On the award circuit this weekend was MGM executive Gary Barber, who I buttonholed at the American Film Institute awards on Friday. He confirmed that things are in flux on a planned “Creed” sequel, which Sylvester Stallone is eager to get under way. It’s understandable that Stallone, the powerhouse movie star who wrote and starred in the 1977 Oscar-winner “Rocky” and rode the franchise through five sequels—”Creed” is the 7th in the series—would feel ownership and want to steer the ship forward. At age 69, he may want to proceed with haste; MGM has already slotted the movie for November, 2017.
MGM, which shepherded Ryan Coogler’s excellent reboot (which is well past the $100 million mark at the box office) and managed to recruit the reluctant Stallone because Coogler’s script was so strong, is in a tricky spot. Do they follow the conventional wisdom and give the star the control over the project, or do they recognize what made this movie so good? Coogler understood not only the bedrock material under the movie, but how to make it authentic, contemporary and accessible to a wide swath of moviegoers who love Stallone as Rocky, but also related to the healing father-son story at its center. Michael B. Jordan had to carry this movie as the son of Apollo Creed, who learns about his father from his fiercest opponent and closest friend, Rocky Balboa.
Coogler is prepping “Black Panther” (February 16, 2018) starring Chadwick Boseman for Marvel, and may be unavailable to develop and direct a “Creed” sequel. But MGM and Stallone should hang onto to him and his ideas and let him weigh in even if he doesn’t direct. Without Coogler’s canny smarts and instincts this next installment could easily stall out.
I was surprised by the warmth and love for Stallone in the room at the Golden Globes, where attendees gave him a standing ovation when he won Best Supporting Actor. But who are they moved by? Stallone? Or his greatest creation, Rocky? There is a distinction there. When Stallone apologized during the commercial break at the Golden Globe Awards for forgetting in the pressure of the moment to mention Coogler, Jordan and the countless people who worked on the new movie, while thanking all the ones who helped him to make “Rocky,” he revealed his age. The success of “Creed” is about looking forward, not back.
And MGM and Stallone—who delivered the best performance of his career under Coogler’s sensitive direction— would be remiss not to remember that.