Weathers, ‘Rocky’ films actor, dies

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NEW YORK, Feb 3, (AP): 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. Matt Luber, his manager, said Weathers died Thursday. His family issued a statement saying he died “peacefully in his sleep.” “Carl Weathers will always be a legend,” Schwarzenegger wrote on Instagram. “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.” 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,” 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 Sylvester Stallone. “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,” he told The Daily Beast in 2017. Most recently, Weathers has starred in the Disney+ hit “The Mandalorian,” appearing in all three seasons.

“We lost a legend yesterday,” Stallone wrote in an Instagram message that included a video tribute. The actor stood before a painting of him and Weathers boxing and said, “Carl Weathers was such an integral part of my life, my success … I give him incredible credit and kudos. “When he walked into that room and I saw him for the first time, I saw greatness. … I never could have accomplished what we did with ‘Rocky’ without him.’” Stallone ended his video tribute by saying: “Apollo, keep punching.” 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 boxing trilogy starting in 2015.

Weathers went on to 1987’s “Predator,” where he flexed his pecs alongside Ventura, Schwarzenegger 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. “We lost an icon,” former “Predator” co-star Jesse Ventura wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Carl Weathers was a phenomenal talent, a true professional and a dear friend.” He later added a false wooden hand to play a golf pro for the 1996 comedy classic “Happy Gilmore” opposite Adam Sandler and starred in Dick Wolf’s short-lived spin-off series “Chicago Justice” in 2017 and Disney’s “The Mandalorian,” earning an Emmy Award nomination in 2021. He also voiced Combat Carl in the “Toy Story” franchise. Sandler hailed his friend on social media, calling him a “great man” and “a true legend” – “So much fun to be around always. Smart as hell. Loyal as hell. Funny as hell.” 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.

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