'Creed II' Director Says Inclusiveness Is "Bigger Than the Movie"

Florian Munteanu, Steven Caple Jr., Tessa Thompson, Dolph Lundgren and Michael B. Jordan - Getty - H 2018
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Steven Caple Jr. credited Ryan Coogler, who directed the first 'Rocky' spinoff and executive produced the sequel, with paving the way for more women and people of color to work on the franchise.

At the premiere of Creed II in New York on Wednesday, director Steven Caple Jr. expressed pride in the film's inclusive cast and crew.

"To have this powerful movement behind the camera means a lot to everybody," Caple told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet. "I think that's bigger than the movie, to be honest. That movement of getting people of color and women on screen and behind cameras is huge."

Caple cited Creed and Black Panther director Ryan Coogler as a strong supporter of female and black filmmakers like himself. As an example, he described how Coogler, who executive produced Creed II, personally recommended Caple to direct the film even though his only prior credit was the 2016 indie The Land. "For Ryan Coogler, who's a black, young director, to do what he's done and then also bring up my name in a studio meeting, saying, 'Y'all should look at Steven Caple Jr.,' is crazy," Caple said.

Following Coogler's acclaimed work on Creed, Caple knew he had big shoes to fill. "I think, stepping into this franchise, coming behind some really good filmmakers, you get nervous," Caple admitted. "At the same time, it was a challenge I wanted to take on."

Despite his anxieties, Caple said Coogler and series stars Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone "made me feel comfortable."

With Creed II, Caple strove to pay respect to Rocky while also taking the franchise in a new direction. "It was all coming from a personal place, and that's what makes Rocky movies relatable," he said. "For us, it was about making Creed talk to our generation, the younger audience."

Rocky IV star Dolph Lundgren — who reprises his character, Ivan Drago, in Creed II — also spoke to how the Creed series revitalized Rocky. "[Creed] brought an urban component to [Rocky] and a young component that we're using in this film as well," he explained. "It treated Rocky with reverence and respect, but it brought new blood into it, new music, a new feel."

Lundgren argued that, although the Creed and Rocky series look different on the outside, they share the same universal themes. "I think that these movies are really about love and family and basic values that everybody can relate to, even if you don't understand anything about boxing," he said.

The latest addition to the Rocky saga, Creed II continues the story of up-and-coming boxer Adonis Creed (Jordan) and his trainer, Rocky Balboa (Stallone), as they prepare to fight the son of Ivan Drago (Lundgren), the man who killed Creed's father. Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Brigitte Nielsen and real-life boxer Florian Munteanu round out the film's cast.

Creed II will punch and jab its way into theaters on Nov. 21.