Hi, I’m Eric Conner senior instructor at New York Film Academy.
And I’m Aerial Segard acting alum and in this episode, we bring you two of the men who helped get rocky another go around on the big screen. Director Steven Caple Jr.
And Ivan Drago himself the man who played He-Man The Punisher. He was in Don’t kill it. I come in peace The Expendables Aquaman. Yes, we’re talking about Dolph Lundgren.
As a director. It’s your baby and it’s your projects you’re responsible for the whole picture whereas as an actor you can always blame it on the director or at least the critics could blame it on the director. So you’re off the hook a little bit.
You might remember him from a previous episode of the backlot.
And at the time we were the first ones to find out that he was going to be in Creed 2 as Ivan Drago.
Well, I can tell you now anyway because it’s probably going to you know be public but anyway Stallone contacted me and asked me you know what you think what about playing Ivan Drago again you know. So I don’t know if it’ll happen but if it does you know you know you heard it here first.
So when you grew up 25 miles from Philadelphia like I did. Rocky is more than just the movie. It’s like a religion. It’s like if you don’t know Rocky you can’t really talk to anyone on the playground if you haven’t run up the art steps then what are you doing. For 40 years. Every opening weekend I’m there.
But some of us haven’t grown up with it. Some of us weren’t there from the start. Like you and Dolph Lundgren.
My old friend.
He’s had a career spanning decades. But Steven Caple the director he was newer to the industry he created his first independent film called The Land in 2016 and then he got Rocky.
He got Creed.
He got Creed.
To be honest with you I didn’t know how many people watched the land when it dropped it felt like it was a industry thing. You know I mean like I made the land and I really made it for teenagers. You know what I mean like a lot of kids I was mentoring and for my city, you know yes a tool to get out there but I was like if y’all rock with it y’all do if you don’t. I made it for me. It was like one of those kind of films. And when I did so it did what it needed to do and in the industry, it gave me work cause they saw I can work with actors and tell stories and non-actors at that. So like it was pretty effective in that realm because when I got the call from MGM like it was you know hey we want you to meet Sly Sly saw the land Mike saw the land come and check it out. You know so that’s kind of like how it helped so far is like showcasing my work and talent. But before that it was a lot of short films I did like plenty of shorts that kind of got me to notoriety I got my agent and manager off of a short film, not necessarily my first feature. They helped me get my first feature off the ground which was a long process two years. But you know that’s two years of not paying someone or a team and just sending you to meetings and you hear a lot of no’s but I got them off of a short film called A Different Tree that end up like selling HBO and gave me my first like I guess ticket you know. And then the first feature came out and then everything moved really fast after that. So it’s not a typical story but I tell like how fast everything moved cause I got my agent. While I was still in film school and I was trying to drop out soon as I got them like I’m out of here. It’s too expensive. But I got advice to finish you know get that master’s degree paid them loans. But it did help because that’s where I end up you know writing my thesis project which became the land. And then after that, I made it as soon as I graduated so I don’t know how it worked.
I love how he says he made it. You can rock with it or I made it for myself. Just so honest right there. But it’s impressive that MGM trusted him so much just to say here you go meet with Sly.
And I think his feature debut really spoke to him. You know it’s funny because it’s like some people this industry is a marathon. It just kind of keeps going and then others like do that one film or write that one script and it’s a dash.
That was him. He just did a short had a feature. Boom. Within three years goes from an independent feature low budget.
Too high to something.
To something pretty darn big to Creed 2 and it might be a more recent trend. But there are other filmmakers who have gone from doing like a low budget feature right to. A high budget studio picture.
Right. Like John Watts who did Spider-Man Homecoming. He did cop car.
Because I know so many of you have seen cop car. But but the right people saw it. Colin Trevorrow did Safety Not Guaranteed which was a million dollar movie and he got Jurassic World.
And now we have Steven Caple to add on to that list.
Once he got, of course, the blessing of two key players one being the studio.
And the other Sly himself.
To bring me on. You know I had that was the worry just like how do I now make it my own. You know. And that wasn’t until meeting with Sly you know it’s like the studio will tell you one thing they’re like yeah we want you to speak to the Generation I’m like yeah but where sly at like I want to talk to. Where’s sly like what does he think about all this. And Mike you know what I mean because Mike is not working without Ryan Coogler who is working on his last few pictures with you know so I was like I want to see where they’re at you know where their headspace is and they both were on the same page which is we need someone from the outside coming in who has a perspective on this and who is I guess a fan but also can appreciate the characters and transition I guess into something like a bigger studio film while adding that freshness I guess to to the project. And sly was yeah he was open about it from the jump. You know I think it was you know we were in his house we geeked out watch a few clips from like rocky 4 over and over again I had to pinch myself when I walked into his house, man his house is enormous. He has an actual Rocky statue right there. You seen his Rocky statue.
