Though he subsisted on nothing but grilled chicken, brown rice, and steamed broccoli for nearly a year and would train two or three times a day in order to get into boxing shape for Creed, Michael B. Jordan will not be stepping into a real squared circle any time soon. “I’m gonna be clear and set the record straight: I’m an actor. I am not a boxer. Not at all,” Jordan said during a recent conversation on Entertainment Weekly Radio on SiriusXM. “It was very humbling to get in the ring with a real boxer.”
Luckily, Jordan is an excellent actor, and his performance as Adonis Creed — son of late Rocky Balboa nemesis-turned-friend Apollo Creed — is stunning and convincing. Part of that has to do with Jordan’s commitment to the role, with the rest filled in by director Ryan Coogler, who previously teamed with Jordan on 2013’s Fruitvale Station. Boxing movies tend to stage the fights like any other action scene, with tight shots and quick cuts. But in Creed, Coogler essentially puts the camera over Jordan’s shoulder, which more accurately simulates the surreal point of view of real professional pugilists.
Staging the scenes as such allowed Jordan more opportunities to actually act, rather than just remember fight choreography. “The way we approached it was that every punch was a line,” Jordan explained. “Every fight was its own scene. So we tried to look at it like that so you’re not just throwing punches for no reason.”
Hear Jordan explain the science of acting in boxing scenes below.
Coogler first approached Jordan with the idea of telling the story of Apollo Creed’s son before the pair had even started shooting Fruitvale Station. It was an easy pitch for Coogler. “I said, ‘Cool,’” Jordan said. “That was literally it. It was a no-brainer. It wasn’t that complicated of a decision to make.”
Though Jordan didn’t have any particular connection to the Rockyfranchise, he still related to the themes that creator Sylvester Stallone first explored four decades ago. “I think my freshman or sophomore year in high school was the first time I saw a Rocky movie,” Jordan said. “You think Rocky, you think inspiration and underdogs and overcoming odds. I think those themes still run strong today.”
Stallone agreed, and eventually was convinced to hand the reins over to Coogler and Jordan. From their first meeting, Stallone put Jordan at ease. “The first time I met him, I was almost expecting to meet Rocky, but it’s not Rocky, it’s Sly, and I was like, ‘Oh snap, this guy was acting the whole time! He’s a person! This is crazy!’” Jordan said. “That’s a testament to his acting skills. But there wasn’t any pressure, because he kind of took the pressure off me. He was like, ‘You shouldn’t compare yourself to what I did 40 years ago, because this is your movie.’ Just hearing him say that took that weight off my shoulders from the beginning. If anybody else put pressure on me, I didn’t feel it. How can I let that affect me if Sly himself is telling me not to worry about it? If he’s cool with it, I’m cool with it.”
Jordan isn’t sure what he’s up to next, though he really wants to get into writing and directing. One thing is certain, though: He’ll keep working with Coogler. “Me and Ryan plan on doing films together for a long time,” he said. “I think we push each other to be better. I think it goes down to our competitive nature. We’re from very similar backgrounds and care about a lot of the same things. We like a lot of the same things and want to tell a lot of the same stories. So on set, we just have such a chemistry and a communication level that our shorthand doesn’t allow for wasted movements. We’re always in each other’s head. There have been a few takes where I want to try something different on the next one, and he’ll come at me with the exact same note. I just want to continue to build with him and do other films.”