CS Interview: Florian Munteanu Carries on the Drago Legacy in Creed II
MGM and Warner Bros. Pictures‘ boxing sequel Creed II starring Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone is out now in theaters. ComingSoon.net had the chance to speak 1:1 with German-Romanian boxer Florian Munteanu, who makes his feature debut as Viktor Drago, the son of Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago from 1985’s Rocky IV. Check out the interview below!
Creed II is the continuation of the Rocky saga and sequel to the 2015 critically-acclaimed and crowd-pleasing 2015 hit Creed, which took in more than $170 million at the worldwide box office. Ryan Coogler (Black Panther), who directed the first film, returns to the franchise as an executive producer on Creed II. The new film is being directed by Steven Caple Jr., who helmed the acclaimed 2016 drama The Land.
Life has become a balancing act for Adonis Creed. Between personal obligations and training for his next big fight, he is up against the challenge of his life. Facing an opponent with ties to his family’s past only intensifies his impending battle in the ring. Rocky Balboa is there by his side through it all and, together, Rocky and Adonis will confront their shared legacy, question what’s worth fighting for, and discover that nothing’s more important than family. Creed II is about going back to basics to rediscover what made you a champion in the first place, and remembering that, no matter where you go, you can’t escape your history.
Also reprising their roles from the first film are Tessa Thompson as Bianca, Phylicia Rashad as Mary Anne, Wood Harris as Tony ‘Little Duke’ Burton, and Andre Ward as Danny ‘Stuntman’ Wheeler. The new cast is rounded out with Florian “The Big Nasty” Munteanu as Viktor Drago, Dolph Lundgren returning to the role of Ivan Drago and Russell Hornsby as Buddy Marcelle. Creed II will be distributed theatrically in the U.S. by MGM on November 21, 2018, and Warner Bros. Pictures will distribute the film internationally.
Caple Jr. directs from an original screenplay written by Stallone based on characters from the Rocky franchise. The film is produced by Irwin Winkler, Charles Winkler, William Chartoff, David Winkler, Kevin King-Templeton, and Stallone. Coogler, Jordan and Guy Riedel will executive produce.
ComingSoon.net: So how familiar were you with the “Rocky” franchise going in to this film?
Florian Munteanu: Yeah, I mean, I was growing up with the “Rocky” movies. I’m a big fan of the franchise. My father was a big fan of the franchise, too. Those movies motivated me and inspired me to actually start working out because I saw guys like Sly and Dolph and I actually wanted to look like them, so I asked my father to get me into the gym because my desire was to look like them. So it plays a big role in my life, those movies.
CS: Since this is your first really major role, what was the process in terms of either your representation putting you up for it or of you finding out that the role was available? How did it all snowball into you landing it?
Munteanu: I kind of just offered to audition for the role. They were looking for a European guy, a big heavyweight who had the looks and I thought it’s a pretty good idea. Actually, when I first saw the role, I was pretty sure about myself that I’m going to get it. You know, sometimes in life you have those feelings, where you’re simply sure about yourself that this is your moment? So I auditioned for the role, had some self-tapes going on, some auditions, went back and forth. Then they called me and said, “Hey, Sly likes you. He wants to do a live Skype audition with you.” So I prepared two scenes for that live Skype audition and Sly liked what he saw. He flew me to LA and then I had four days of rehearsals with our director Steven Caple. He approved me too, and then I got the role. Then I got the job.
CS: This is a legacy movie in that it’s a follow-up to “Creed” and all of the other “Rocky” movies that preceded it, but it’s specifically a follow-up to “Rocky IV.” What kind of conversations did you have with Sly and Dolph in terms of approaching the character and approaching the legacy of that movie in particular?
Munteanu: You’re right that it’s a follow-up of “Rocky IV,” but it’s rather a “Rocky IV 2.0,” you know? “Creed” has its own DNA. Viktor and Ivan are two different characters. Ivan was pretty much a killing machine without emotions back in the day. Viktor has a lot of emotions, even though he’s quiet like Ivan, but there’s a lot of issues going on with them and there’s a lot of emotions. He’s fighting for the right stuff. So obviously, I was honored to play the son of such an iconic role, and there was pressure on my shoulders because Sly discovered me and he said, “this is the right guy for this movie.” So I knew that I can’t let those people down because they trusted me. I was going to give more than 100 percent. They trusted me, both of them, the same as our director, and they were trying not to give me too many instructions and to just go with the flow, trust the process and let my natural instinct do the work. And I think it worked. I think we nailed it.
CS: You’re playing a Russian boxer in exile. How is the boxing culture in Russia distinctly different than the boxing culture in America?
Munteanu: Well, I’m not a Russian, so I can’t really say too much about it. I think everything I am assuming right now, because I’m a Romanian who was born and raised in Germany. I think the Russian people have a coldness on them, and I think it’s all about discipline and just getting the work done. There is not much room for emotion and heart. It’s just about winning. So that’s the kind of thing that Ivan wants to teach his son, you know? And he thinks that all the emotions that Viktor brings with him and the heart that he shows… Ivan thinks that it hurts him. You can see that in the last fight because Viktor’s getting twisted. He’s getting caught up between all those emotions with his father and his mom and all this stuff. I think the Russian way of boxing and training goes straight to winning and less to heart and emotion.
CS: Right. That’s on full display at the beginning of the first fight between you and Creed. Donny is showing a lot of emotion, he’s very fired up and he’s very angry. Your character is very cool and almost bewildered by this guy’s behavior. Can you talk a little bit about the difference between Creed and your character?
Munteanu: You summed it up pretty good. I think Viktor doesn’t see Creed much as a threat. I think he already knows that he has the edge towards him. It comes down to power. It comes down to the size and reach. The thing that gets to him is that he’s pretty much surprised in the first fight that Creed shows so much endurance and so much heart. He assumed he would take him out pretty early, but he’s still coming out from the second round and then it’s getting emotional because Ivan is telling him all those things, like, “This is the reason why she left us.” Once Viktor gets emotional, and I think that’s pretty much in life in general, if you are emotional and it goes to your head, you lose your thinking. There’s too many emotions going on his side, so he’s not focused on boxing anymore. Creed, on the other hand, for the second fight, he went back to the desert and back to the roots, basically.
CS: How did boxing and being an athlete in general prepare you for the kind of repetition and stamina that you need as an actor to do take after take and scene after scene, not just in the physical scenes but in the dramatic scenes as well?
Munteanu: Well, I think it’s basically about the hard work and the work ethic that you have to put in order to shoot a movie like that. You know, people, when they see the movie on screen, they’re not really seeing the blood, sweat and tears that we were putting in. I was with Mike working for half a year. Only the preparation took us three months for the acting, Russian classes, getting in shape, learning the choreography and all this stuff. So I think an athlete in general, no matter what sport he does, has to bring this work ethic with him. He must be willing to put his heart on the line in order to accomplish something. I already knew that I had to put in all the hard work and I’m used to it. I’m used to being a hard worker. So I’m thinking this gave me the edge over maybe a non-athlete, who would have done his first major picture here.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)