Press: Why Michael B. Jordan Is More Than a Movie Star

Press: Why Michael B. Jordan Is More Than a Movie Star

This piece contains mild spoilers for “Creed II.”

In the third act of “Creed II,” the heavyweight champ Adonis Creed squares off in a rematch against Viktor Drago, the Ukraine-based boxer and son of the man who killed Adonis’s father in the ring three decades earlier. Bloodied and weary after several rounds — but ever the tenacious fighter — Adonis gathers the will to keep going with the encouragement of his coach and mentor, Rocky Balboa.

“I’m dangerous!” Adonis sputters through his swollen mouth, echoing the pronouncement he had given Rocky in an earlier scene, under vastly different circumstances.

It is the movie’s “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose,” the inspirational battle cry of the protagonist as he faces the challenge of his life. As said by the actor Michael B. Jordan, who delivers the line not with a guttural oomph but the eager-to-please fervor of a young kid hoping to impress his father, it doesn’t quite carry the intimidation the line seems to demand. Nevertheless, it is both endearing and invigorating — you just know Adonis is ready to conquer Viktor this time around.

It’s this moment that may help explain why, in the same year Jordan has received some of the most glowing reviews of his career for playing Killmonger in “Black Panther,” a debate has percolated on Reddit, Twitter and in everyday conversations among pop culture enthusiasts: Is Michael B. Jordan a good actor?

Where some see a fascinating interpretation of a supervillain, others see bad acting. Critics of Jordan say that he lacks the swagger and menace of the Killmonger character and that he appears to be reading off cue cards. (One of the movie’s most-discussed lines, “Just bury me in the ocean, with my ancestors that jumped from the ships — they knew death was better than bondage,” is usually held up as the prime example.) To some extent, I can understand these sentiments; like Adonis declaring himself “dangerous,” the idea of what Killmonger represents — a problematic, burn-it-all-down philosophy in the name of black empowerment — sometimes overpowers Jordan’s interpretation onscreen.

Still, the arguments made against his acting abilities more generally are perplexing: He doesn’t disappear into his roles (as Jamie Foxx did in “Ray”); he always plays the same character. Such critiques miss the point: Jordan has made it clear he desires to be a capital “M” Movie Star, along the lines of Will Smith (who himself has always been transparent about his box-office aspirations), not a character actor. “I want people to see me win,” he told The New York Times in a conversation alongside Denzel Washington earlier this year, adding, “I want to be the leading man.”

And there always have been actors who are considered great who aren’t chameleons like Christian Bale or Meryl Streep — you never forget you’re watching Denzel Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio or Cary Grant, but you are drawn in nonetheless.

Jordan’s strengths as an actor lie not in his ability to shock or scare or surprise — but in his willingness to be vulnerable and charismatic. These qualities have been evident as far back as his early breakthrough role as Wallace, a bright, baby-faced drug dealer in “The Wire.” Over the course of Season 1, Wallace looks after some of the younger abandoned children in the housing projects and experiences pangs of extreme guilt when his actions inadvertently lead to a murder. Jordan lent the character openness and sensitivity: He embodies the good-hearted kid who isn’t cut out for the ruthlessness of the drug trade, making his death at the hands of his childhood friends — and his pleas to them in those final moments — that much more heartbreaking.

In “Fruitvale Station” more than a decade later, his first major star turn and first collaboration with the director Ryan Coogler, Jordan portrayed Oscar Grant III, a young man who was killed by a police officer in Oakland, Calif., without painting him as a saint.

In one scene, we see Oscar interact with three people over the course of just a couple of minutes, and his demeanor shifts seamlessly between each exchange. He pleads with the manager of the grocery store where he once worked to rehire him, but quickly turns angry and combative when rebuffed, revealing Oscar’s desperation under dire financial straits. Left alone in the aisle, the camera lingers briefly on Oscar, contemplating the severity of his situation, before the voice of a woman he assisted earlier breaks through to thank him for his help; here he effortlessly turns on the charm. Finally, he greets his friend working the deli counter with a warm, genial familiarity, and lies about having convinced the manager to give him his job back.

