By Derek Lawrence
November 19, 2018 at 06:37 PM EST

After writing the first six Rocky films and directing four, Sylvester Stallone ceded the director’s chair for the 2015 spin-off Creed to Black Panther director Ryan Coogler. That decision led to Stallone earning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination and winning a Golden Globe for his performance as an aging Rocky Balboa. With Coogler unavailable for Creed II, Stallone declared himself ready to retake his franchise as writer-director. Ultimately, young filmmaker Steven Caple Jr. — director of the acclaimed 2016 indie The Land — took the reins, working from a script co-written by Stallone and with the actor-writer-director’s blessing and passionate collaboration.

When Caple was announced as the director, Stallone — who will helm the return of his Rambo series — said, “The character of Adonis Creed reflects this generation and its challenges. I believe it’s important for the director to also be a part of this generation like I was in mine, to make the story as relatable as possible.”

Credit: Barry Wetcher/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

“He was very supportive of me coming on board,” Caple, 30, recently told EW of his 72-year-old star and writer. “He let me do my thing as far as a director. [He] had cool creative input that I felt was very helpful in the sense of he’s done this for so long that he has a format that just works. He has more experience with Creed. I spoke to Ryan Coogler about it [and] he was saying the same thing. ‘He’s a collaborator. He was passionate. I don’t know how he’s going to be on yours, but he definitely had a passion to revive it.’ Then when I spoke to [Stallone], I was like, this dude’s passion is still on level 100 when it comes to being a character and telling this story.”

For star (and EW cover man) Michael B. Jordan, who plays Balboa mentee Adonis Creed, whether Stallone was directing or not, he still looked to the veteran actor to help maintain the film’s accuracy.

“He mastered the art of boxing movies,” shares Jordan. “We lean on him very heavily to make those boxing sequences and those fights authentic and really maximize those moments. We look into the corner for his approval. ‘Is that good? Is that not good?’ But still, as a filmmaker…he’s really involved as much as we need him, but he also allowed Steven to do his thing. It was a really good collaboration.”

Creed II, which also stars Tessa Thompson, opens in theaters on Wednesday.

— Reporting by Sarah Rodman

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