No pulling punches when Michael B. Jordan filmed Creed II
US actor Michael B. Jordan on feeling the pain of fight scenes and a strict diet
Adonis Creed knows one thing well. In boxing, the man looking back at you in the mirror is your toughest opponent, not the other guy in the ring.
US actor Michael B. Jordan is back to pack a punch in Creed II, the sequel to the 2015 sports drama, where he reprises the role of Adonis, a talented light heavyweight boxer and the illegitimate son of world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed.
Jordan thinks Adonis never felt like a champ, even after winning the WBC World Heavyweight Championship and being trained by Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone, also Creed II's screenwriter and producer), his dad's former opponent.
In this next chapter, the eighth instalment in the Rocky film series, which opens here tomorrow, he is learning to deal with fame and trying to figure out his father's legacy and struggling with the quest to remain a champion.
Along comes a challenger, undefeated heavyweight Viktor Drago (Romanian boxer Florian Munteanu), the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the Russian boxer who killed Apollo in a match 30 years ago.
Jordan, 31, said at the Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia: "Out of nowhere, this blast from the past arrives, which forces Adonis to go down a dark road, to really reflect on and figure out why he fights, and if he really has what it takes to be a great fighter.
"This film shows that sometimes you have to go through darkness and pain and the fire to realise what's important. You have to face your fears."
And not surprisingly, he said the boxing training was tough.
"You live in a vacuum when you do these types of movies, you just kind of lock in.
"You put yourself on a routine, wake up in the morning, take your vitamins, do your cardio, eat something, and later on in the day you are going to go work out and eat again, and work out and eat again, and later on you are going to work out and eat again," Jordan said, laughing.
"And then you rest and you do it over and over and over again. And once you get it in your mind that that is your life for a while, it becomes second nature and you just do it."
So what food was banned?
"Everything. Anything that tasted good, you couldn't have. The sugar, the cheese, the bread, life, whatever, all the things you care about."
For the fight scenes, the punches were real - and so was the pain.
Jordan said: "A lot of the shots in this movie, especially the slow-motion ones, you can't fake them and you have to connect, because you will be able to see that it didn't really hit at all.
"Nowadays, you have visual effects and can move punches over and make them look like they are hitting.
"But one of the traditions of Rocky and Creed is that we take real punches. That's what you signed up for when you take on one of these movies. I know Florian was looking forward to it.
"We are a little weird that way. We kind of run towards the pain, because once you learn that Sly and Dolph did it back then, it's like, we can't be the new school coming up and not do it. We have got to step up to the challenge."
Particularly exciting for him were the themes of family in Creed II, especially when Adonis becomes a dad after his fiancee (Tessa Thompson) gives birth to their first child.
Jordan said: "I think Adonis not having a real family, in and out of foster care and adopted by (Apollo's widow) Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), going from the inner city to the suburbs and not really fitting in anywhere, he longed for a family.
"So becoming a father for him was extremely important. I don't have any children, but at my age, my parents just had my sister. I am sure I will be fine if it ever were to happen to me, but it was something that was interesting to play, to be able to have a daughter and what those feelings were, how protective he was and how scared he was to not be able to protect her. His superpower is his family.
"No spoilers, but yeah, certain things were very emotional and really hard for me to play, but at the same time it was a lot of fun."
He added: "I am a great baby handler. I love babies and they love me too, it is crazy."
When asked to reflect on his success this past year, especially the worldwide embrace of Marvel superhero blockbuster Black Panther in which he played antagonist Erik "Killmonger" Stevens, Jordan said: "Black Panther exceeded our wildest imaginations as far as what that could mean for my community, my culture, cinematic history on a lot of levels, busted through a lot of glass ceilings.
"And then to follow that up with a sequel to a movie, my own franchise, was pretty special for me.
"I am getting used to the adjustment, every day is something new and something different. There was a time where I wasn't having these interviews.
"I have been doing this for 20 years. It's crazy that everything is kind of happening right now, it's a real special feeling.
"And I don't think I have changed, I think I am the same person. But I think the world is changing and my life is changing."
The writer is the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a non-profit organisation of entertainment journalists that also organises the annual Golden Globe Awards.