As he finally exits the store and turns away from his friend, his smile fades, and a sense of helplessness washes over his face. These are subtle exchanges, but engrossing nonetheless — a brilliant, succinct depiction of everyday code switching, and it works mainly because Jordan carries it off so well.

“Creed II” takes the idiosyncrasies Jordan has honed in his onscreen persona throughout the course of his career and fully reveals the kind of actor he is capable of becoming. If not as surprisingly profound as its immediate predecessor, “Creed,” the latest “Rocky” installment portrays Adonis as an underdog despite being a heavyweight champ, a celebrated fighter who still has much to prove. He’s handsome and lovable, but not necessarily smooth, as seen in a lighthearted moment where Adonis nervously asks Bianca to marry him. He feels unsatisfied by his success.

In “Creed II,” Jordan shows how he can translate an array of emotions with just a look. When Adonis and Bianca await the results of a test for their newborn daughter, Jordan displays anxiety, fear and an overwhelming sense of sadness at the recognition of what may be ahead for his family.

Giving such a performance in a crowd-pleasing sequel positions Jordan in the realm of other actors he has name-checked as having the careers he wishes to emulate: Washington, Smith, Tom Cruise and Leonardo DiCaprio. You can see a bit of each of those actors in Jordan’s career moves so far — the transition from troubled youth roles into hunky A-lister (DiCaprio in “The Basketball Diaries,” and later “Titanic” and “The Departed”); the prestigious boxing part requiring tremendous physical transformation (Washington in “The Hurricane” and Smith in “Ali”); ventures into the realm of sci-fi/fantasy (Cruise in “War of the Worlds,” “Minority Report”).

It’s rare these days for actors to open movies on the strength of their names and charming personas alone, but in developing a respected partnership with Coogler — like Washington and Spike Lee, and DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese — and starting his own production company to create the roles he wants, Jordan has molded himself into a performer who takes on prestigious projects that also play up his good looks.

Whether this leads down the path of Oscar nods — still Hollywood’s ultimate marker of having made it, however superficially — remains to be seen. But when he taps into his sensitivity, turns on the charm and lays his feelings bare in any given moment, he’s electrifying.

Source: NY Times

Press: Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson admit they’ve played with their Marvel action figures

Press: Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson admit they’ve played with their Marvel action figures

Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson have effortless chemistry as Adonis and Bianca in the Creed franchise, and recently displayed that chemistry for EW’s cover shoot celebrating the release of Creed II.

But the pair have more in common than Creed. They also both play characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — Jordan starred as Killmonger in Black Panther, and Thomspon took on the role of Valkyrie for Thor: Ragnarok. And one of the many perks of being part of the MCU is that you get your own action figures. When asked if they’ve played with their own figurines, they both responded affirmatively.

“I have mine in my kitchen above the sink so I see her when I wash dishes,” Thompson said, and hers isn’t the only one she’s collected. “Other women friends of mine, if they have one, I have a girl gang. There’s Lupita [Nyong’o, as Nakia from Black Panther]. There’s Evan Rachel Wood from Westworld.” One action figure was notably absent from Thompson’s collection, though. “I don’t have Killmonger, I’m so sorry,” Thompson confessed to Jordan. Jordan said he doesn’t have Valkyrie either. “I’ll give it to you,” Thompson told him. “I have an extra one.”

