More so than other franchises, the Rocky universe has been a rare club of directors. Either John Avildsen or Sylvester Stallone has directed every Rocky installment, and Ryan Coogler helmed Creed, using it as a launchpad before achieving massive success with Black Panther. Taking over for Coolger is Steven Caple Jr., who’s ready to make it his own.
Caple is only 30 years old but received critical acclaim for his first feature The Land, a film he wrote and directed about teenagers hoping to escape poverty in Cleveland through their dreams of becoming professional skateboarders. With Creed II, Caple takes on a script written by Stallone and Juel Taylor. While Rocky IV showed the Italian Stallion going into the cold of Siberia, Creed II takes Adonis Adonis into the American Southwest, bringing fire to match the Drago family’s ice.
We spoke with Caple about taking the reins of the Rockyverse, landing big camoes, and, of course, the training montages.
Den of Geek: Was the final creation what you expected to do from the beginning?
Steven Caple Jr.: It definitely was. I say yes because sometimes you go for things and it’s not always going to come out the way you want. There are definitely alternate roads to take and sometimes you deviate from the plan because something naturally happens on set, you know? But ultimately, yeah, everything with the characters and their arc. The technical stuff with the fights, the walk out scenes, the montages, all the stuff I had in my head… a lot of it was paying homage to the old Rocky series and run sequences.
And then some of it was from Creed, making sure there were things that people felt good about, technically with throwing the fights. There was my own little take on everything, how aggressive I wanted to be in the ring, in your face, you know? I didn’t want to slow up at any moment. I was able to slow up within the story moments but in the ring I wanted to give you that adrenaline.
Let’s talk about the montage moments for a second because I think at the end of both the first one and the new one, you see Michael doing these insane things. How fast he’s running, how quick he’s fighting, was it just to show that he’s capable of doing that or just more for the character itself?
For the character himself. The desert montage was more so just trying to have him do the craziest workouts, the most rigorous workouts, because he had to endure pain a lot. So it’s like welcome to hell was sort of our theme for the whole thing. And rising out of the ashes ’cause he hasn’t touched gloves since earlier on. So we really wanted to dive into any workout that felt like one, don’t try this at home, you know? And two, if you do, you’re going to be sore.
And so he definitely put everything into it, but it was a lot of research. We looked at workouts from overseas, you know the tire thing, all that kind of jazz, to really show something different. I think we’ve seen many montages, especially in the Rocky movies, and then what we wanted to do was take it out of the snow and bring it into the desert. What is he lifting there, what can we lift here? Those kind of elements to, you know, have a nice little homage to Rocky IV, yeah, where he was in the desert.
We won’t say any names of course but there’s a lot of guest stars that pop up. Were you able to get them right from the beginning or did you start and hope they would sign on?
With the guest stars, we had one in particular that came later on actually. It was right before I came out to Philly. I had this idea to bring a character into play that may affect the Dragos in this world, and may have some heart behind it. And so when we brought the character on, it wasn’t necessarily hard, it was a serious conversation between us and the group to bring her in. But when we did it, it was like it was magic on set. I’m hoping it works within the film and people respond to it.
And did you hire Christopher Mann just to mess with us Wire fans as well?
No, I did a bit and it was Wood Harris in it too, obviously, so it’s a lot of it. Small little cameo but he definitely did his thing man and when he came in, I was like, “oh, this is great.” You know, so yeah, it was awesome. Yeah, he played the doctor and he showed mad love so I appreciate it.