Carl Weathers, Apollo Creed in 'Rocky' films, dies at 76
Carl Weathers, the US actor who played boxer Apollo Creed in the ‘Rocky’ franchise, going toe-to-toe with Sylvester Stallone in some of cinema's most memorable -- and bloody -- boxing moments, has died, his family said Friday. He was 76.
Weathers, who also starred in the 1987 film ‘Predator’, opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger, was recently seen on the small screen in ‘Star Wars’ spin-off series ‘The Mandalorian’, a role for which he scored an Emmy nomination.
"We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Carl Weathers. Carl was an exceptional human being who lived an extraordinary life," his family said, according to a media outlet.
“Through his contributions to film, television, the arts and sports, he has left an indelible mark and is recognized worldwide and across generations,” they added. The statement gave no cause of death, but added that he had died peacefully in his sleep on Thursday.
After a brief stint in American football's NFL, where he played linebacker for the Oakland Raiders, Weathers embarked on a screen career that would span five decades and include over 75 appearances in movies and TV, beginning with the Blaxploitation films of the mid-1970s.
Younger audiences have thrilled to his role in the Disney+ hit ‘The Mandalorian’ in which he played Greef Karga, the head of the Bounty Hunters' Guild, who grows close to lead Pedro Pascal over the course of nine episodes.
Weathers also had a voice acting role in another beloved franchise when he played Combat Carl in 2019's ‘Toy Story 4’. He received plaudits for his turn as a golf coach in ‘Happy Gilmore’, where his character took to tutoring Adam Sandler after leaving the pro tour when he lost his hand to an alligator.
But it was as the jingoistic heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, who stood in the way of Stallone's rough-and-ready Rocky Balboa, that he will be best remembered.
The 1976 film ‘Rocky’, which spawned a number of sequels (and which has been rebooted through its ‘Creed’ spin-off franchise), gave the world a brutally choreographed close-up look at championship boxing.
The film's underdog-against-the-odds archetype combined formidably with cinematic violence to create an instant classic that still resonates almost half a century later.
The climactic scene, which features blood, broken bones and slow motion punches, set the standard for fight films. It also set Stallone on the path to movie mega-stardom.
The film won 1977's best picture Oscar, as well a statue for director John Avildsen, and scored a host of other nominations. Weathers reprised his role as Apollo Creed in ‘Rocky II’ in 1979, which saw a rematch against Balboa.
He was back again for 1982's ‘Rocky III’, and again for a final outing in 1985's ‘Rocky IV’, in which Creed was killed in the ring by a Russian heavyweight played by Dolph Lundgren.
Stallone on Friday paid glowing tribute to his co-star, a man he said was integral to the success of ‘Rocky’.
"When he walked into that room and I saw him for the first time, I saw greatness," he said in a video posted on Instagram.
"I never could have accomplished what we did with 'Rocky' without him. He was absolutely brilliant. His voice, his size, his power, his athletic ability, but more importantly, his heart, his soul." ‘Predator’ star Schwarzenegger dubbed Weathers a "legend."
"An extraordinary athlete, a fantastic actor, and a great person. We couldn't have made Predator without him. And we certainly wouldn't have had such a wonderful time making it," he wrote.
Fellow ‘Predator’ actor and former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura said the world had lost “an icon”. “Carl Weathers was a phenomenal talent, a true professional, and a dear friend," he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
Sandler, who posted photographs of the two men working together, called him a “great man”. “Great dad. Great actor. Great athlete. So much fun to be around always. Smart as hell. Loyal as hell. Funny as hell,” he wrote on social media.