Source: Entertainment Weekly

Press: Michael B. Jordan’s ‘Creed 2’ KO’s Box Office With Record-Breaking $55M Debut

Press: Michael B. Jordan’s ‘Creed 2’ KO’s Box Office With Record-Breaking $55M Debut

MGM, New Line and Warner Bros.’ Creed II came out swinging over the Thanksgiving weekend. The Steven Caple Jr.-directed sequel to Ryan Coogler’s Creed, which was also a de-facto sequel to Rocky IV, earned a whopping $35.293 million over the Fri-Sun portion of its $55.806m Wed-Sun opening weekend. That’s the biggest debut ever for a live-action release over Thanksgiving, sans inflation of course. And it’s the biggest unadjusted Fri-Sun and Wed-Sun debut ever for a non-Disney release on this specific family-friendly holiday. Oh, and it scored the biggest unadjusted debut for a sports drama and a boxing drama, which of course means it had the biggest debut ever for a Rocky movie. There are nitpicks to be had, but this is a 99.9% total triumph.

Creed II had a comparatively low 4.8x five-day multiplier over the holiday weekend, compared to a 7x multiplier ($42 million from a $6m opening day) for Creed three years ago. Creed earned just 3.5% of its total gross via Tuesday previews ($1.5m), but Creed II earned 6.6% of its weekend total via its previews ($3.7m). To be fair, the sequel was… a sequel. There were plenty of folks who caught up with the first Creed well after opening weekend and then showed up with bells on for the second installment. The “Creed 2 + Rocky 8 + Rocky IV part 2” gimmick enticed folks who might have ignored the movie or merely caught up with it at their leisure as opposed to racing out on opening night.

It isn’t absurd that a film which opens with an opening day 93% larger than its predecessor might be a little front-loaded over the weekend, even with good reviews and an A from Cinemascore. The film still ended up with a five-day opening weekend 31% larger than its predecessor, even if the Fri-Sun weekend ($35m versus $29m) was only 21% larger. Since we’re dealing with a movie that cost around $40 million and thus isn’t counting on an overseas rescue, all of this is mere trivia unless it collapses after the holiday. That’s frankly unlikely since it’s a pretty good sequel despite (or because of?) the silly fan bait premise, and it’ll remain unlike anything else in the marketplace for the rest of the year.

So now the big question is whether it can be leggy enough to pass the unadjusted $127 million domestic total of Rocky IV ($323m adjusted for inflation) to become the biggest Rocky movie ever in raw domestic earnings. If it is merely as leggy as Creed (2.6 x $42m = $110m) or Four Christmases, then it gets to a dynamite $146m domestic cume. But it’s a sequel (to a sequel), to frontloading along the lines of Unbreakable and Spy Games (2x) is not entirely out of the question. That would still give it a $112m gross, which counts as a win in an era when most sequels make less domestically than their predecessors. Yes, those are the two likely extremes concerning reasonable precedents.

A run like The Muppets (rave reviews, an unkillable IP, hardcore nostalgia, a movie technically appropriate for kids that plays to adults, etc.) gets it to $120 million, which frankly smells like the right comparison at the moment. Even if it doesn’t end up with that much more domestically (or worldwide) than the $110m domestic/$173m worldwide-grossing Creed, it’s still proof that the IP is still a big deal. The two-for-one franchise of a Rocky IV sequel and a character-driven, mid-budget, studio-backed drama starring folks who look like Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson (which itself is sadly unique unto itself in the marketplace) was a winning combo. Creed II may not have topped the weekend, but it is an undisputed box office champion.

Since Creed II essentially burned through the plots of Rocky II, Rocky III and Rocky IV in one shot, the franchise can go wherever it wants from here, but that’s for another day. And this “bigger-than-Creed” launch is also good news for Universal/Comcast Corp.’s Glass, but that too can wait for another time.

Source: Forbes

Press: Michael B. Jordan, now a Hollywood heavyweight, punches up

Press: Michael B. Jordan, now a Hollywood heavyweight, punches up

“Creed II,” which opened in theaters Wednesday, finds Michael B. Jordan’s character, Adonis Creed — like the actor, himself — adjusting to his newfound prominence: reaching the pinnacle of his profession while still having to fight for what he believes in. Associated Press/Warner Bros. Pictures

NEW YORK — If Michael B. Jordan’s path to this moment was condensed and edited, it might look, appropriately, like a training montage.

