Watch the ‘Creed III’ Trailer Starring Michael B. Jordan and Jonathan Majors

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It’s Michael B. Jordan versus Jonathan Majors in the first trailer for “Creed III,” and who will win this brawl is anybody’s guess. MGM and United Artists Releasing debuted footage from the upcoming boxing sequel on Tuesday morning.

Jordan returns as Adonis “Donnie” Creed, son of Rocky Balboa’s fiercest opponent, Apollo Creed. But the actor isn’t just throwing punches at Majors’ antagonist Damian “Dame” Anderson in the film, “Creed III” also marks Jordan’s directorial debut. Just as “Rocky” star Sylvester Stallone went on to helm four of the franchise’s films, Jordan stakes his own claim behind the camera with an ambitious take on the material.

The footage begins with Donnie Creed on top of the world — a champion boxer on the cover of Forbes, with his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson), a success in her own right as singer, and their daughter Amara (newcomer Mila Davis-Kent) beside them.

“I spent the last seven years of my life living out my wildest dreams,” Donnie says. “Bianca. Rocky. My dad. I stood on their shoulders.”

It’s then that the mystery of Majors’ role in all of this begins to crystallize, setting up the stakes between Donnie and Dame. “Let me get an autograph?” Dame says, cracking a grin while reclining against Donnie’s Rolls-Royce. “You don’t remember me, huh?”

The footage then flashes back to the two as youngsters raising their hands in the air, soon to be confronted by police. Turns out, Dame spent the last 18 years in prison and he’s ready to start fresh, or so it seems. But for Dame, reuniting with his “brother” Donnie and getting back into boxing — a sport in which he was the better of the two, he notes — is about much more than winning a championship belt.

“Imagine spending half your life in a cell watching somebody else live your life,” Dame yells when the two men finally confront each other about what’s really going on between them. “I’m coming for everything.”

Well, sometimes family business has to be settled in the ring, especially when, as the logline explains, “there’s no enemy like the past.” Thus begins the training montage for the “Battle for Los Angeles” — with wind sprints, pull-ups, speedbag punches and ice baths as Donnie and Dame prepare to square off in what will surely be the most intense battle of the franchise to date. (Also prominently featured is Dame’s workout on Venice’s Muscle Beach, which paparazzi captured footage of Jordan directing in March.)

The film also stars Wood Harris, Florian Munteanu (returning as Donnie’s “Creed II” opponent Viktor Drago) and Phylicia Rashad, with Jordan directing from a screenplay by Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin, with a story by Ryan Coogler and the duo.

During a press conference Monday, Jordan explained why he wanted to step behind the camera.

“For me it was the perfect time, growing up on set and in the industry for over 20 years, starting out doing background work and extra work and just kind of just seeing the sets evolve, seeing everybody’s job, seeing how a real production storytelling took place, I finally got to this place in my career where I wanted to tell a story and not just be in front of the camera, not just execute somebody else’s vision,” Jordan shared with reporters gathered virtually to preview the trailer.

“Having a character that I’ve played twice before — it’s been seven, eight years living with this guy — so to be able to tell the story of where I believe Adonis is at,” he continued. “And also at 35 years old, I had a lot to say, as a young Black man, just my life experiences and how I could actually share a piece of myself with the world through these characters and through the story.”

In fact, Jordan first approached “Creed” director Ryan Coogler about the prospect of directing while filming the first movie in 2015 and Coogler gave him some sage advice. “He was just like, ‘It’s never the right time. You’ve just got to jump in the deep end and go for it.’”

But the acclaimed actor admitted that, given the scope of the franchise and the scale of the big-budget production, “it was the most challenging thing that I’ve ever done so far, by far.”

While Jordan started the film with the advantage of being an experienced actor who had a “shorthand” with the cast and crew, many of whom had been around since the first film, he still found himself pushing to “new limits” daily and “learning how to communicate and really get what’s in your head and have other people pick up on that passion and that enthusiasm and execute your vision to the best of their ability.”

About starring in the film, while directing for the first time, Jordan joked, “I’m a little sick. I must have a problem because it’s lowkey torture, but at the same time, it’s so much fun.”

He explained: “The challenge of accomplishing it all, the multitasking nature of it to develop story, try to stay in shape and give all the departments what they individually need and then have my process as Adonis, it’s really hard to put into words. Every day was a struggle but it was the team of people who were around me — you have to surround yourself with people you trust so you can focus on what you need to focus on, and sometimes that is doing two things at one time. Three things at one time.”

Jordan recalled being on set with Ryan Coogler and Steven Caple Jr. while they directed the first two “Creed” movies, respectively, and seeing the filmmakers be “a little tired, a little run-down” going into the end of production and the beginning of post, while he’d still have a little pep in his step, because he had a lighter workload.

“I would empathize with them and say, ‘It’s okay man, I get it.’ I did not get anything,” he admitted. “It’s only now can really look at them eye to eye and say ‘I get it. I understand’ and they’re like, ‘Yeah, you finally get it.’ It’s an acknowledgement, you know, when you step behind the camera, the undertaking that is. From outside looking in it seems tough, but it’s extremely hard to do.”

One journalist asked Jordan what he’d learned about the “art of the training montage,” one of the franchise’s signature elements since the first “Rocky” movie. “Get all the footage you can — every push-up, every speedbag moment,” he laughed. “But seriously, for the montage, what are the stakes? How is the character leaving the montage better than he was when he first started.”

Thematically, Jordan teased that “family is always the core” of the “Creed” movies, as well as heart, so it was important to weigh in on what Donnie and Bianca’s lives are like now as they navigate their marriage, parenthood and careers as young adults. Jordan heaped praise on Thompson for being his “rock” in this process. “Trust is a huge thing, and having earned each other’s trust being in scenes together, and now having her trust me as a storyteller was the biggest compliment that she’s given me thus far,” he said.

Jordan shared that story also focuses on the importance of facing your past in order to “find out who you really are,” as well as remembering where you come from. “Settling debts and being accountable for your actions is something that we wanted to look at as well,” Jordan explained. “This movie has a lot of me in it and hopefully a lot of other people as well. I wanted to created a story where everybody felt that they could relate to something.”

About booking Majors to play the antagonist, Jordan said he felt “very blessed and lucky to have him be a part of this story.”

“For me, as a director, to have that running mate and that scene partner made all the difference in the world. The world is finding out daily how incredible this man is and the works that he does. It’s finally getting the props that it’s due. And Jonathan was incredible, man, he showed up every day ready. Ready to go to war. Ready to work.”

About Damian, Jordan teased that the character is “definitely a pivotal person and a pillar in Adonis’ life, that kind of comes back around and it needs to kind of get addressed.”

Earlier this month, Majors headlined a Men’s Health cover story, previewing the boxing physique he chiseled for the film. The actor insisted on lifting real weights on the set, following with three months of intense physical training to prepare for the role. The “Lovecraft Country” star insisted the physicality of his character played into his emotional arc as a hellbent boxer willing to risk everything in the ring.

“There are certain reasons you build your body,” Majors said. “Dame’s body was built from loss. He had lost something, and that hole is what made him work the way he worked. When you see Dame’s body, you go, ‘Oh, that makes sense.’ You don’t look like that and be happy with life.”

“Creed III” marks the ninth installment in the “Rocky” film franchise and the third in the “Creed” spinoff series, which has made more than $377 million worldwide. The film hits theaters on March 3, 2023.

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