Ryan Coogler's new movie Creed, the seventh entry in the Rocky series, follows the rise of Adonis Donnie Creed -- the son of boxing champ Apollo Creed, who died in the ring back in Rocky IV.
In Coogler's film, young Donnie Creed wants to be a contender like the father he never met, and tracks down Rocky hoping to find a trainer. By now Rocky is an aging widower running an Italian bistro, where Donnie, played by Michael B. Jordan, finds him and works to coax him back into the ring, this time as a coach.
The film is now picking up awards buzz, especially for Sylvester Stallone as supporting actor.
Long before Coogler made a movie, or even went to film school, he was thinking about Rocky, and how he might continue the storyline.
Coogler wasn't even born when most of the Rocky movies were made, but he was introduced to the Rocky canon thanks to his father, who is a Rocky super fan. The films play an important emotional role in his family's history -- his father used to watch them with Coogler's grandmother while she was receiving treatment for breast cancer. Then, when Coogler was finishing up film school at USC, his father became sick with a mysterious illness, and Coogler found himself thinking about Rocky and the struggles that come with a strong man losing his strength.
Coogler went to college with hopes of becoming up an athlete, but then, his university dropped their football program, and Coogler was forced to change gears. A writing professor took interest in Coogler's work and encouraged him to become a screenwriter. His father wasn't thrilled with the idea of the time, but Coogler wouldn't be swayed. He went to film school at USC.
Coogler first met with Stallone before he'd even made a movie. At that point, understandably, Stallone had no interest in making a film with him or in reviving Rocky at all.
But then, Coogler made Fruitvale Station, which starred Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant, an Oakland teenager who was killed on New Year's Day, 2009, by a BART police officer.
After winning awards at Sundance and massive critical acclaim, Fruitvale Station helped Coogler get meetings at studios, including MGM, which holds the rights to Rocky. The studio was game to make another movie, as long as Coogler could get Sly on board. This time, his meeting with the legend was a success, and Creed was well on its way.
To Coogler, the best news of all is that his father's health is now much improved and his dad is able to join in the celebration of his son's success. He's also no longer upset that his son passed on football to pursue filmmaking.