Which one I mean he’s got a few of them.
He’s right, he’s right there’s multiple.
Wait he has a statue of rocky in his own house.
Because there’s only two. Sorry, I’m getting off topic but there’s only two rocky statues ever one is in Philly that same one is in his house. As soon as you walk in.
Well, Dolph has a statue of He-Man in his house.
No, but the funny thing about the statue is that it brought to mind there’s this clip of me in the movie when I’m up at the Rocky statue in Philly and I’m standing on top of the Rocky steps Ivan Drago was standing there and his son is there. I remember my internal monologue was just wait till you see my statue this flipping statue is going to be nothing. It will be back in Moscow it will be very big. This piece of shit this thing.
I definitely didn’t get that motivation but I’m glad that was in your head. What’s funny wait about that scene when you go to MGM. When I did my pitch of like what the story was going to be. I didn’t have that scene. And so they were like What. Every Rocky movie we have to be at the steps not Sly Sly was like you know three fights let’s do the desert. I’m cool let’s rock it. MGM was like steps we have to have steps and we have to have the statue. And I was like How are we going to do steps like Rocky been on the steps 100 times they ended the last one at the steps. And I was just like you can’t get better than that they’re looking off into the Philly they’re side by side I’m like why would I bring them back again. I was like unless he’s like dying at the steps I don’t know what else to do. And I was like You know what. I’m going to have Drago on top of the steps and they all were like oh wait what you’re going to have the Dragos on top of the Iconic steps. I was like Yeah. I think it’ll be cool. The villain is on the steps and looking over it worked though. I remember like being in the theater at the premiere and everyone was like oh like they felt the tension but the studio was kind of like on ice about it they were like we don’t know man it’s like it’s a tricky movie how the rocky fans going to feel and it’s always that which is interesting when trying to do the film you’re always like how are the rocky fans going to feel you gotta keep tapping into that which is crazy.
So a bunch of years back I was at a wedding in Philadelphia and we took a picture of the bridal party on the top of the steps of the art museum. The famous Rocky steps while we’re up there. I couldn’t even tell you how many other people came running up the steps. Arms outstretched you know doing the rocky pose when you think Rocky you think that you think the steps you think the statue but the problem with nostalgia is you could also just be trapped in the past.
Right. And being such a big fan and then having all these new characters to blend with all the old characters who have already been established. That’s a tricky balancing act. He had his work cut out for him for sure.
And it almost scared him off the project but thankfully it didn’t.
I was afraid to take on his project because I am a fan. You know it was like. Who Wants to make a sequel to something that was already dope. You know what I mean so it’s like I’m that guy when someone says they’re doing a part two I’m like Why. You know the first one was good. You’re gonna drop the ball. You’re gonna mess it up and then it’s like I did Creed 2 and I was like wait what like as soon as the team came I was like no like creed one was good. Why would you go try to do a creed two you’re going to like draw. It was like well I guess if someone’s going to do it it might be someone who cares. And I definitely did. You know what I mean stepping into the project and so like I said I treated it as a fan so I made it for like people who are honestly Rocky and creed fans like if you’re new to it. Great. You know what I mean like I didn’t pitch this to the studio obviously but I’m a let you guys know on a one on one level that is for you guys who care about rocky and care about the Dragos who want to see this as I am as a movie geek you know it’s like how you get excited about like a Star Wars or whoever like it’s like you want to see those characters alive again. That’s why I made the project ultimately.
Yeah, it was good no I appreciate that you were under a lot of pressure because not just because Creed was such a good film and performed really well but also you probably internally on your own like What the hell. Like you said I’m doing the sequel to a great movie and there’s already been another five, six Rocky movies. Who knows how many at least six. But on the other hand I think well they were kind of fizzling out. Some of the freshness had gone out of the series. And then creed, of course, came along and it was it was fresh it was urban it was new it was. It was in our times and this one is the same way. So I think this one just solidifies the fact that there’s a chance there will be a few more of these and they will all be for the new generation for you guys. And one day Stallone and I won’t be in them either and there’ll be other people. Michael B will be like the old guy training somebody scary but that’s life.
Mr. Capel was hesitant to say the least to board this 40-year franchise. It’s been around for so long but I mean even the mighty Drago was nervous about getting back into the ring.
