DC Sports Day

From Fight Night To The Basketball Court, ‘CREED II’ Stars Take DC

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“When I was a kid in Germany and saw Rocky IV with my father, we were rooting for Drago.”

An honest and certainly politically incorrect answer in a politically correct town drew laughs and more than a few oohs on Thursday night at the Navy Memorial Theater, as actor/boxer Florian Munteanu, who portrays Viktor Drago, and director Steven Caple Jr. enthralled a packed house during a Q&A for the soon to be released film, Creed II, the latest, and one of the most anticipated, in the film series that started with “Rocky.” The advance screening was part of a whirlwind 48 hours in the district for Munteanu and Caple, who also spoke to students at Howard, did a similar screening and Q&A for over 125 middle and high school students as part of a special event with Monumental Sports, were special guests at the mega-fundraiser DC Fight Night, and even addressed the Wizards during a Friday during shoot around at the Center, all to give people a better feel for a film that has drawn rave preview reviews and great buzz in advance of its wide opening just before Thanksgiving.

Creed-DC-4This will be the screen debut for the Munich native who was discovered by Sylvester Stallone on a You Tube video and quickly gained the attention of everyone in DC, from Gerry Cooney at the gala at the Washington Hilton to Dwight Howard at the Wizards practice, with his easy going demeanor and enthusiastic and self-deprecating answers and his massive size. Ivan Drago’s son knows how to hold his own off the camera and outside of the ring as well.

As far as the film goes, Caple Jr., who has taken over the directing reins for the series from fellow USC Film School grad Ryan Coogler, seemed both excited and cautiously optimistic about what not just fight or Rocky fans, but a wide variety of film lovers will take away from this latest installment starring Stallone, Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson. “This is a film all about relationships, and our cast really delivers the story,” he said during a q and a with the SportsBusiness Journal’s John Ourand. “The fight scenes are definitely real, but what is more important is that this film will speak to so many, and we are really psyched for people to see it.”

Some of those people include Wizards players like Howard, John Wall and Otto Porter, who spent time talking to both Munteanu and Caple, himself a huge basketball fan, following Friday’s prep for the game that night with the Oklahoma City Thunder. During the morning screening, Caple also chatted up former Wizards forward Etan Thomas and another local luminary, former NBA player and GW star, now GM of the Capital City GoGo’s of the NBA GLeague, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, about the film, his Creed-DC-1role in directing the series, and what messages the film has for fans of all ages. The Ohio native also got to spend time Thursday at Fight Night DC with someone he has followed closely in recent years, former Cleveland Cavaliers GM David Griffin, who talked to him a great deal about hoops goings on. “Seeing these guys up close and getting to hear how much they follow and are looking forward to the film is really rewarding not just for me but for all of us involved,” Caple mentioned. “It is really our pleasure to be able to talk to them and see the enthusiasm they have for our work, as much as we admire what they do as professional athletes.”

During his Q&A with Ourand, Munteanu could not hold back his own appreciation for those in the crowd and for where he is today, poised for a breakthrough in a legendary film series. “These guys (Caple and Stallone) saw something in me I didn’t know I had, and to be part of this cast, with people like Mike (Michael B. Jordan) and Dolph (Lundgren) is almost like a dream,” he added. “But I know it’s real now, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.” Also what is real are the fight sequences, which both Caple and Munteanu said landed more than a few bumps and bruises and injuries during the filming. And as far as what’s next? A pretty grueling series of media opportunities across the country for both them and the rest of the cast.

However it all started in Washington, an eager hotbed not just of boxing, but of enthusiasm for what many feel will be the hit film of the fall.