Images of Jordan cutting his teeth on the Baltimore streets of “The Wire” and the Texas football fields of “Friday Night Lights,” followed by hints of a soaring talent (“Red Tails,” “Chronicle”), shattering breakthroughs (“Fruitvale Station”) and setbacks (“Fantastic Four”) before reaching, with a pair of haymakers (“Creed,” “Black Panther”), heavyweight status.

Parallel to Jordan’s steady rise has been the 31-year-old’s expanding sway behind the scenes in Hollywood. His production company, Outlier Society Productions, was among the first to embrace the inclusion rider, adopting the pledge to seek diverse casts and crews just days after Frances McDormand referenced it at the Oscars. Jordan was also influential on a similar agreement by WarnerMedia, making Warner Bros. the sole major studio thus far to sign up.

“He’s always been a big-idea guy,” says Ryan Coogler, who directed Jordan in “Fruitvale Station,” “Creed” and “Black Panther.” “He’s always been conscious of his own responsibility.”

“Creed II,” which opened in theaters Wednesday, finds Jordan’s character, Adonis Creed — like the actor, himself — adjusting to his newfound prominence: reaching the pinnacle of his profession while still having to fight for what he believes in. As Steven Caple Jr.’s boxing drama prepared to open in theaters, Jordan went door-to-door in Georgia urging people to vote in the midterm elections.

“You’ve been doing one thing for 20 years. Constantly working at it, trying to grow and become successful, or whatever your version of success is. And then you have a moment in time where everything seems to be coming together at the same time. Everything seems to be happening. But you live in a society, in a world that’s kind of going to (expletive),” Jordan said in a recent interview. “So to be able to use one to help the other, is something. To try to find your voice.”

It’s an answer with shades of Jordan’s typical performance: earnest, thoughtful, tinged with pain. Then he exhales.

“I don’t know, man,” says Jordan. “Honestly, there’s a lot going on right now and I’m trying to find my place in all of it, professionally and personally.”

A big part of Jordan’s quest was “Black Panther,” in which he played Erik Killmonger. The part is ostensibly a villain, but in Jordan’s hands, Killmonger — a wounded, fatherless warrior bent on reparations through violence — has a depth uncommon if not outright alien to comic-book films. Between Killmonger and the Wakanda leader T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is a larger dialogue, one fraught with history, between African identity and the African diaspora.

“Making a movie, you rarely come out the other side the same. You either grow or regress. I came out a different man,” says Coogler. “The conversation that was had between T’Challa and Killmonger, what it means to be African — I didn’t know I needed that movie as much as I did until after I made it. I look back and I say: ‘Man, I really needed that. I needed that conversation.'”

The performance has made Jordan one of this year’s leading supporting actor contenders for the Academy Awards. Coogler praises his friend’s vulnerability in a complicated role.

“He was one of the few African-American characters and he was carrying the weight of that cultural representation,” says Coogler. “Mike brings a lot of the empathy with him, as a person and as a performer. That’s one of the things that makes him special. Almost as soon as you see him, you empathize with him.”

“Black Panther,” the year’s biggest domestic blockbuster and most resonant cultural event, left a mark on Jordan.

“Playing Killmonger, carrying that oppression, that feeling of being a representation of the African diaspora, I felt a certain pressure and responsibility to get it right. That was a very maturing process for me,” Jordan says. “To be very unapologetic, I had to play that role.”

A sequel to the acclaimed 2015 spinoff (it grossed $173.6 million worldwide on a $35 million budget), “Creed II” was fast-tracked by MGM in part to capitalize on the success of “Black Panther” and Jordan’s growing profile. Caple, whose feature debut was the 2016 indie film “The Land,” had his first meeting with producers around Thanksgiving last year. By the first week of January, he was in Philadelphia getting ready to shoot.

