The Creed franchise has successfully built upon the foundation established by the Rocky films, masterfully bringing back classic characters in the modern line of movies. Ivan Drago, the Russian antagonist from Rocky IV, is now poised for a film of his own, potentially opening up yet another franchise within the broader world of Rocky.
Still, one character has conspicuously been absent from the franchise for the past 40 years: the boisterous powerhouse Clubber Lang.
Lang, played by Mr. T in 1982’s Rocky III, was George Foreman and Muhammad Ali wrapped into one, an explosive fighter whose brute force was only exceeded by his trash talk. Mr. T, a bodyguard-turned-actor, became a star in the role, embodying the brash Lang and becoming the most memorable aspect of the film.
So why hasn’t he been seen since Rocky III?
“I had written an elaborate storyline for Mr. T (aka Clubber Lang) which was reminiscent of George Foreman, who became a ringside analyst,” the star and screenwriter explained. “In the script he was doing blow-by-blow commentary and also talking about his new profession of being an evangelist in the making. I thought it was wonderful because he was describing what it was like to fight Rocky Balboa while Rocky was fighting someone else.”
Stallone noted that the production “couldn’t meet the actor’s financial requirements,” and thus the part was rewritten for someone else.
Years later, Lang’s return was contemplated once more.
“I’m not going to lie. There was a moment where I got pretty stingy and was thinking about Clubber Lang. I was like, ‘Dang, wouldn’t it be cool if we brought in Clubber Lang?’ Steven Caple Jr., the director of 2018’s Creed II, admitted to Uproxx. “And I think there was a version of this where [Creed star Michael B. Jordan] was also talking about it too. Like [Lang] having a daughter or something like that out in the West or New Mexico. We were playing with a lot of different ideas.”
Although Caple described Lang as an “interesting character” he was tempted to revisit, the filmmaker opted not to bring the boxer back.
Some have speculated that Mr. T’s absence from the world of Rocky has been due to lingering bad blood between him and Stallone.
“My dad has a chip on his shoulder about Stallone,” Mr. T’s daughter, comedian Erica Clark, revealed in a 2020 appearance on the In Godfrey We Trust podcast. According to Clark, Mr. T felt he was underpaid for Rocky III and also believed the story should have gone differently.
“He feels like he should have been in Rocky IV. He feels like [Rocky III] should have ended with him beating Stallone, just like how the first one ended with Apollo beating Stallone,” Clark said. She also claimed her father turned down opportunities to appear in the Stallone-fronted The Expendables and The Expendables II because he still harbored animosity over Rocky III: “Mentally, he does not want to lose against Stallone again.”
However, Mr. T himself has insisted he maintains “much respect” for Stallone and has kept in contact with the star. “I used to go the Lakers games a lot and I used to see him,” the actor recalled during a 2021 appearance on Da Windy City podcast. “During halftime we would meet in the hallway, around the concessions, then we would talk, we would hug each other, stuff like that.”
Creed III, the latest installment in the franchise, is set for a 2023 release. Stallone will not return for the film, making it the first time Rocky does not appear in a Rocky-related movie. Still, unconfirmed rumors have persisted that the Lang character, or possibly his son, may somehow play a role in the plot. Regardless, it appears Mr. T is unlikely to return.
“It’d be too weird,” the former A-Team star explained to PopCulture in 2021. “See, I’m Clubber for Rocky if Rocky was there. So, it just, yeah, I don’t know. I’d be feeling weird and stuff like that. My best part is just supporting it.”
‘Rocky’ Films Ranked
Much like the fictional fighter’s life, the Rocky films have experienced both highs and lows. We’ve ranked them all from worst to best.