“I love actors, I love drama, I love art. I’ve made some choices that weren’t exactly the smart things at the time, so it’s nice to be invited back to the ball,” said Sylvester Stallone, discussing his Golden Globe nomination for “Creed” at a dinner for academy members in New York City on January 4. “I am so humbled by this because at my age I didn’t ever expect it. Maybe I am channeling Burgess Meredith. Thank you, Burgess.”
This is the seventh film in which Stallone plays boxer Rocky Balboa, nearly 40 years after he created the character in the Oscar-winning “Rocky” (1976). This time Rocky is the trainer for young Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the son of his late rival and friend Apollo Creed. That puts Stallone into the mentor role that earned Meredith a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination in that first film, but it took some convincing for Stallone to revisit this role now after finding closure with “Rocky Balboa” in 2006.
Director Ryan Coogler pitched the film to Stallone before Coogler even made his breakthrough film “Fruitvale Station” (2013), and at first Stallone thought, “This is the worst idea I’ve ever heard.” And he worried that reviving the character yet again would just be a “money grab.”
But after Coogler’s success with “Fruitvale” he convinced Stallone. “He wasn’t born until ‘Rocky IV,'” Stallone said of the 29-year-old filmmaker, but “this man deserves 100-percent credit. He’s a visionary.”
It also gave Stallone the opportunity to go to new places as an actor. “As we live we acquire all kinds of experiences, some good and some bad, and it builds up a reservoir of feelings and emotions, and quite often as we get older those opportunities diminish, and we don’t get a chance to express ourselves,” he explains. “[Coogler] presented a format where I could let out a lot of stuff that had been building up inside, and it was very cathartic. And I think that perhaps when I was younger I didn’t have that.”
“Creed” was personal for Coogler as well. “It was from my relationship with my dad actually,” he explained of his inspiration for the film. His father, a passionate “Rocky” fan, became ill, which made Coogler consider what the measure of a man is after “becoming older and weaker and losing the things that made us recognize him … If you take his strength away, if you take his virility away, is he still the same Rocky? The truth is, what makes you a man is what’s in [your heart].”
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Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures