(Warning: this post contains spoilers for Creed II. If you don’t want to read spoilers for Creed II, do not read this post.)
As you know if you’ve seen it, Creed II features the return of Ivan Drago, so for the first time since 1985, we see Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago on screen together as Adonis Creed and Viktor Drago fight in the ring, twice, over the course of Creed 2. But what we see in the final movie isn’t exactly what Sylvester Stallone had first written. Stallone wanted to focus the Dragos’ arc more on steroid use, but director Steven Caple Jr. told us that he didn’t love this plot point and removed that aspect completely, changing the course of the film and setting up what we’d eventually see in the final fight between Creed and young Drago.
What this also does is make Viktor more sympathetic. Instead of a fighter fueled by synthetic means, he’s one driven by his father, Ivan – who, himself, is driven by the thought of regaining respect in Russia after his loss 33 years ago and wanting to win back the heart of his ex-wife, Ludmilla, played by Brigitte Nielsen.
It was Caple’s idea to bring Nielsen back in this film, but he had one problem, he had to tell Stallone, who was married to Nielson in the mid-1980s and had no idea how that conversation would go. He tells us how that all went ahead.
The way the fight with Drago ends is surprising.
Yeah, that was changed. I changed that later. Sly had a different version. He was paying more homage to Rocky IV.
What originally was supposed to happen?
It was the whole was he on steroids thing. He would bring up these questions about how far was his dad willing to go. So, Sly was still playing with the depths of the darkness of Drago and how far he’s willing to push his ceiling, but it felt like it was a cheap shot. It felt like the steroid route, it didn’t feel like two titans were fighting.
I didn’t want it to feel like Drago just won because he was on steroids. I wanted to feel like he’s a monster. He can fight. He’s a brawler. So I changed it up with a technicality, but the only way the technicality would work – and this what wasn’t there before – was the whole plot with Brigitte Nielsen and Russia wasn’t with him. And that’s kind of about where the backstory comes into play. It just felt like an organic way to kind of keep this story going. Both guys now have something to prove. You know what I mean? Not just one.