Taking on a new project that is a part of a beloved franchise is difficult for any filmmaker. Indeed, there are certain pitfalls that come with making a sequel. Audiences come with a set of expectations, a familiarity with the characters and will always have something to compare the new installment to.
A sequel may not develop the original narrative much further and in other cases, the follow-up film may take the narrative to a completely new direction, sometimes leaving audiences behind and wondering what the purpose of the new installment actually was.
When Steven Caple Jr. got the call to direct Creed II, the director had one feature under his belt with The Land; a gritty story about a group of teenage skateboarders caught up in the drug world in the director’s hometown of Cleveland.
The call evoked a range of emotions for Caple Jr. Initially, there was excitement and gratitude to be offered such a huge opportunity. After all, this was a big film. Then, the fear set in.
In an interview with IndieWire, Caple Jr. described how there was a lot of uncertainty guiding over his decision on the offer. When he received the call, he recounted thinking,
“Is this the right thing for me to do or should I not do it? I don’t want to do sequels for the rest of my life. I really like the first one, am I going to drop another? What are they trying to do?”
In an interview with Marketplace, Caple Jr. pointed out the features of the project that were new to anything he had done before saying,
“I’m dealing with a lot of actors and established characters already which I’ve never done before. Stuff I’ve done in the past — smaller independent films, you know, did the Sundance route, film festival circuit and it ended up in a few theaters and I’ve done some TV work. Now you know, it’s just a bigger scale, a bigger project.”
Evidently, the offer was daunting.
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Per fans request…. bts photo of #creed2 I would’ve posted sooner but it took hours to photoshop @michaelbjordan muscle definition. 🤦🏽♂️ Anyways… to no surprise the cast put in a lot of work for you guys. They killed it. And the crew was absolutely amazing. Blessed to collaborate with the most talented people. I’m honored to be a part of this legacy. Enjoy… more to come! Trailer tomorrow! And mike the 🌍is yours bro. Your dedication is inspiring. And @mrcalliet I know, I know… It’s all 💪🏽
In both watching and reading Caple Jr.’s interviews, you can see where his priorities as a filmmaker lie. He remains grounded, averse to getting caught up in the hype and the money that comes with creating and globally distributing such a huge project.
In speaking to Marketplace, Caple Jr. revealed,
“I just want a good movie. I just want people to respond to it and relate. I’m not really chasing a number at all. You know, I think the studios are obviously, everyone wants a successful box office weekend. But for my career, you know, if it does well, I feel like people will start to respond more to me, the material I put out there, what I’m going to do next.”
Caple Jr. is invested in tonality — citing in the same interview — that the film’s tone derives from the characters and that the filmmaker’s auteurship is embedded in the intimate scenes that follow the relationship between Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) and Bianca (Tessa Thompson).
At the same time, the gritty and raw cinematography of his first feature film also amplifies the filmmaker’s commitment to authentic and resonant storytelling.
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Creed II is the eighth installment in the Rocky franchise, and for Steven Caple Jr., it signaled the director entering a whole other ring of filmmaking.
Graduating from USC grad school in 2014, Caple’s time at college overlapped with his friend, mentor, and now prominent director, Ryan Coogler. The first Creed helped launch Coogler’s career, who went on to direct Marvel’s hit, Black Panther, that smashed box-office records.
Caple Jr. had to fulfill a lot of expectations held by the film’s big-name star, Michael B. Jordan, who has worked closely with Coogler on the films, Fruitvale Station and Black Panther. Michael B. Jordan reprises his role as Adonis Creed, the son of Rocky’s former nemesis and late friend Apollo Creed.
In speaking on the director in an interview with Cleveland.com, Jordan heralded the director’s willingness to listen to actors on set, stating,
“Everything is a collaboration, and he’s willing to entertain your idea no matter how crazy it may be.”
Collaboration is key to Caple Jr. He is a big proponent of providing people of color more opportunity behind the scenes, whether they are developing a screenplay, serving as a DP and more.
For such a big film, Creed II also offers a rare and crucial depiction of young Black love on screen. The scene in which Adonis is taking out Bianca’s hair is deliberate, full of intention for Black audiences to see themselves and their identities correctly reflected on screen.
And Caple Jr. is more than on board with this movement of providing of more inclusive representation, advocating more films to be led by black actors and actresses saying,
“I think we’re going to see these waves of films with people of color and women that can sell in the universal market because we’ve proven it.”
On what’s next for the director?
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Caple Jr.is now writing an Emmitt Till mini-series for HBO, with Jay-Z, Will Smith and Aaron Kaplan serving as producers on the show. Additionally, he has directed forthcoming episodes for the show Grown-ish, a spinoff of the hit sitcom Black-ish.
With Creed II on track to become a major box-office success, Caple Jr. will certainly broaden his audience and is a serious contender in the film world.