It was a strange experience and I wasn’t too crazy about it. Originally when I heard about it I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play this guy again I was afraid it’s gonna be just like a one-dimensional bad guy. To try to throw some people and to get some people in the theater you know MGM was just going to kind of use me as some kind of prop there. But it was when I met Steven and read the script. That I realized that this is a real movie it’s a real acting part. It’s a real drama on many levels not just me but for Rocky for everybody else in it. And and then it became. You know a lot of work trying to prepare to deliver something that was on the page you know deliver as an actor and make it authentic and something that’s organic. And it was a lot of fun to work with Steven to work with Stallone again and our fifth picture and Florian who plays my son Michael B who’s a great guy good actor. And yeah it was. It turned out to be one of the best experiences in my career. Actually this film. From being a bit. I was a bit. Not sure about it but then it turned out to be really great.
You know I can understand his concern because it’s not just an actor going back to a role from 30 years ago. It’s also like it was the 80s. You know every film it was like U.S. versus Russia and so Drago the character was such a product of that time. So it begs that question like is that character even going to be relevant in 2018.
Right. And he didn’t want to just do like a glorified cameo. He actually cared that he was going to be able to explore this character more and not just his character but every character really gets to shine and show some depth.
Yeah, and creed one was like this great reminder that yes Stallone was an Oscar-nominated actor.
You know that he really has presence and then creed 2 like this is how far Dolph Lundgren has come Dolph Lundgren’s really become a good actor. I mean he’s done like almost 80 films since Rocky 4. And his character in that one barely speak speaks only in. Russian and like just threatens people if he dies he dies. That’s it. Nothing else. This one it’s so much more of a real character.
So much more complete.
Which I mean that’s to the writer’s credit right. They went after it head-on.
Right. Instead of just making a nostalgia trip and there’s a fabulous scene when they finally meet and it’s just the two of them in Rocky’s restaurant and it’s instead of saying like well this is Drago and Rocky isn’t it cute they’re back together but rather you know what would it be like if they would reunite after 30 years. And it did not disappoint.
Everything changed that night.
Hey look you know that’s like a million years ago.
Like yesterday to me.
So you came all the way over here to tell me that.
Because of you. I lose everything. Country. Respect. Wife. My son will break your boy.
Been a long day. I think we’re done here.
It really showed how Dolph’s acting work has deepened through the years.
Yeah, and the writing of the character deepened with it it was like they needed all of Dolph you know and all of this sort of 30 plus years of experience he’s now had to really make that scene fly.
This scene was. My favorite scene when I read the script. And obviously this guy wrote the scripts so why don’t you ask him.
Oh, I thought you were going to answer the question. No, it was. As a fan just again like similar to your experience you go to the movie theaters and you want to see some of these scenes where it’s like you know what’d be cool Drago and rocky like actually hashing out like what’s been going on for the past 30 years. So when I got the script sly had written the first draft of the script and when I got it that scene wasn’t in there and I was like Sly man you guys need to have like a conversation like and first of all he didn’t speak in Rocky 4 so you had two lines. It was break you.
There was I must break you.
If he dies he dies.
Yeah if he dies he dies.
That’s it. Maybe like three other lines.
It was a lot to memorize.
And so beyond that I really wanted to know who Drago was you know besides a killing machine and it felt like a perfect opportunity to blend in as sort of like you know two legends sitting down hashing out after 30 years but yet also giving his characters some dimension you know so it’s like it’s more than just a revenge story. It was stuff he’s holding on to from the past that you know you can see in his eyes. I think one thing we play with throughout I don’t know how many of you guys seen the film I always hate spoiling a film for people. But I’m a have to spoil the film for you. I’m sorry desperation. You know what I mean it was much more than just like alright I’m gonna like hurt you and try to hurt you the best way I can. But more so I have no other route. Like if I’m going to get my name back and have that kind of you know status again you’re the only thing that’s standing in my way you know. And so just to have that kind of scene that was just between these two intimate. No one else there at a table.
Yeah yeah, I remember there wasn’t that much blocking even so it was all them as actors.
Inspiration from like. I’m scared to say it but like Heat you know with De Nero and Al Pacino.
You know the funny thing is though I realized when I talk to my kids they’re like teenagers you know Robert De Niro Al Pacino in a weird way to some people we become them you know because they grew up with us. A lot of people in the action business. And then you know when you’re doing a simple scene when you boil it down to sitting across the table looking each other in the eye then it becomes very personal and very strong on film. Because there’s no there’s no activity there’s nothing to do. It’s just right there. And I think that’s what was brilliant about this scene which was as was the one in Heat as well.
