Michael B. Jordan is hardly an old man. He’s only 36. But he certainly noticed a difference when it came to bulking up to play boxer Adonis Creed for a third round in the ring with this week’s Creed III.
“It's a commitment,” Jordan tells Yahoo Entertainment in a new interview. “And it’s not easy. The older you get, it gets a little bit harder. But I love exercise. I love working out and staying in shape. But walking around like that [in Creed shape] is really hard to do.”
Jordan loved shedding the extra muscle, particularly when it came to finishing the movie, or as he puts it, “sitting in this dark room, eating snacks.”
The series had some heavy-hitting filmmakers (Ryan Coogler helmed 2015’s Creed, while Steven Caple Jr. took over for Creed II) behind it through two installments. Now, Jordan makes his directorial debut with Creed III — thus all that time in the editing bay snacking on dried mangoes.
In Creed III, Adonis retires with a 27-1 record to spend more time with his wife and daughter (Tessa Thompson and newcomer Mila Davis-Kent) and work on training up-and-coming fighters. When Dame Anderson (Jonathan Majors) — a childhood friend of Adonis’s from their days in foster care who’s spent the past 18 years behind bars — turns up and makes a run at the title, circumstances propel Adonis back into the ring. (The threequel is the first film in the Rocky/Creed-verse not to involve Sylvester Stallone.)
The red-hot Majors (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantuamania, a likely Oscar contender for the Sundance sensation Magazine Dreams) helps lend the film some serious dramatic heft — and arguably its most compelling, complicated rivalry yet, not to mention some deeply tense boxing scenes.
“There were days when I couldn’t feel my arms,” Majors says about the physical toll of production. “I shot all my fight scenes consecutively. That means I had four-and-a-half weeks of just fighting. And towards the end… I couldn’t feel my elbows. You live in a state of fatigue, you know? But you just get up and go.”
The war stories and battle scars from the original Rocky series are pretty legendary, including one instance where Stallone had to be hospitalized after a shot to the chest from Dolph Lundgren.
Jordan says he’s mostly avoided injury through three Creed movies.
“I got banged up on this one,” he admits. “I’ve torn some shit. You get fatigue, exhaustion. It was a lot, on all of us. But you kind of know what to expect. You know what's gonna happen. Your body's gonna break down eventually, you know what I'm saying? As you're pushing it to the max every day. But you just try to recover and keep it pushing.”
Unlike her work as Valkyrie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thompson avoids the action in the Creed films as recording artist Bianca Taylor, who in Part 3 has largely retired from performing due to her partial hearing loss.
“I feel like these movies are essentially about family and about relationships,” Thompson says. The backdrop is boxing, but I'm not sure that the films are really about boxing. I think they're also about the moments that you have to fight for something, or fight through something. And I feel like fundamentally as humans, we understand what that is. And I think that was true of all the Rocky films that preceded it, and certainly in our franchise. I think that's really what the films are about.”
Thompson says she’s always made it a point to play homage to Talia Shire, the First Lady of the original series as Rocky Balboa’s now-deceased wife Adrian, through her performances.
It’s also easy to see one specific way Jordan honors another late legacy Rocky character — his onscreen dad, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers): Through his mustache, which gets a little thicker with each installment.
“To be fair, for the first movie I couldn’t even get this,” Jordan laughs, pointing to his facial hair. “So I’m still coming in strong. Watch out.”
Creed III is now playing.
Watch the trailer: