Sylvester Stallone is synonymous with Rocky Balboa. Even more than Stallone from Rambo. The story of Rocky, who was created on a wing and a prayer, and how he saved Stallone from poverty, is equal to the story of the underdog that the movie itself is proud of. The fact that fifty years later we are still watching the ongoing saga on the big screen is wonderful and that the quality has been preserved is something stunning.
With the upcoming Creed III movie (in theaters and IMAX March 3), the Rocky franchise will take to uncharted waters as the first film in the series not to feature Rocky as Stallone.
Regarding his absence from the film, Stallone said, “It was Michael [B Jordan] it tells a story, very personal, but there is no place for me in it. In other words, it’s about him [character Adonis Creed’s] family, about his dilemma and about his journey, which has nothing to do with boxing.
“I don’t want to give anything away, but that’s a completely different point of view than Rocky’s point of view.”
Read more: From Rocky to Creed III: The Story So Far
Stallone’s relationship with the franchise is strained at best though, and given that we left Rocky in Creed II, reconciling with his son Robert, and meeting his grandson Logan, it’s not hard to imagine that the third film’s narrative will simply say, that he had decided to stay with Robert and make up for lost time.
Behind the scenes, however, is a different matter. Despite playing Rocky eight times, writing seven films and directing four of them, Stallone actually has very little involvement in the series.
When Stallone wrote the script and sold it with the intention of starring in it, he only made $75,000 for both acting and writing, plus a portion of the profits, yet the film was a huge success. However, the rights to the characters belong to producer Irwin Winkler.
Winkler produced every film in the franchise and, at 91, continues to produce them. He, along with producer Robert Chartoff (who died in 2015), own the series and names, which openly annoys Stallone. Speaking to Variety Stallone in 2019, he stated that while he had nothing but respect for the late Chartoff, he remains furious with Winkler and his sons for not giving him more of a stake in the show.
Stallone states in this Variety interview that when he confronted Winkler over the release of Rocky IV about not having an equity stake, he was told “Hey, you got paid, so what are you complaining about” after “I was mad.”
Read more: Sylvester Stallone strikes at the producer of the “parasite” Rocky
Stallone also said there were fewer films than expected thanks to the producers sticking hard to the series. In a since-deleted Instagram post mocking Winkler’s son David (also producer of the Creed films), “if it wasn’t for Winkler, there would have been at least three more Rockys.”
Looking back, Creed director Ryan Coogler has spoken of Stallone turning him down when he initially pitched Creed, perhaps because of Stallone’s reluctance to work with Winkler again, but was won over by Coogler’s enthusiasm and story.
For his role in Creed, Stallone was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, a rare achievement in itself for a sequel, and the first nomination since he was nominated for the lead role in Rocky. This clearly emboldened him to write a sequel to the film in 2018 and at one point consider directing the film as well.
Read more: Stallone says he had “zero ownership” of Rocky
Stallone has since talked about his idea for an epilogue film for Rocky, which saw him train a young Mexican immigrant in a story he described as “very, very timely.” He also talked about wanting to create a Rocky prequel television series.
With both of these projects stalled due to Stallone’s ever-deteriorating relationship with the Winklers, things got worse when a spin-off focusing on Ivan Drago, the villain of Rocky IV, and his son Viktor from Creed II was announced without consulting Stallone. it’s clear that Stallone has no desire to work with a producer who he believes is keeping him from showing anything during his time on the show.
Michael B. Jordan, who is both director and star of Creed III, also decided to move the plot forward and let Adonis step out of Rocky’s shadow. That doesn’t mean Stallone has washed his hands of the show, he’s still producing the film, and he read Zach Baylin and Keenan Coogler’s script and described it as “really interesting.”
Read more: How Rocky reflected the life of Sylvester Stallone
Stallone has remained open about working together again if Winkler were to leave the picture, and given that the producer is over 90, that’s likely to be sooner rather than later, but it remains to be seen whether a deal can be worked out with Winkler. sons and Stallone, and what will happen to the series after the release of Creed III.
Creed III is in theaters and IMAX March 3, 2023. Watch the trailer below.