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How Ryan Coogler convinced Sylvester Stallone to make Creed

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Barry Wetcher

Stop humming “With Arms Wide Open” and start humming “Eye of the Tiger.” This isn’t an upcoming Scott Stapp biopic but rather the long-in-the-works Rocky spin-off, which focuses on Apollo Creed’s pugilist son. A franchise spin-off like this usually screams of studio-suit reverse engineering, but surprisingly, Creed is actually a long-gestated labor of love for Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler. He first got the idea for the project back in film school, in part as a way to connect with his father. “My dad was a real big Rocky fan,” Coogler says. “He was getting older and got sick and I was trying to process it. I tried to get through it with this idea for his hero.”

Before production began on Fruitvale, the director got the chance to pitch the idea to Sylvester Stallone himself, although the actor was initially hesitant. “He was very apprehensive, obviously, because Rocky’s such an important thing to him,” Coogler says. “Sly likes to think about it before he makes his mind up about something.”

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After the release of Fruitvale, though, Stallone came around, agreeing to give the project his imprimatur and co-star once more as the iconic meat-punching, step-jogging underdog.

In Coogler’s corner once again is Fruitvale star Michael B. ­Jordan, who trained for 11 months to play Adonis Creed, including while he was filming this month’s Fantastic Four. He pretty much had to, considering he was going to be trading blows with real-life fighters like Tony Bellew and Gabriel Rosado. Too bad he wasn’t able to employ one of the original Rocky’s signature time-savers — filming prep work as actual footage. “I’m sure it would have been way easier if I could have just gotten all my training done in a montage,” Jordan says. Someone cue “Hearts on Fire,” please.

 

To continue reading EW’s Fall Movie Preview, and to see more exclusive photos, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands now, or buy it here.

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