American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 30

I

The Next Generation
By Neil Matsumoto

Having grossed more than a billion
dollars at the box office worldwide, the
Rocky saga is one of the most beloved and
successful film franchises of all time. The
series has so far focused on Rocky Balboa
(Sylvester Stallone), a down-and-out
Philadelphia boxer who becomes heavyweight champion of the world. Over the
course of six films, Rocky takes on all
comers - including Mr. T, the Soviet Union
and even old age - but any true Rocky fan
will tell you that his greatest rival was Apollo
Creed (Carl Weathers), with his trademark
stars-and-stripes boxing trunks and
Muhammad Ali swagger.
Decades after the release of the first
film in 1976, Stallone, now 69, returns to
his iconic role in director Ryan Coogler's
Creed. This latest chapter, however, focuses
on Apollo's son, Adonis Johnson, who travels to Philly in the hopes that Rocky will train
him in his own quest for the title.
Fresh off the success of his first fulllength feature, Fruitvale Station (AC April
'13) - winner of the Grand Jury Prize and
the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film
at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival -
30

December 2015

Coogler sought to bring new life to the
Rocky series. Penned by Coogler and Aaron
Covington, Creed reunited the director with
Fruitvale Station star Michael B. Jordan, who
portrays Apollo's tenacious offspring.
"I was quite surprised that someone
with my credits would get a phone call for a
Rocky movie," reveals director of photography Maryse Alberti. Having shot such
projects as the indies Happiness and Velvet
Goldmine (AC Nov. '98), and the documentaries Crumb (AC July '95), Enron: The
Smartest Guys in the Room and Taxi to the
Dark Side, Alberti has not been known for
studio franchises. She says, though, that
Coogler was a fan of Darren Aronofsky's
The Wrestler (AC Jan. '09) - which Alberti
shot - and he was looking for an indie
filmmaker. "He's very smart, very talented
and a great collaborator," she notes. "And
as a human being, he has a great heart,
compassion and generosity. He gets a lot of
respect from everybody, and he's genuinely
interested in what everyone does. There
was a very nice atmosphere on the set."
The project also gave Alberti an even
clearer understanding of the series' influence on popular culture, particularly when
the production shot at the steps of the
Philadelphia Museum of Art, adjacent to
American Cinematographer

which the bronze statue of the fictional
boxer still stands. "Nearly 40 years after the
first Rocky, people are still running up the
stairs pumping their fists. The character has
[an indelible] persona, and people get very
excited and call out 'Rocky!' when they see
Stallone."
Although the cinematographer is
not a fervent follower of the sport, she
admires a number of classic boxing movies.
Alberti reveals that she became more of a
fan after watching Floyd Mayweather on
HBO's 24/7, which she describes as "a very
well-made documentary [series]."
During prep for Creed, Coogler and
Alberti reviewed boxing scenes from a
number of Rocky movies, though their
biggest visual influence was Jacques Audiard's 2009 feature, A Prophet (AC March
'10). Alberti especially appreciated the
French film's mix of Steadicam, handheld
and static shots, and how each choice of
technique was motivated by the story. "We
decided that although Raging Bull is an
amazing film and the boxing sequences are
beautiful, it was not the way we wanted to
go," Alberti explains. "I think Ryan wanted
the boxing to be more realistic and less stylized." The filmmakers also examined
Alberti's handheld work on The Wrestler.

Creed photos by Barry Wetcher, SMPSP, courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema.

In the feature
Creed, Adonis
Johnson (Michael
B. Jordan, left),
the son of
legendary boxer
Apollo Creed,
trains for his own
shot at the title
alongside his
father's one-time
rival and later
friend, Rocky
Balboa (Sylvester
Stallone).



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - December 2015

Contents
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 1
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 2
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - Contents
American Cinematographer - December 2015 - 4
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