“I learned in film school that the type of movies I like to make are the ones that are extremely personal to me,” director Ryan Coogler said in a recent interview. “Personal to a point they were almost like my own kids.”
Coogler’s first film, 2013’s Fruitvale Station, was an intimate and fully formed portrait of Oscar Grant III, an Oakland man who was shot and killed by a BART police officer in Oakland, while he was handcuffed. Heartbreaking but also poignant and honest, the movie garnered critical and commercial success.
However, before Fruitvale Station was even made, he already had his mind on making Creed. In an interview with Deadline.com, Coogler explains that Creed was a natural next step for him because of his father’s emotional connection to the Rocky series.
“My father’s mom died when he was 18-years-old,” he said. “By the end, by the time she was essentially on her deathbed, she only could lay in bed at home. And the only activity that they could do together was watch TV, whatever was being broadcast at the time. At that time it was Rocky II, repeated on TV all the time.”
Coogler says this tradition of watching the chapel scene between Rocky and Mickey in Rocky II always stirred great wails of emotion within his father, a strong, athletic man. His father would always tear up during this scene, he would always stand up and applaud at the end. It became such a time honored tradition that before any big moment in Ryan’s life, his father would always show him this scene.
“As I got older and became an athlete, if I had a big football game or big basketball game he would say ‘hey man, c’mon, we’ll take five minutes and watch this scene from Rocky so you can get fired up,’” he remembered.
While attending USC School of Cinematic Arts, Coogler’s father became very sick and his disease progressed at an aggressive rate. It was at this point that he understood what his father went through with his grandmother. Like any great storyteller, Coogler went to his chosen medium to find answers to the questions born from this crisis. The questions born from this hardship served as the spine for Creed.
“What makes you a man? What’s the definition of masculinity?” Coolger asked. “Is it the strength that my father had when I was a kid and I ran to him and he would pick me up with one arm? When that strength goes away, is he still that same person? That was kind of how I came up with this idea for Creed.”
Coogler’s father survived his ordeal and is doing a lot better.
“He’s been able to take control of his health a lot more and he’s doing really good,” Coogler said. “He’s crazy to see this movie.”
Creed opens nationwide today.