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Actor Carl Weathers, Of "Rocky" Fame, Dies At 76

American actor and former football linebacker Carl Weathers, who first gained Hollywood fame for portraying Apollo Creed in the boxing film “Rocky,” died in his sleep at 76 on February 1, 2024. His 51-year career saw him featured in numerous television shows and movies, from his breakout role in “Rocky” alongside Sylvester Stallone to a spot next to Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Predator” to his acclaimed portrayal of bounty hunter handler Greef Karga in Disney’s “The Mandalorian.” Many of his colleagues, including Stallone and Schwarzenegger, have commemorated his life in social media posts.

Before The Silver Screen

Weathers was born in New Orleans on January 14, 1948. He was involved in numerous sports during his school years but ultimately decided to pursue a career as a football player in high school after he moved to California. He made a name for himself playing for the San Diego State Aztecs, contributing to their victory in the 1969 Pasadena Bowl and becoming a letterman. At San Diego State University, the first inklings of his acting career also developed--he graduated with a master’s degree in theatre arts.

After Weathers graduated, the Oakland Raiders drafted him as a linebacker, playing eight games for them, including an AFC West Division championship. He would next play eighteen games for the BC Lions, a Canadian team. Throughout his football years, Weathers also pursued further education in acting, receiving a bachelor’s degree in drama from San Francisco State University in 1974 and performing in plays as a side job.

A Pivot To Entertainment

According to Weathers, his turn towards acting as a full-time job began when John Madden advised him to pursue that career after seeing him lead in Shakespeare’s “Othello” during his Raider years. The future acclaimed coach told Weathers he wasn’t tough enough for a pro football career. 

Weathers started acting as an extra and minor player on television, with his first significant roles coming in a pair of “blaxploitation” films under the direction of one of his friends. It would not be until 1976 that he became a household name, gaining the role of Rocky Balboa’s rival-turned-friend Apollo Creed in Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” and all of its sequels up to “Rocky IV,” when his character was killed off in a match with Soviet boxer Ivan Drago. Weathers said that he got his breakout role by insulting Stallone, an act Stallone believed was in character for Creed. 

In the late 1980s, Weathers focused on action films, playing CIA handler Al Dillon in 1987’s “Predator” alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger as Major Dutch Schultz. The same year, he appeared in a music video for Michael Jackson’s “Liberian Girl.” By the 1990s, Weathers had ventured back into television, starring or playing roles in police procedurals and military dramas, as well as “Saturday Night Live.” His most prominent film role this decade was as Chubbs Peterson, the mentor of Adam Sandler’s character Happy Gilmore in the film of the same name. 

Weathers’ career shifted towards comedies and sitcoms in the 2000s, with his most notable role being in “Arrested Development” as himself. Also during this time, a rift developed between him and Sylvester Stallone over the latter’s film “Rocky Balboa,” the latest sequel to “Rocky,” in which Weathers refused to allow Stallone to use old footage of him as Apollo Creed. However, their relationship was seemingly mended by the release of 2015’s “Creed,” starring Michael B. Jordan as Apollo Creed’s son, Adonis Johnson. 

At the end of the 2010s, Weathers appeared in the Star Wars television series “The Mandalorian,” playing Greef Karga, a member of the Bounty Hunters’ Guild who acts as a contact for the eponymous Mandalorian Din Djarin, played by Pedro Pascal. 

An Esteemed Memory

According to his family and his manager, Matt Luber, Weathers “died peacefully in his sleep.” He was memorialized online by several of his former film co-stars, including Adam Sandler, Sylvester Stallone, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. They were united in their opinion of him as a great man and a good friend. Weathers is survived by three ex-wives and two children.


Image credits: Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic, MGM

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