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Actor Carl Weathers of 'Rocky' and 'Predator' fame dies

Timothy Jones
February 3, 2024

Carl Weathers, NFL linebacker-turned-movie star who played the role of Apollo Creed in the "Rocky" movies, has passed away "peacefully" at the age of 76, his family said.

Carl Weathers
US actor Carl Weathers has died aged 76Image: Mark Von Holden/Invision/AP/picture alliance

US actor Carl Weathers, known for prominent roles in movies ranging from the "Rocky" films of the 1970s and 1980s to the recent "Star Wars" spinoff series "The Mandalorian," died on Thursday, his manager announced on Friday.

While the cause of death was not immediately disclosed, the actor's family issued a statement saying Weathers died "peacefully in his sleep."

Weathers' defining role, and the one that launched him to stardom, was that of boxer Apollo Creed in the "Rocky" movies, where he played opposite Sylvester Stallone, helping boost the latter's career as well. In 1987, he played CIA agent George Dillon in the Arnold Schwarzenegger hit "The Predator."

"Carl Weathers will always be a legend. An extraordinary athlete, a fantastic actor, and a great person," Schwarzenegger wrote on social media.

Married and divorced three times, Weathers is survived by two children, Jason and Matthew.

From footballer to movie star

Carl Weathers was born in New Orleans in the southern US state of Louisiana, where his father was a day laborer.

Weathers received a master in theater arts from  San Diego State University, where he was also highly involved in college football.

His football prowess led to his signing with the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League in 1970, then later with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League.

However, he retired from football in 1974 to pursue his acting career, having graduated from San Francisco State University with a bachelor's degree in drama.

Instant stardom

He received a steady run of minor roles until he was cast as Creed in the first "Rocky" film of 1976.

The character of Creed was modeled after world-famous boxer Muhammad Ali, and presented a strong and positive Black figure at a time when many mainstream movies were still offering stereotyped Black roles.

The film was highest-grossing film of 1976 and has since then often featured in lists of the greatest movies of all times.

Weathers went on to act in a further three films of the hit series.

Speaking of his late co-star in a video tribute, Stallone said he was "torn up" and "just trying to hold it in."

"When he walked into that room, and I saw him for the first time, I saw greatness," Stallone said. "But I didn't realize how great. I never could have accomplished what we did with Rocky without him."

Successful career

Weathers' later roles include that of the lead character in "Action Jackson" of 1988, and a comedy turn in "Happy Gilmore" in 1996.

He also parodied himself in  the television series "Arrested Development" in four episodes from 2004 to 2013, in addition to having roles in "The Mandalorian" and the 1987 science fiction horror movie "Predator."

In a 2016 interview with the Daily Beast, Weathers spoke of his luck in having continued to land roles after "Rocky."

"With any role that's so iconic, defining, grand — it was so many things, you know? But yeah, 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," Weathers said.

"Fortunately those movies kept coming."

This article uses material from Reuters news agency.