By Jack Rico
Creed was one of the surprise hits of 2015, and successfully revitalized the Rocky franchise in an unexpected way. While Sylvester Stallone stole the show as an aging Rocky training a protégé, it was Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Johnson character that positioned himself to continue the series. That means that in some sense Rocky will continue, though it will do so through a new character. Coming Soon, which tends to have up-to-date information on release dates in addition to its regular film news, has said that there’s a tentative November 2017 release date for Creed 2 (which may or may not feature Stallone in a major role).
This is probably going to be a lot of fun as it unfolds, but it also makes you wonder what might have happened if the studio had gone with a more traditional reboot? What if, instead of using Stallone to transition to a new character, they’d merely rebooted Rocky for modern audiences? Most importantly, which actor could have best pulled off the role? We’ll never know now, but here are five candidates who would have made a lot of sense.
This may be the first name that would pop into a lot of people’s minds. Hardy is among the most talented and respected young actors in Hollywood, and has already shown his ability to be a convincing brawler on multiple occasions. As Bane in The Dark Knight Rises he was a super villain who preferred to fight with his fists than some big evil weapon. In Warrior he took on MMA. Hardy is in his element when he gets to fight, but is also far more than an action hero. He’s got the acting chops to have equaled Stallone’s greatness in the role.
Bale can do it all. In fact, he’s done it all within a single role. Just think of how he played Bruce Wayne in the Christopher Nolan Batman films. On the one hand, he’s a crime-fighting superhero, brooding in black and beating up thugs. On the other, he’s the wealthy, occasionally irresponsible billionaire. In fact, due to the general grittiness of Nolan’s films, some might forget that Wayne is among the richest characters in fictional history! At least, that’s according to an amusing analysis by Lottoland, a lottery gaming and prediction platform with occasional posts about the ways of the wealthy. That just speaks to Bale’s versatility. We’ve seen him do just about everything, and as a result imagining him in the role of Rocky Balboa is surprisingly easy. Plus, he’s got experience in the genre after
a spectacular turn in The Fighter, even if he wasn’t the boxer.
This is another young actor who gives you the feeling that he could do just about anything he put his mind to. After breaking through as a comedy star with roles in Wedding Crashers and The Hangover, Cooper made an unusually smooth transition to more serious activity. Now he’s someone who can carry a drama, and whose determination to nail down a role is palpable on screen. He’s also got some credit as a Philadelphia presence after his role in Silver Linings Playbook, which could have helped with some of the biggest fans of the Rocky franchise.
Franco is perhaps a less obvious choice, but it’s always seemed like there’s a major, lasting role just around the corner for him. Like Cooper, Franco made a transition from goofy to serious films, though Franco has never gotten quite the acclaim Cooper is now accustomed to. Rebooting Rocky would have been a bold move for Franco, and would have given him his shot at a true signature role. He’s never done anything like it, and yet somehow it’s easier to imagine him yelling “Yo Adrian!” than any other actor on this list.
We might have to count Isaac out of this hypothetical, because according to a recent interview with Rolling Stone, he has no interest in “getting super-jacked” for a role. That more or less counts him out for boxing movies. Otherwise, he’s a brilliant actor to consider in the role of Rocky Balboa. Isaac is just a little more rugged and less defined than the other actors on this list, and in an inexplicable way has a sort of old school look about him. If the idea were to make the movie feel like the Rocky films of old, it’s easier to see Isaac in a grey sweat suit with bloodied knuckles than some of the others.