What was your relationship with the “Rocky” and “Creed” movies before you became a director of photography on the last two films?
I saw “Rocky I” in the theater when I was a kid, and I remember the day, I remember coming out of the theater. I remember the feeling I had when I saw that first film. I remember where I was, who I was with. I remember kind of punching my cousin with my fist and she was like telling me, “Stop, don’t do that.” I was playing around, and just so excited by that movie. It’s such an uplifting story.
I think it’s one of the great movies of American cinema. It tells this story of an underclass, of a subculture of Italian America, and a boxing rags to riches kind of story. It just hit the zeitgeist on the nose at the time. So I was a fan ever since. I’m not an uber fan, but I’ve always been a fan.
Awesome. So you’ve worked with Michael B. Jordan before, in both “Fahrenheit 451” and “Creed II.” Can you tell me what your first meeting was like with him as a director and how he struck you in that particular role?
Yeah, I’d worked with Michael before, so it was a natural segue into our relationship as a director/cinematographer. We’d always been talking shots and talking about technique, and he’s always had an interest. He’s always been a student of cinematography and he’s always been studying what directors are doing. He’s been on set since he was 16 years old, so that was his film school.
He always was watching what [Ryan] Coogler was doing. I wasn’t working with them, but I know that’s … and he was always watching what Steven Caple Jr. was doing. He was always paying attention to Denzel [Washington] when he worked with him as an actor/director. I think he learned and took away a lot from that. So it was very much a natural progression into our relationship, and we became friends right away on “Fahrenheit.”
I think that had something to do with my getting hired on “Creed II,” and then ultimately “Creed III.” And it was such an honor to be asked to be at his side as his first time out as a director. I feel lucky to have been there. He just wanted to bring something, his own voice to the franchise. Nobody knows that character better than MBJ.