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Carl Weathers, actor who starred in "Rocky" and "Predator," dies at age 76

Actor Carl Weathers dies at 76
Carl Weathers, who starred in "Rocky," "Predator" and more, dies at 76 00:54

Carl Weathers, a former NFL linebacker who became a Hollywood action movie and comedy star, playing nemesis-turned-ally Apollo Creed in the "Rocky" movies, facing off against Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Predator" and teaching golf in "Happy Gilmore," has died. He was 76.

Weathers' manager Matt Luber confirmed to CBS News that Weathers died at his home in Los Angeles on Thursday. His family issued a statement to the Associated Press saying he died "peacefully in his sleep."

"Carl was an exceptional human being who lived an extraordinary life. Through his contributions to film, television, the arts and sports, he has left an indelible mark and is recognized worldwide and across generations. He was a beloved brother, father, grandfather, partner, and friend," his family said in the statement, according to entertainment news outlet Deadline.

Actor Carl Weathers of "Chicago Justice" poses for a portrait on Jan. 18, 2017, in Pasadena, California.
Actor Carl Weathers of "Chicago Justice" poses for a portrait on Jan. 18, 2017, in Pasadena, California. Maarten de Boer/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

In an emotional video posted on social media, Sylvester Stallone said it "was an incredibly sad day for me," while standing in front of a painting depicting one of the iconic scenes from the "Rocky" film series. 

"When he walked into that room and I saw him for the first time, I saw greatness. But I didn't realize how great," Stallone said. "It's a horrible loss."

Weathers was perhaps most closely associated with Creed, who made his first appearance as the cocky, undisputed heavyweight world champion in 1976's "Rocky," starring Stallone. But he was as comfortable flexing his muscles on the big screen in "Action Jackson" as he was joking around on the small screen in such shows as "Arrested Development." 

Adam Sandler, who starred with Weathers in "Happy Gilmore," took to social media to remember his co-star in the 1996 comedy.

"A true great man. Great dad. Great actor. Great athlete. So much fun to be around always. Smart as hell. Loyal as hell. Funny as hell. Loved his sons more than anything. What a guy!!" Sandler said.

Creed, who appeared in the first four "Rocky" movies, memorably died in the ring of 1984's "Rocky IV," going toe-to-toe with the hulking, steroid-using Soviet Ivan Drago, played by Dolph Lundgren. Before he entered the ring, James Brown sang "Living in America" with showgirls and Creed popped up on a balcony in a Star-Spangled Banner shorts and waistcoat combo and an Uncle Sam hat, dancing and taunting Drago.

A bloodied Creed collapses in the ring after taking a vicious beating, twitches and is cradled by Rocky as he dies, inevitably setting up a fight between Drago and Rocky. But while Creed is gone, his character's son, Michael B. Jordan's Adonis Creed, would lead his own boxing trilogy starting in 2015.

"It puts you on the map and makes your career, so to speak. But that's a one-off, so you've got to follow it up with something. Fortunately those movies kept coming, and Apollo Creed became more and more in people's consciousness and welcome in their lives, and it was just the right guy at the right time," Weathers told The Daily Beast in 2017.

Most recently, Weathers has starred in the Disney+ hit "The Mandalorian," appearing in all three seasons.

Actors Carl Weathers, left, and Sylvester Stallone pose at an album release party for singer Frank Stallone, center, at Capital Records on Aug. 7, 2003, in Hollywood, California.
Actors Carl Weathers, left, and Sylvester Stallone pose at an album release party for singer Frank Stallone, center, at Capital Records on Aug. 7, 2003, in Hollywood, California. Kevin Winter/Getty Images

In 1987, Weathers went on to appear in "Predator," where he flexed his pecs alongside Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura and a host of others, and 1988's nouveau blaxploitation flick "Action Jackson," where he trains his flamethrower on a bad guy and asks, "How do you like your ribs?" before broiling him.

He later starred in Dick Wolf's short-lived spin-off series "Chicago Justice" in 2017 and earned an Emmy Award nomination in 2021 for "The Mandalorian." He also voiced Combat Carl in the "Toy Story" franchise.

In an interview with the Detroit News last May, Weathers said he considered himself a "lucky guy."

"There are so many people that came before me who I admired and whose success I wanted to emulate, and just kind of hit the benchmarks they hit in terms of success, who created a pathway that I've been able to walk and find success as a result. And hopefully I can inspire someone else to do good work as well," he said. "I guess I'm just a lucky guy."

Weathers grew up admiring actors such as Woody Strode, whose combination of physique and acting prowess in "Spartacus" made an early impression. Others he idolized included actors Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte and athletes Jim Brown and Muhammad Ali, stars who broke the mold and the color barrier.

Growing up in New Orleans, Weathers started performing in plays as early as grade school. In high school, athletics took him down another path but he would reunite with his first love later in life.

Weathers played college football at San Diego State University — he majored in theater — and went on to play for one season in the NFL, for the Oakland Raiders, in 1970.

"When I found football, it was a completely different outlet," Weathers told the Detroit News. "It was more about the physicality, although one does feed the other. You needed some smarts because there were playbooks to study and film to study, to learn about the opposition on any given week."

After the Raiders, he joined the Canadian Football League, playing for two years while finishing up his studies during the offseason at San Francisco State University. He graduated with a bachelor's in drama in 1974.

After appearing in several films and TV shows, including "Good Times," "The Six Million Dollar Man," "In the Heat of the Night" and "Starsky & Hutch," as well as fighting Nazis alongside Harrison Ford in "Force 10 From Navarone," Weathers landed his knockout role — Creed. He told The Hollywood Reporter that his start in the iconic franchise was not auspicious.

He was asked to read with the writer, Stallone, then unknown. Weathers read the scene but felt it didn't land and so he blurted out: "I could do a lot better if you got me a real actor to work with," he recalled. "So I just insulted the star of the movie without really knowing it and not intending to." He also lied that he had any boxing experience.

Later in life, Weathers developed a passion for directing, helming episodes of "Silk Stalkings" and the Lorenzo Lamas vehicle "Renegade." He directed a season three episode of "The Mandalorian."

Weathers introduced himself to another generation when he portrayed himself as an opportunistic and extremely thrifty actor who becomes involved with the dysfunctional clan at the heart of "Arrested Development."

The Weathers character likes to save money by making broth from discarded food — "There's still plenty of meat on that bone" and "Baby, you got a stew going!" — and, for the right price, agrees to become an acting coach for delusional and talent-free thespian Tobias Funke, played by David Cross.

Weathers is survived by two sons.

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