But you guys are always like obviously in the pit fighting you know what I mean you guys are like action stars you know so for me it was like oh let’s see the depth behind Drago. You know see where we can take him.
They did leave one of Drago’s most important lines out from Rocky 4 which was you know he says in Russian. I fight for me for me, and yells at the crowd. Everything else though I think they pretty much nailed. He did not speak much in rocky four at all.
They were trying to go deeper in the relationship than the last time we saw Drago and Rocky that conversation in the restaurant is exactly what the audience needed to fully understand. After 30 years and it’s one of those things that when the acting works as a director stay out of the way.
And I think that’s one of those lessons sometimes directors especially younger directors newer directors they’re kind of like no I have to do this I have to do that. And to Steven Caple Jr’s credit like he understood. Like let the Titans Go. Let them do their thing. And you watch the scene it’s so simple.
Just them sitting I mean they’re sitting and I think Steven Caple Jr’s approach shows his film school indie film roots and it’s why he was able to balance this franchise and made it work despite all this added pressure because he knew to focus on story to focus on the thing he already knew how to do as a storyteller.
And just stay grounded.
Yeah everything is the same when you’re like just dealing with characters and actors you know what I mean. We didn’t have much CGI. We had visual effects for the boxing. So like I’m there I’m intimate they have me there on a one on one this will never change like how I’m talking to him is how to talk on a short film a commercial music video or whatever. So that don’t big film small film. That’s really what these Rocky films are about. You know what I mean are the characters so that didn’t change so that took away a lot of the anxiety I guess so to speak and then a lot of these guys besides him and Flo Rocky has been rocky for 40 plus years and then Mike’s been creed already Tessa’s been Bianca Phylicia Rashad’s been mom already so everyone already been these guy he’s been Drago but he’s come back as new a different Drago. So this was like this conversation was just a little slightly different it was more dialogue between us. Whereas like Sly you know I can just give him a note he’ll rock with it move it make it a rocky because he improvs a lot. That’s the only way that Rocky kind of comes out so he’ll have his moments where it’s Rocky-esque and it work. He has moments where it doesn’t when I would just get rid of that one but like he knows that character and has been pretty much the same throughout the years whereas Drago we’re like we’re going in deeper. He’s not just I’m just gonna break you. And so that took a little bit more care I guess you know TLC and we really wanted to make sure we didn’t step too much into rocky 4 so that dialogue becomes a little different. But beyond that the bases the fundamentals of filmmaking are still the same. You just have more money is a bigger stage bigger set pieces. And to be honest with you that’s just hiring the right people. Everyone who knows how to do it. You know you have you’re here for your craft. We’re just telling the story making sure people feel for the characters take them on a journey. It is not your job to sit there by a computer and figure out how to drop you know 30,000 people behind in the green screen that’s you have a team that’s there getting paid for and that’s their specialty they rock with that you just tell them your vision and communicate that and you’re good. Basically, the fundamentals are communicating everything I’ve been saying about talking to people if you can lock that down as a director. One Million Dollar fifty million dollar that’s just. And honestly, it’s not even I just spilled out the budget my bad but cut cut take two. No but no matter what size or project it’s still the same. You know what I mean I think it’s just again it’s you’re not even looking at that when you’re on set sometimes and most of that goes away anyway. You talk about anything from taxes paying the crew and all that so you’re not really working with that amount of money. You know Dolph is like you cost so much money.
Creed 3. Creed 3.
Creed 3. He cost me so much money. But yeah you’re not really working with that. You’re still you still feel like there’s not there’s never gonna be enough time there’s never gonna be enough money. So you still feel like you’re you’re in that same place you were before. I guess.
I’ve heard that even you know Steven Spielberg basically gets a green light on anything he wants to do and has all the money and time yet. You know even Spielberg probably would like another dollar another day. That’s common for all directors no matter how big a project is you do want more but you make do with what you have.
And Steven Caple wasn’t the only one doing indie films and then going to such a big blockbuster. I mean Dolph Lundgren. He was you know in the 80s and 90s. He was doing bigger films but most recently he’s been doing a lot of independent films.
Yeah. This winter it was like the big comeback of Dolph Lundgren. You know I mean he has some great indie films like don’t kill it but yeah he hadn’t done a studio film except for The Expendables in a long time and suddenly this winter there’s Creed 2 and there’s Aquaman.
