Hollywood can’t get enough of the new tag team duo setting the industry completely on fire, Michael B. Jordan and director Ryan Coogler. And how could it not?
Coogler’s screenwriting lured Sylvester Stallone to appear in a Rocky remake, and Jordan’s good looks and knack for scene stealing are surefire box office gold. And like the famous Hollywood duos before them— Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, or Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio— their bond seems authentic. And that’s pretty much the key to every win.
In a sit down with Vulture just before the holidays, Coogler and Jordan discussed their humble beginnings, adjusting to celebrity, and above all, the importance of actual young people telling the stories of young people.
If you’re sitting on dreams you want to accomplish in 2016, let their friendship and limitless goals inspire you.
’90s kids are always going to heart the ’90s.
In a show of normalcy and total solidarity with the millennial clique, the buddies walked into their interview, completely not above a two-step to Shanice’s hit, “I Love Your Smile.”
They had very normal upbringings. Basically, their parents and yours could have been co-workers.
Jordan grew up in Newark, N.J. His mom was a guidance counselor and his dad was a caterer. Except when you had piano lessons, he was auditioning for acting gigs— he landed his first big role in Hardball starring Keanu Reeves, in 2001. Coogler grew up on the West Coast, both in Oakland and Richmond, Calif. Natural athleticism earned him a football scholarship to Saint Mary’s College of California. His mom, a community organizer, and his father, a juvenile-hall probation counselor, helped him every step of the way. Like most of us who went to college planning one degree and leaving with one completely different, an English professor encouraged him to pursue screenwriting, and he went on to create a series of films. And the critically acclaimed Fruitvale Station. And Creed, which earned Sylvester Stallone a Golden Globe win.
When you have that one friend everybody knows, but you still get to fly under the radar…
When women all over the world have dubbed you Michael “Bae” Jordan, the odds of stepping out of the house with anonymity is rather slim. He says that he second guesses if he’s worn something twice in a row, or if he needs a haircut, because we all know the Internet can be unkind, and any paparazzi shot could set a firestorm of memes and rumors. Coogler on the other hand, doesn’t have the same concerns being on the other side of the lens. He explains while preparing for Creed, “we went to see Mayweather fight Maidana. Sly hooked it up. We were trying to get something to eat. We couldn’t get two steps without somebody stopping Mike. It was mostly women, and they weren’t even asking, they were just handing him the phone. I’m seeing his life change in a way that’s so different from mine as a director. I’m able to get a sandwich when I want to.”
Growing up, Coogler bonded with his dad over Rocky films.
“Recollections of Rocky as a kid consisted of random clips I’d see in passing, while my dad watched on the couch. Truthfully, I was more interested in getting my tapes to play right in my Teddy Ruxpin. But when Creed came out, I could not wait to experience the modern version of his series with him.” Coogler remembers watching Rocky with his father, and knowing how much the series meant to him. “When my dad was 9, his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. They would watch TV together, and at the time, Rocky II was always on. So watching Rocky movies with me, he would be reacting to the movies, but also to memories of his mom. Our relationship had changed so much, and now I got to take care of him. So I came up with this idea of something similar happening to his hero, and that’s how I came up with the idea for Creed.”
Why was that bike scene in Creed so dope? It was all about being authentic to young people, by and for young people.
Part of Coogler and Jordan’s appeal is that they get millennials right on-screen. One scroll through the Creed hashtag on Twitter, and you’ll read how “Creed’s Theme” completely left audiences will chills and the need to run those iconic Rocky steps. The duo makes clear that the sky’s the limit for the stories they’ll bring to the screen, and it’s not as black and white as traditional Hollywood would play it. “I used to get crushed when I was younger and would watch movies about young people,” says Coogler. “And I’d be like, No — that’s not us. Or reading articles about the millennial generation — people making general statements about us. Again, no. Wrong. Just hire us, bruh. Hire me and let me work.”
Jordan continues, “The majority of roles out there are written not by us” — meaning young black people — “so if [most writers’] only interaction with someone who looks like me is from stereotypes, what you see on TV, then those are the types of roles that are going to keep getting written. Also, I don’t have to go out for every role that’s written black. I want to go out for the role that’s written [with race unspecified] — I’m going to make that role black regardless.”
What’s next for the best friend duo?
Jordan will soon hit screens again, this time as a civil rights lawyer fighting for the freedom of a death-row prisoner, in Just Mercy. He’ll then team up with Coogler on Wrong Answer, in which he’ll play an Atlanta schoolteacher in the midst of cheating scandal, based on a true story. And Coogler has officially been tapped to direct Marvel’s Black Panther, starring Chadwick Boseman. But expect even more— they’re ready to take on stories from the past, and ones way in the future. “You got to tell stories in today, or in the future,” says Jordan. “Or can we go back even further? There’s always one period that people want to go back to, but can we go back to Hannibal? Or Mansa Musa, destroying economies as he traveled? Can we go back to the Egyptians?”
We’re ready for it, in any century.
SOURCE: Vulture | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty