1 of 5 | Michael B. Jordan directs "Creed III." Photo courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Inc.
LOS ANGELES, March 2 (UPI) -- Michael B. Jordan said directing Creed III, in theaters Friday, gave him extreme feelings on both ends of the spectrum.
"It's the hardest thing I've had to do so far," Jordan said at a press conference in Los Angeles. "But at the same time, I felt the most alive doing it, so it was rewarding."
2015's Creed was a spinoff of the Rocky franchise. Adonis Creed (Jordan) is the long-lost son of Rocky Balboa's (Sylvester Stallone) first opponent, Apollo Creed.
Rocky agreed to train Adonis in Creed and Creed II. Having written the first six Rockys and co-written the first two Creeds, the boxing saga has paralleled the ups and downs of Stallone's career.
For his first time directing any film, Jordan, 36, said he fulfilled some lifelong ambitions. In assembling the film's boxing scenes, Jordan said he brought literal dreams to life.
"There are some scenes and shots in the movie that I've dreamed about," Jordan said. "I've imagined, daydreamed in my head, and when you see it on screen, the type of gratification you get out of that is crazy."
Adonis retires as a champion at the beginning of Creed III. Years into his career managing Apollo's gym and other heavyweights, Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors) returns from Adonis's past.
When Adonis and Damian were teenagers, Damian went to prison for 18 years after an altercation Adonis escaped. Now, Adonis tries to help Damian at first, but ultimately Adonis decides to return to the ring to fight him.
Like all eight previous films, Creed III shows Adonis and Damian training. Since they are based in Los Angeles, Jordan wanted to showcase locations that aren't usually featured in films.
"Sixth Street Bridge is a new place that was starting to become very, very popular," Jordan said. "With people running their car, drag racing down there and you're walking the bridge, it's very visual."
Jordan admitted he did relent on one Los Angeles landmark. Like Rocky ran up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Adonis runs up to the Hollywood sign.
"There are certain things you can't get away from, you know," Jordan said.
Still, Jordan tied the Hollywood Sign into Adonis's journey. In the first two Creeds, Adonis traveled to Philadelphia to train with Rocky, so the sign represented returning home.
"'Hollywood' was the nickname that they gave him when he went to Philly," Jordan said.
As director, Jordan allowed his co-stars to collaborate, too. Majors, 33, gave Damian his last name.
The script by Jordan, Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin originally named Majors' character Brandon. Jordan decided Damian was a stronger name, but needed a last name.
"Anderson is my maternal last name," Majors said at the press conference. "One of the highlights of the experience was when Mike said yes to that."
Majors said he also drew on his stepfather for inspiration. Joe Young served 15 years before meeting his mother and raising Majors.
Damian still wears an ankle monitor and must check in with his parole officer in Creed III. Majors said 50% of his performance was based on seeing Joe Young navigate the prison release system as a child.
The other half came from Adonis. Majors said he studied Jordan and Adonis so he could figure out "how to antagonize this character, how to help this character continue his hero's journey."
The baby Adonis and Bianca (Tessa Thompson) had together in Creed II is now 7 years old. Jordan cast Mila Davis-Kent in the role.
Mila, 10, was only 9 when she played Amara Creed. It was her first acting role, though she filmed an episode of The Resident afterward, and that episode aired earlier.
For her first acting role, Mila said Jordan's preparation helped her understand her role.
"He was able to make sure and explain to us what our characters needed to do for each scene," Mila told UPI in a separate Zoom interview.
Mila is deaf like her character, and said American Sign Language consultant Jeremy Lee Stone helped the cast and crew communicate with her. Mila said Jordan and Thompson were able to sign with her.
While Adonis is dealing with Damian, he also has to contend with Amara getting into fights in school. Adonis trains Amara afterschool, but Mila trained with Ann Najir, "The Mitt Queen."
Since Adonis Creed carries on Apollo and Rocky's legacies, Mila hopes she can continue in future Creeds.
"I'm hoping that there'll be a Creed IV," Mila said. "If that happens, I'll be ready with my boxing skills."
Jordan gave Mila credit for taking instruction well.
"From watching and paying attention to the Mitt Queen, and following instructions to a T, [Mila] picked it up extremely fast," Jordan said. "She's a natural at it. She's fearless, and there was nothing that seemed too big for her to accomplish."