And this guy’s been so many like big films over the past just year although he joked that the reason he did those big films might be a little different than what you’d expect.
Everybody has to work. You know a couple of divorces and a few other things kids in school. Part of that is you know paying a few bills and stuff too but.
That’s not the answer they’re looking for Dolph.
I’m being honest. But like like Steven said you know a small movie like don’t kill it for instance was an interesting little picture I did Mike Mendez is this horror movie director really talented guy I play a character who talks all the time like the whole movie you know was all like all I do is run my mouth all the time which is obviously different than I do in some of these big movies so you know that was an opportunity for me to have fun with something that would be quite difficult to do in a big studio picture. Because usually studio pictures you know got 30 minutes to set up the story 25 30 minutes and then you got execution at the end you know two acts of action usually Creed 2 is very different because it’s more of a drama and they’re quite few and far in between now. In Hollywood, it’s mostly big extravaganzas with a lot of CGI like like Aquaman for instance. So smaller movies can be great for as an actor you can have more fun there’s not as much pressure you can try things you know yeah you can try things when you’re looking at Sly Stallone across the table too you can be inventive but it’s you know the stakes are higher. But if you’re in a small movie you can try a lot of stuff that maybe you couldn’t do in the big picture you know I’ve also been very lucky this last year also because some of it is your energy as a performer as a human being. You know it changes a lot and the kind of career follows that energy what goes out to the universe you put something out it comes back to you. And in my case this year or last year I was very lucky I worked with Steven Caple here you know is a great director I worked with James Wan on Aquaman is a great director. And you know so it was great for me to be able to use some of the skills I picked up in those smaller movies over the years and use it in a big film. You know that’s the good thing about acting is that as a director you know it’s your baby and it’s your project so you have to you know you’re responsible you’re accountable for the whole picture whereas as an actor you can always blame it on the director or at least the critics can blame it on the director. So you can you’re off the hook a little bit. So if you do a small movie to try something to play a character you would never play otherwise. Like for instance this horror movie I would never have done that. I mean nobody would probably cast me I would never have done it in a big movie it probably wouldn’t happen. So I get that opportunity. So that’s kind of how I look at it.
As an actor you can always blame the director. Great quote Can I use that on set.
And I don’t think a director gets to say well I can always blame the actor. It seems like that’s a one-way street.
And these films like Rocky I mean if you ignore Rocky 3 and 4 you actually have a series of movies that are really dramas more than action films. And recently a number of these movies that deal with fighting as a theme they’re like dramas you know southpaw with Jake Gyllenhaal.
Warrior with Tom Hardy.
And of course the wrestler.
With Mickey Rourke. I mean these are movies that are really just dramas and the fighting is like an extension of character as opposed to just being now here’s an action scene but rather no here’s a character who needs to express something.
And punch somebody.
And punch someone.
I’ll give a little bit to Steven too but I think that I hope that guys like him will direct more of these movies because then you know boxing and we’ll say MMA as well. It’s a great way to. Put action into a film without running around with guns shooting people. That’s why I love the Rocky movies there are no guns there’s no gunplay there’s no explosions. It’s it’s about real people and it’s about fighting. So there’s some mobility to the whole thing. I think that’s why those movies will always be up there and they’ll always last and you can get an Academy award. Working on a boxing movie it’s very hard to get that you know to do an action movie but you know you get you get the box office and you can get the performances in there too. And I think that’s really unique. I mean what do you think.
No I think it is tough man because warrior the movie warrior is like one of my favorite movies in general yeah it’s crazy good if you haven’t seen it not even just the fighting just the characters and that’s what all this stuff is about when you telling like a boxing or fighting film is that story outside the ring or octagon. Right. So I think it’s kind of tough because now you have to find new angles to tell the story. You know which should be interesting we go to Creed three Creed four. You know I have an idea which I feel like hasn’t been touched ever so I think that’s a dope way I won’t say it right now. But beyond that one idea I don’t know how many other ways you can tell like a full on boxing film you know I know for a fact that there’s some TV stuff in the works not with this particular but I’ve been pitched and all that stuff like to trying to make shows that are centered around it. So I think it’ll always live on the contender came back with Andre Ward in it you know what I mean you can’t escape that sport even though some call it a dying sport. You know what I mean so far as viewers and spectators go but so far as actual fighters. It will never be. You know what I mean so as long as those people still exist I feel like it’s going to continue on but it’s all about right now I think if it’s going to be selling on this level. I don’t know how many more rocky creed I don’t think there’s ever being anything this long in general as far as a Rocky franchise that’s based off of this fighting thing karate kid maybe in a sense. I’m just thinking about fighting you know in general like what has that longevity that lasts this long you know that doesn’t deal with like cars or dinosaurs or aliens you know what I mean it’s just like straight up just two people hand-to-hand combat that’s it you know what I mean.