Caple preserved and expanded upon Coogler’s naturalistic approach, and the film’s best scenes unlock raw intimacies outside the ring. Especially notable is the chemistry between Jordan and Tessa Thompson, who plays Adonis’ girlfriend (“Mike feeds off of Tessa a lot,” says Caple), and the surprising pathos of the father-son relationship between Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) and Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu). In an echo of “Rocky IV,” the younger Drago is Adonis’ foe this time.

Caple credits Jordan for the film’s emotional authenticity.

“He’s genuine. Then you meet him in person and you realize he’s the same way in real life. You can’t act that or fake that. He used that as a vehicle to get where he is today,” says Caple. “Right now, he’s expanding on that with his business, with his production company, with his brand, and still being for the people in many ways.”

Jordan recently finished shooting “Just Mercy,” in which he stars as civil rights defense attorney Bryan Stevenson. The Warner Bros. production was the first Jordan made with the inclusion policy in place.

“The set, the crew was very diverse, all very capable. It was a great experience. Hopefully other studios and other productions will follow our lead and demand the same thing from their sets,” says Jordan. “Change takes time. It’s a small step, but it’s the first step. I’m not expecting Rome to be built in a day.”

Source: Chicago Daily Herald

Press/Video: Michael B. Jordan Has ‘Emotional Overload’ While Surprising Screenings of ‘Creed II’

Only ET was with the actor and his sister, Jamila, as they surprised fans in Newark, New Jersey. ‘Creed II’ is out Nov. 21.

Press: Michael B. Jordan says his upbringing inspires him to give back to others

Press: Michael B. Jordan says his upbringing inspires him to give back to others

Michael B. Jordan learned to donate his time and money to others from a young age, thanks to his parents.
The actor, who’s promoting his partnership with Honey Nut Cheerios’ Good Rewards program, has teamed up with Feeding America to raise $100,000 for the organization.
“My dad manages a food bank and I grew up around that, watching service, going to food pantries and homeless shelters, and just helping out around my community as much as I could,” Jordan told INSIDER.

Michael B. Jordan was taught to give back to others since he was a child, which is why he loves to support organizations like Feeding America through Honey Nut Cheerios’ Good Rewards program.

“It just makes sense,” Jordan, who’s promoting his partnership with the brand, told INSIDER. “My dad manages a food bank and I grew up around that, watching service, going to food pantries and homeless shelters, and just helping out around my community as much as I could.”

The “Creed II” star went on to say that he can’t remember the exact age when he got involved, but vividly recalls sorting cans and packing lunches for churches or homeless shelters.

“From my earliest memories I think, it was just second nature,” Jordan said. “It’s not forced.”

Jordan considers himself “competitive,” which is one of the reasons why he teamed up with Honey Nut Cheerios. The actor is encouraging fans to make a Good Rewards account online and select a team to support — Jordan (Feeding America), Lucy Hale (ASPCA), or Rob Gronkowski (Gronk Nation Youth Foundation). After buying specially-marked cereal boxes, participants can scan the code on the back of the box and donate the Buzzcoin to whichever team’s charity.

The 31-year-old is proud to support Feeding America, which strives to provide food for millions of Americans each year through food banks, pantries, and meal programs.

Once the competition ends in April 2019, Honey Nut Cheerios will donate $100,000 to the charity with the most Buzzcoins. The foundation that comes in second place will receive $50,000 and the third place charity will get $25,000.

“I think a lot of people sometimes don’t know how to donate,” Jordan told us. “They want to do something charitable, but they don’t know how, so they don’t do anything. But this is something that’s easy, simple, and in their routine. I think everybody loves Honey Nut Cheerios — they love cereal — so to be able to kind of get a great box of cereal and get to help Feeding America… It’s a win-win.”

Source: Insider

Press: Michael B Jordan explains the Rocky timeline ahead of Creed 2’s release

Press: Michael B Jordan explains the Rocky timeline ahead of Creed 2’s release

If you needed a refresher on the Rocky franchise ahead of Creed 2’s release, star Michael B Jordan has you very much sorted.

