The entertainment world lost a legend this week with the passing of acclaimed actor Carl Weathers at the age of 76. Weathers was best known for his iconic role as Apollo Creed in the Rocky film franchise, though his credits spanned over five decades in Hollywood.
Born in 1948 in New Orleans, Louisiana, Weathers was an athletic child who excelled in various sports like football, boxing, wrestling and soccer. He attended San Diego State University on an athletic scholarship where he played football as a linebacker. After a brief stint in the NFL, Weathers turned his focus to acting full-time in the 1970s.
Weathers got his big break when he was cast as Apollo Creed, the charismatic heavyweight champion and rival to Sylvester Stallone’s working-class hero Rocky Balboa, in the Oscar-winning 1976 film Rocky. The role launched Weathers to stardom and he would reprise the character in the sequels Rocky II, Rocky III and Rocky IV over the next decade. His electrifying performances against Stallone in the ring made the Apollo Creed character an instant classic and fan favorite.
Beyond the Rocky franchise, Weathers demonstrated his versatility as an actor with memorable roles in other major films of the era like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Predator, Action Jackson and Happy Gilmore. In Predator, he starred opposite future politicians Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura as the leader of an elite military rescue team battling an alien hunter in the jungles of Central America. The 1987 sci-fi thriller became one of his most popular non-Rocky films.
In the 1990s and 2000s, Weathers transitioned to more comedic and character roles in movies like Adam Sandler’s golf comedy Happy Gilmore and the sitcom Arrested Development where he played a fictional exaggerated version of himself. He also began directing episodes of popular crime dramas like Chicago Justice and The Shield.
Weathers had a career resurgence in the 2010s when he returned to the Rocky universe after a 30-year absence. Though Apollo Creed had been killed off in Rocky IV, Weathers’ voice and likeness were used in the 2015 sequel Creed starring Michael B. Jordan as Apollo’s son Adonis. The actor also made memorable guest appearances in the Star Wars universe as Greef Karga in the hit Disney+ series The Mandalorian, earning his first Emmy nomination in 2021.
Up until his death, Weathers remained busy acting and directing into his 70s. His final projects were voicing the animated character Combat Carl in Toy Story 4 and playing a fictionalized version of himself in the Arrested Development revival in 2018.
Carl Weathers is survived by his two sons and ex-wife Mary Ann Weathers, to whom he was married from 1973 to 1983. His passing at 76 came as a shock to friends, family and longtime fans.
Film critic Leonard Maltin, who covered Weathers’ entire career, said “He was effortlessly charismatic on screen, and brought boundless energy and swagger to every role. Apollo Creed was a wonderful creation but so were many other characters he played over the years. He was a friend to many and universally admired and respected.”
Weathers leaves behind a tremendous cinematic legacy thanks to his work in some of the most rewatchable and crowd-pleasing films of the past fifty years. His performances as Apollo Creed were iconic and inspired generations of Black actors that came after him. Beyond his acting talents, Weathers was known as a kind, humble person with a great sense of humor both on and off screen.
Though he may be gone, Carl Weathers’ contributions to pop culture through characters like Apollo Creed, Dillon in Predator, Chubbs in Happy Gilmore and Greef Karga in The Mandalorian will live on forever. He will be dearly missed by the entertainment community but always remembered for his charm, charisma and incredible career.