Creed 3: Why Sylvester Stallone was not cast as Rocky, explained

Exploring the End of an Era: The reasons behind Sylvester Stallone
Exploring the End of an Era: The reasons behind Sylvester Stallone's absence in Creed 3 (Image via MGM)

The absence of Sylvester Stallone's iconic character, Rocky Balboa, in Michael B. Jordan's latest film, Creed 3, has caused a stir among fans. After his integral role in the first two Creed movies, including an Oscar-nominated performance in the initial installment, Stallone's absence in the third film is puzzling.

This marks the first time in the Rocky franchise's history that Balboa has not appeared. While the reasons behind Stallone's absence are twofold, many fans are left wondering if the franchise will ever be the same without him.


Sylvester Stallone's departure from Creed 3: A clash of creative direction

Sylvester Stallone exits Creed 3 clash over creative direction (Image via MGM)
Sylvester Stallone exits Creed 3 clash over creative direction (Image via MGM)

Sylvester Stallone's departure from Creed 3 has left fans surprised and disappointed. The news came as a shock, especially since Stallone has been integral to the Rocky and Creed franchises. However, the reasons behind his departure shed light on the creative differences between Stallone and the filmmakers.

The primary reason for Stallone's departure is his lack of enthusiasm for Creed 3's creative direction. The film, written by Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin from a story developed by original Creed director Ryan Coogler, takes a darker approach than the previous films.

According to film critic Owen Gleiberman, the film feels more like a Cape Fear-inspired thriller than a traditional Rocky movie.

Creative differences led to Stallone's exit from Creed III, despite his and Jordan's perspectives (Image via Getty)
Creative differences led to Stallone's exit from Creed III, despite his and Jordan's perspectives (Image via Getty)

In an interaction with THR, Stallone expressed his disagreement with the sequel's tone, stating:

"It was taken in a direction that is quite different than I would've taken it. It's a different philosophy — Irwin Winkler's and Michael B. Jordan's. I wish them well, but I'm much more of a sentimentalist. I like my heroes getting beat up, but I just don't want them going into that dark space. I just feel people have enough darkness."

Michael B. Jordan, who plays Adonis Creed, also had a different vision for the film. He wanted "Creed III" to focus solely on Adonis Creed and his character development. In an interview with HOT97, Jordan stated that he wished for Adonis to stand on his own two feet, which required him to move forward without Rocky.

The previous Creed movie focused on the relationship between Adonis and Rocky, but Creed 3 allowed Adonis to pursue his path without Rocky's guidance. While both Stallone and Jordan have valid points, the clash in creative direction ultimately led to Stallone's departure from the film.


Sylvester Stallone's feud with Irwin Winkler

Stallone's departure linked to a feud with Irwin Winkler (Image via Getty)
Stallone's departure linked to a feud with Irwin Winkler (Image via Getty)

Stallone's ongoing feud with longtime franchise producer Irwin Winkler over the rights to the Rocky franchise is one of the reasons for his absence. Winkler has owned the rights since the original Rocky movie, which Stallone sold to him years ago when he was a struggling actor.

Despite earning net points on the original film and receiving first-dollar gross on the early sequels, Stallone has no ownership of the characters.

In a 2019 interview with Variety, Stallone expressed frustration over the lack of ownership, stating that he was "furious" about not having creative control over the characters he created.

The feud between Stallone and Winkler reignited in 2022 when Stallone posted an Instagram photo featuring a portrait of Winkler as a knife-tongued serpent. In the caption of the now-deleted post, Stallone expressed his desire to regain some of his "Rocky" franchise rights before passing them on to Winkler's children.

Sylvester Stallone's now-deleted post (Image via Sylvester Stallone's Instagram)
Sylvester Stallone's now-deleted post (Image via Sylvester Stallone's Instagram)

The caption read:

"A very flattering portrait of the great 'Rocky'/'Creed' producer, Irwin Winkler, from one of the country's greatest. After Irwin controlling 'Rocky' for over 47 years, and now 'Creed', I really would like to have at least a little [of] WHAT'S LEFT of my rights back, before passing it on to ONLY YOUR CHILDREN — I believe that would be a fair gesture from this 93-year-old gentleman?"

The conflict between Stallone and Winkler has made it uncertain whether Stallone will ever play Rocky again.

In a November 2021 interview with SiriusXM host Jessica Shaw, Stallone described his emotional journey cutting ties with the Rocky franchise for Creed 3, stating that he can't make peace with someone who has been "so, so nefarious" in his opinion.


The uncertain future of Rocky Balboa: Will Sylvester Stallone return?

Will Rocky Balboa return? Stallone's future in the franchise uncertain (Image via MGM)
Will Rocky Balboa return? Stallone's future in the franchise uncertain (Image via MGM)

The iconic character of Rocky Balboa has been a symbol of resilience and determination for generations. However, the character's future seems uncertain due to the tensions between Sylvester Stallone and Irwin Winkler, leaving fans wondering if Stallone will ever return to reprise his role.

Stallone has already stated that Creed 3 marks the end of his involvement with the franchise. In an interview with Variety, he revealed:

"This is probably my last rodeo because what I thought happened, and has happened in life, you never know. It was a very emotional thing to do...and I just felt like it was time to say goodbye."

It's disappointing to see Sylvester Stallone leave the franchise, but it's worth acknowledging that Creed 3 is still an excellent addition to Rocky's legacy. The film captures the franchise's essence while exploring new territory under Jordan's direction and Coogler's story. Although Stallone's absence is felt, it's evident that the filmmakers put forth their best effort to create a storyline that stands on its own.

Ultimately, the future of Rocky Balboa remains unclear. Even if Sylvester Stallone never returns to the role, his legacy will continue to inspire and uplift audiences for years to come.

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Edited by Vinay Agrawal
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