And also the same people cause like in the Bond movies as soon as Bond the actor gets a little too old they pick a new guy.
They pick a new James Bond.
But here they’re all like you know Ivan Drago’s still Ivan Drago.
No yeah no it’s crazy.
So we’re up to Rocky number eight. And I mean I don’t know about you. I’m in the mood for like another 10. I think they could pull it off. We’ve had a lot of boxing movies.
There’s a lot of boxing movies.
Yeah. Raging Bull.
Million Dollar Baby.
Cinderella Man. I mean. It is a long list. And that’s the challenge then for a director coming to creed two is trying to direct not only the eighth Rocky movie but a boxing movie we haven’t seen a million times over.
And that we care about.
And that we care about and feel like oh yeah this one we haven’t seen. That was Steven Caple’s challenge.
Every Rocky film is slightly different. You know like Sly himself likes to stay outside the ring for most of the fights. It’s easier that way with shooting. Ryan did the iconic oner in the middle of his creed and then at the end he stayed on the outside very similar to Sly except for hopping in for the big knockout phantom shot where he like tilts off. For me I wanted to stay inside majority of all the fights only because of the story and tension between the two guys the size difference which is crazy because even in rocky 4 a lot of the camera work was outside the ring and you’re like huge you know compared to him and I was like going inside gives you a dynamic feel where you feel like you’re in his perspective. And so that perspective stuff is what I really wanted to capture so I did it with sound and I did it with camera work sometimes the choreography told it you know I had a great camera op Michael Heathcote he worked with Mike actually before Michael B Jordan and so he also knew some of his movements so it was perfect. You know so when we were in a scene and you know Mike is like Jab Jab slipped to the right come back boom boom. He would do that with the camera and we started creating this oner flow which is like we started to follow the punches and not even the actors which became really cool because it gave a sense of like a comeback moment or whatever so it’s like you would feel like a punch punch and then we’ll follow Drago’s huge swing. Even though Mike is out of frame now then he comes with another one and we come right back in. So that was cool stuff to play with but it puts you all in perspective of the fight and that’s where you know at least from what I’m receiving is audience members are like dodging and weaving and trying to like get into the fight which is cool but it gives it that kind of energy and that’s all this fight was like from the jump. I was like I’m gonna give you mad energy whereas Coogler was like I’m a give you like real life pacing and then hit you with something and then Sly was like I’m gonna give you massive punches in a very he has a crazy arc structure to this fight that we even use in the creed movies because he mastered that.
We have come a long way from Rocky one. John Alvidsen the director thought like you know you guys are athletes you’re actors. You know just just we’ll figure it out and they show up in the first rehearsal and he’s like Yeah we need to train a lot.
Yeah and sounds like Steven Caple was able to find the dance within the fight you know to find the balance of the story within the moves of the fight.
And that extended to even how he approached the entrances for the characters. You know the ring entrances to make sure that also was an extension of story an extension of character rather than just now here’s a two-minute music video.
I didn’t realize how important these entrances were with Rocky movies. You came from underneath the ground in Rocky 4.
James Brown singing.
James Brown singing and came from the top. I like an evil. And then Ryan Ryan did a oner exit and Balboa was huge too cause a shot at an actual fight. And so all those people were real and that energy was crazy. So it was like all this stuff pressure that came with it but I just went back to the story which was he’s taken that first fight not thinking of anybody else but himself a little bit selfish and he taps into Apollo Creed a little bit. You know the other one he came out pretty humble in Creed 1in this one he had to flex a little bit more so he comes out to Jaden Smith icon. We designed this LED panel light show.
Adonis Creed making a grand entrance tonight like his father Creed is ever the showman. And he’s energizing the crowd.
