Ryan Coogler was almost a Philadelphian. In high school the filmmaker — of “Fruitvale Station” and now the “Rocky” semi-spin-off “Creed” — played football, and one school he visited University of Pennsylvania when he was scouting out scholarships. He wound up at Saint Mary’s College of California, where he eased into writing and then into filmmaking. But he always loved Philly, and was stoked to come back to make a film about not just Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky but his new mentee, aspiring boxer Adonis, played by his “Fruitvale” star Michael B. Jordan.
“Creed” follows some of the beats of the “Rocky” films but it doesn’t look like them. How conscious were you of making sure it honors the franchise but lights out on its own?
My thing in initially pitching it was this was a different thing. It takes place in the “Rocky” universe and obviously it’s in that cannon. But one of the ways we got Sly on board was we said this would be something new. That’s what made him interested. If we were just making another “Rocky” movie I think he would have stopped us right at the door. At the same time we had respect for the history and for the fans. There are certain things people expect from this type of film, no matter who’s making it. But I always pitched this as a move that was very personal, would be done in my own style. Sly was encouraging of that, as was everyone else.
This is unusually handmade for a studio film, but it’s still a studio film, with a decent budget. How did you handle moving from indies to something this size?
It’s just a different process. “Fruitvale” we made for less than a million dollars. This was 35 times that. You get more time, but you still show up and it doesn’t feel that different. It feels very similar. You clock in at the same rate. You look around and there’s more people and more tools, but at the end of the day it’s kind of the same. It felt similar to sports. You play high school football, then, if you’re fortunate enough to get a scholarship, you play college football. You still play on the same field. The rules of the game are the same, but it’s just moving a little faster. There’s a little more pressure. That’s how I felt.