Creed III director and star Michael B. Jordan says Rocky Balboa will always be in Adonis "Donnie" Creed's corner — even if Sylvester Stallone is sitting out the next installment of the Rocky spin-off series. Stallone, who has played the iconic boxer across eight films since 1976, unofficially retired the character with 2018's Creed II. Announcing his Rocky retirement in a video published to Instagram in 2018, Stallone said his "story has been told" before telling Jordan it's his time to "carry the mantle." Now the Rocky-Creed saga — about Stallone's Balboa mentoring Jordan's Creed, the son of legendary fighter Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) — is standing on its own.
"I think that Sly let it be known that he wasn't coming back for this one but I think, you know, his essence and his spirit… there's always going to be a little bit of Rocky within Adonis," the first-time director told IGN about Creed III. "But this is a Creed franchise, and we really want to build this story and this world around him moving forward. So, it's always respect and always a shit-ton of love for what he's built, but we really want to push and navigate Adonis forward and the family that he created."
Jordan added, "So hopefully you guys will love what I'm thinking… what we're cooking up. I think it's going to be something special."
Stallone first brought the six-film Rocky saga to a close with 2006's Rocky Balboa before future Black Panther director Ryan Coogler revived the franchise with Creed. Stallone wrote all six films, directing all but two of them, and co-wrote the Steven Caple Jr.-directed Creed II.
"Directing has always been an aspiration, but the timing had to be right," Jordan said when MGM announced the Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin-penned threequel. "Creed III is that moment — a time in my life where I've grown more sure of who I am, holding agency in my own story, maturing personally, growing professionally, and learning from the Greats like Ryan Coogler, most recently Denzel Washington, and other top tier directors I respect. All of which sets the table for this moment."
Jordan continued, "This franchise and in particular, the themes of Creed III are deeply personal to me. I look forward to sharing the next chapter of Adonis Creed's story with the awesome responsibility of being its director and namesake."
Jordan's Creed and Creed II co-stars Tessa Thompson and Phylicia Rashad are also expected to return for the next film. Stallone cast doubt on his Rocky retirement when he revealed plans for another Rocky spin-off, a "very, very timely" story about the battered boxer training and mentoring an undocumented immigrant.
Creed III is scheduled to open in theaters on November 23, 2022.