Again you guys are talking about budget. That one we had to scale down I was like how the hell do I impress people with a small or how am I gonna nail because all the fireworks went to his entrance like the last one so all the money kind of went there so I was trying to figure out how to do Creed’s in a really cool way. And it became like LED lights that’s cheap and that became a theme like the lights. And so it all kind of started from there. And then second match I’m like alright. He actually has come out different two ways is he comes out with nobody bare-chested no music kind of Tyson’s style but Drago had did that in the previous fight. So it’s like how do I switch it up. And it was like Tessa. He’s doing it for family. He has a support system and so she wrote a song that was her singing and her writing it the whole nine. That’s her stuff. For that moment and while we kept doing like adjustments because it didn’t feel war ready you know what I mean like I was waiting for something that felt war ready. And then yeah came up with this idea of just follow the light off of a tron and landing on them and they kind of popping out which again is mixture of CGI. And cheap lights almost. But in all fairness I think it works and just supposed to give you that ampness and the fact that they’re coming out together and it’s cool to peep into the theaters and see people clapping at that moment or cheering feeling like they’re ready to go at it because they think you know the Dragos feel like it’s their home turf. But yeah that’s kind of how the idea I came out with from there.
So what would your entrance music be if you were a boxer.
Somewhere over the rainbow.
I got you. Hold me by Fleetwood Mac. It’s soft it’s tender.
There it is.
And it speaks to who I am. You can tell we’re not ferocious boxers and thankfully Stephen Caple did not ask for our opinion for his music selection and those entrances into the ring. I mean that’s a scene that usually in any other boxing movie is kind of forgettable. But in this movie as a director he made sure like it was part of the storytelling spoke to who the characters are.
And some of his most impressive work for this film was just what he did with Drago just the character itself.
Sure. Yeah in the first movie he almost seemed like a cyborg.
And in this one he’s really human. Exactly the kind of thing like Dolph Lundgren now could play so beautifully.
Obviously I’d played the character once before when I played him the first time I was thirty-five years younger and there was not as much internal work but there was some external work a little bit of stuff that I picked up watching movies about Soviet boxers Soviet officer cadets they stand a certain way like with their chin up and there was some posturing things that I used for the first guy very straight and kind of a thing and also the way he fought. So some of that was in my spine and also I had it there already. But in this film it was more of an internal performance. So I had to focus on the guy’s journey what happened to him in 30 years the last 30 years and what happened to me in thirty-five years what happened to Dolph in 35 years. All the stuff I’ve been through all the injuries all the pain I’ve had rejection in the business bad movies things people believe in me a lot of things that I’ve gone through as well personal problems as well. So I try to find some connecting tissue there that I could use for some of these scenes so I didn’t have to try to play it try to. I didn’t have to push it. I could just feel it and kind of internalize it and didn’t have to. Try to show too much what the guy was actually feeling but he has a lot of pain you know and everything comes from pain even his anger hate whatever you see comes from pain and I think that’s why the character becomes interesting. Then, of course, I had 40 lines in Russian and somebody at MGM maybe this guy said oh Dolph’s from Sweden he can speak Russian. Give him another twenty-five lines well Swedish and Russian are like English and Russian. There’s no similarities whatsoever.
I think I did. I thought you did speak Russia This was before I met him.
And now I’m done because now they think I speak fluent Russian because apparently, the scenes were quite good even Russians think they’re good. So next film I want to be done. I want to be done.
I want to tell you this. We’re at MGM and I’m like and we get we delivered a script before he reads it. And like it says like you know all the dialogue’s in Russian like his parts and then somebody asked that question in the room. And I was like yeah he gotta he speaks like like seven languages he definitely speaks Russian and someone goes yeah he is Russian. We’re like no one knew what’s up.
Probably like the head of the studio probably.
Yeah, Dolph’s Russian.
So yeah. Well, this thing is it’s an illusion right. So if you can connect to the guy on an emotional level and if he speaks another language and that is what made me look kind of a bit like I’ve lived in Kiev with not with a pretty bad dentist and you know not too many facials or anything like that also I look a little bit like I haven’t seen the sun for many years so I think the combination of a lot of little things like that. That’s the magic of cinema it adds to the illusion that you really believe the guy you know is Russia. And even for me. You know when I watch the movie it has an impact and it’s it’s pretty strong. It works.
As you could see the character has come a long way in 30 some odd years from. I must break you to this complicated very sad lonely father that we see Drago has become in Creed two and one that is a good reflection you know of the times we’re in now versus what life was like in the 80s.
Yeah and Hollywood’s come a long way too.
This is the fourth film this year directed by an African-American. That has made over a hundred million dollars. And that in some ways you’re like. That. Yes, it is an applause moment.
