For the first time in the Rocky/Creed universe in its 45-year existence, Sylvester Stallone's Rocky Balboa won't appear in the franchise's next film in Creed III. The actor, who's played the role since Rocky in 1976, spawned five direct sequels and two spinoff sequels that focus on the character's best friend Apollo Creed's (Carl Weathers) son Adonis "Donnie" Creed, played by Michael B Jordan. Stallone confirmed the news to The Hollywood Reporter.
In the 1976 film's initial release, Rocky won three Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director for John G. Avildsen, and Best Film Editing. It also scored seven additional nominations for Stallone and co-starred Talia Shire, Burgess Meredith, and Burt Young for all the major acting categories as well as Best Sound; Best Music, Original Music; and Best Screenplay (penned by Stallone). Following the maligned Rocky V (1990), the franchise took a hiatus until the sixth film in 2006's Rocky Balboa. Critics and audiences reacted more favorably as the character's one final time to shine in the limelight. With 2015's Creed, Rocky shifted to a mentor role guiding Jordan's Adonis, becoming an even bigger box office success than its predecessor while securing a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nod for Stallone. The 2018 sequel Creed II saw the reunion between Rocky IV (1985) rival Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), who's training his son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) in his footsteps. The film ended up being the second highest-grossing of the franchise after the 1985 film raising the stakes even further, considering Drago killed Adonis' father in the boxing ring the previous film and had to fight his son in the 2018 sequel. The franchise grossed a combined $1.5 billion globally.
Jordan will take the reins as director of Creed III with the script penned by Zach Baylin and Keenan Coogler. Confirmed returning are Tessa Thompson and Phylicia Rashad as Bianca and Mary Anne Creed, respectively, with the MGM sequel expected release date of November 23, 2022.