In one and a half handy minutes, the actor recaps the franchise from the first Rocky movie to the present day, and Apollo Creed’s son Adonis (Jordan) facing off against Ivan Drago’s son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) in the ring.

Take a gander below (spoilers obvs if you haven’t seen any of the Rocky movies):

Creed 2’s first reviews have flooded in this week, though it sounds like it isn’t quite the knockout the first Creed movie was.

However, it sounds like Jordan is in the franchise for the long haul, the actor saying back in September that he would like to keep playing Adonis.

“If I’m lucky. I want to keep making them as long as they’re good. I always want to keep my finger on the pulse. Forty two years, I mean, who knows?”

Speaking about the personal angle of the new movie, with him facing off against his father’s killer’s son, Jordan said it was not “just about revenge”.

“There are other themes in there: the maturity of growth, the importance of family, of legacy, is what makes Creed so special,” he said. “It’s about a lot of things… If we get that lesson across, then I think we’ve made a pretty special movie.”

Creed 2 is out in US cinemas now and November 30 in the UK.

Source: DigitalSpy

Press: What Michael B Jordan Thinks About Black Panther’s Oscar Chances

Press: What Michael B Jordan Thinks About Black Panther’s Oscar Chances

Black Panther made more than $1.3 Billion at the box office. It was given a positive review by 97 percent of critics. Many industry insiders have also already cited its success as a potential watershed moment for Hollywood to start approving more diverse movies and giving them substantially higher budgets. By basically any metric you want to look at, the film has to be viewed as a raging success, and yet, with the Oscars on the horizon, Black Panther stars are starting to get questioned about potential nominations, what they would mean and whether the film needs to perform with Academy Awards voters to truly get to the next level of legitimacy.

Rising star Michael B Jordan is the latest to address the rhino in the room during a recent interview with Essence, and I think his comments are very telling…

“The movie has done such a great job, broke through so many glass ceilings, and made such an impact culturally and around the world. If the Academy chooses to recognize that project for all of those reasons that’s amazing icing on the cake, but I think what the movie has done so far is truly incredible and a win all its own. I felt so accomplished doing this movie, but it’s not up to me to validate the film. So the people who make those decisions, that’s something they have to think about and figure out on their own.”

Very few people go all-in on their own movie’s Oscar chances prior to the nominations. It’s considered a little taboo to campaign too overtly (although some like Melissa Leo have famously just gone for it), and I suspect many people worry about what might happen if they try too hard and don’t get there. But there’s something larger in play with Marvel movies too. All the MCU flicks combined have only been nominated for a total of 10 Oscars, 8 of which have come in the ‘Visual Effects’ category. None of those nominations have resulted in a win. So, I’m sure I would be squeamish too, but Black Panther isn’t just a normal Marvel movie.

Even if you strip away all the buzz around it, the visuals, the costumes, the effects and many of the other below the line details of the film are really, really good. Disney is reportedly planning to push the film really hard, even at the expense of Avengers: Infinity War and even in some of the buzzier categories like Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor. Even the music categories are very much in play.

I have no idea if any of those more talked about categories will pay off, but whether you think the movie was as good as advertised or not, I think most of us would agree the people who worked on creating the spectacle and the wonder behind Wakanda deserve to be recognized.

So, here’s to hoping this quote, in retrospect, comes off like a classy underplay from Michael B Jordan rather than fitting uncertainty for yet another unrecognized Marvel movie.

Source: CinemaBlend

Press/Video: Michael B. Jordan on The Late Late Show with James Corden

MBJ stopped by The Late Late Show with James Corden to promote Creed II. Check out the clip below to see Michael discuss Creed II, and demonstrate just how fast his hands are. Side note… can he get any more adorable??

Press/Videos: Michael B. Jordan on The Ellen Show

MBJ was recently on The Ellen Show promoting Creed II. Watch him talk social media hook-ups, his GQ Men of the Year status, raising money for the Lupus LA Foundation, and more.

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