Apollo Creed seeking out Balboa as his trainer, is the first “Rocky” movie Stallone didn’t write, instead working as an actor and advisor.
“Sly did the biggest thing for me which was take that pressure off me (and not) worry about competing or living up to what the ‘Rockys’ were and be myself,” says Jordan.
Letting go of the “Rocky” movies, meanwhile, has Stallone, 69, reflecting on the impact the movies have had.
“What’s amazing is this character and these stories have stayed around without any special effects, without any car chases, without blowing anything up, which I usually do: no bullets, no cursing,” he says. “I am very proud — and stunned.”
“Creed” opened Wednesday.