It is a slow process to be totally honest with you. Where we’re at now. We should have been at years ago. I think it really is a matter of not filmmakers. I met so many talented filmmakers. And I can only imagine someone who’s been in a game for longer than me more that are young that are women that are black that are whatever you know. It’s just a matter of having those people in those seats with power. So far as these studios going to use going out to support these a lot of them are independent films. But there’s so much talent out there it’s ridiculous. And so I’m going to step into producing too as well just cause I feel like they’re all there and I’m like I want to see everyone kind of work. And that’s where this kind of movie comes into play to have someone like Ryan Coogler who was a producer on this myself a director black. You got Mike and Tessa Mike’s a producer. Juel who’s a writer I brought on. He’s black from Alabama to have that kind of camaraderie and like say hey we want to tell this film meant a lot to us. You know that was a big part of me stepping onto it get the call MGM wants you to do the film Dope. Ryan what’s up you know like what’s on like are you involved what’s all the details. Cause you want to make sure that there’s like there’s a movement going on. You know what I mean if no one is aware there’s a strong movement between women and just diverse storytelling. You know I hate the word diverse but it’s diverse storytelling and it’s powerful. But it’s great to have these moments where we can showcase like it doesn’t matter what gender what sex who you with or whatever. You know what I mean it’s just legit we just the power of storytelling and the talent is there and if we can get in these seats and be able to show a unique perspective then great. But I – it’s cool being the fourth this year. I guess but it’s also like damn that’s it. There’s only four. And how many fast and furious were there how many James Bond movies were there how many. Four. It’s a problem. Yeah, we talking about one woman director like you know Wonder Woman. That’s it really. That’s it. So yes it is progressing but at the same time I think it’s a time to reflect and look at these numbers and be like yes this is cool but yeah we have a lot of growth to do or going to do. It’s all about like again like myself being at USC there is this sense of like not even just like the true relationships weren’t my professors it was everyone around me my editor she’s a woman dope she did all my short films she did my feature she did creed two took her with me. You know what I mean like my assistant who turned producer on creed Mexican dude from East L.A. his family straight from Mexico took him with me you know what I mean like we came up together and these are people who believed me these are people who produced my short films my music videos who I just connect with you know what I mean it’s.
It’s your village.
Yeah, you know what I mean and it looks like the world that we see today. So it’s like it’s for me it’s no problem I’ll fight for them when I’m in a room with a studio because I know they’re talented and you will deal with racism or sexism or whatever it is when you’re in these rooms straight up but keep prevailing. You know what I mean like these moments right now where I can sit in front of you talking about numbers like 100 mil. Those are the wins you know what I mean. So keep pushing through. Definitely get your neighbors to the left and right of you and your ride or dies if you’re having trouble as an actor because of your accent go find that community who’s like yo who wants to tell no legit like stories and make yourself the lead of your own movie you know what I mean like do it because no one’s going to believe in it until I see it sometimes, unfortunately, that’s how the world works it’s how the studio system works. So if you show them like this is a powerful short film or whatever it is a feature independent where I’m the lead I produced it look what I’m able to do with my capabilities make them put you in a movie you know what I mean like don’t don’t accept that no and this is coming from a person that heard of many no’s like I’m telling you like I heard so many rejections I’m sure you have too so to be standing here in front of you guys with this dude with this movie under my belt. It’s a huge blessing but at the end of the day those names behind that credit creed two mean way more to me than anything else like I said and that’s me working with Ryan Mike and these guys and having that be like look what we did because I was curious why Spike Lee and John Singleton didn’t produce each other’s stuff I was curious like where was that at. You know what I mean and I think this is that time.
It’s always good to end on such a positive note.
And then he deserves those applause.
You know it’s funny the original Rocky it’s hard to remember this was like this independent film like Stallone wrote from his heart. He connected with that character heck he put his own dog into that film. It was so personal and they feel like that is what they’ve been able to put back into the storytelling with creeds 1 and 2. That’s what Steven Caple Jr and Dolph Lundgren did together. They made this thing both big and small. You know a Hollywood movie that is also very intimate like the best independent films.
We want to thank Steven Caple Jr and Dolph Lundgren for speaking with all of our students and thanks to all of you for listening. He’s Eric Conner.
That’s Aerial Segard and this episode was based on the Q&A that I got to moderate humungous. Thanks though to Chris Devane who set this entire thing up and brought them to our school to watch the full interview or to see our other Q&As check out our YouTube channel at YouTube.com/NewYorkFilmAcademy.
This episode was written by Eric Conner edited and mixed by Kristian Hayden our creative director is David Andrew Nelson who also produced this episode with Kristian Hayden and Eric Conner.
Executive produced by Jean Sherlock and Dan Mackler. A special thanks to our events department Sajja Johnson and the staff and crew who made this possible.
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See you next time.