Carl Weathers, ‘Rocky’ nemesis who became action star, dies at 76

Author: By From staff and wire reports, The Washington Source: The Washington Post
February 3, 2024 at 06:34
Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers in the 1976 film “Rocky.” (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers in the 1976 film “Rocky.” (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The onetime NFL linebacker played Apollo Creed in the four installments of the “Rocky” franchise.

Carl Weathers, a former NFL linebacker turned muscle-flexing actor in action fare, memorably as nemesis-turned-ally Apollo Creed in the “Rocky” franchise, died Feb. 2 at 76.

Matt Luber, his manager, confirmed the death but did not provide a cause.

In a career that included straight dramatic Hollywood roles and sitcom farce, Mr. Weathers was perhaps most closely associated with Creed, who made his first appearance as the cocky, undisputed heavyweight world champion in “Rocky” (1976). The film, a low-budget underdog drama written by and starring the largely unknown Sylvester Stallone, became an unexpected blockbuster, won the Oscar for best picture and brought prominence to both actors.

The Creed character appeared in the first four “Rocky” movies, dying in “Rocky IV” (1984) while 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.

Mr. Weathers had a key supporting role opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Predator” (1987) and starred as a taunting Detroit cop in “Action Jackson” (1988), where he trains his flamethrower on a bad guy and asks, “How do you like your ribs?” before broiling him.

Seldom a critical favorite — although his muscular torso was much commented on by reviewers — Mr. Weathers took the view that his mission in show business was to entertain the masses. He told the Los Angeles Times after the release of “Action Jackson”: “For the time being, cars flipping in the air and assault rifles going off are what does it. Right now, ‘The Sun Also Rises’ or adaptations of Molière don’t do it. And it doesn’t even matter what I think about it, in a sense. You have to give the people what they want.”

Mr. Weathers introduced himself to another generation of viewers when he portrayed himself as an opportunistic and extremely thrifty actor who becomes involved with the dysfunctional clan at the heart of the sitcom “Arrested Development,” making a handful of guest appearances in 2004 and 2013.

The Weathers character in “Arrested Development” 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 Fünke, played by David Cross.

Most recently, Mr. Weathers starred as High Magistrate Greef Karga in the Disney Plus hit “The Mandalorian,” appearing in all three seasons.

Carl Weathers was born in New Orleans on Jan. 14, 1948, and from childhood had dueling interests in athletics and acting.

A defining moment of his young moviegoing life was watching “The Defiant Ones” (1958), starring Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis as chain-gang prisoners who escape while shackled together and must cooperate despite their racial animosity. (Later, when Mr. Weathers had the clout and means to start his own production company, he remade it for TV in 1986, casting himself and Robert Urich in the leading roles.)

Mr. Weathers played football on an athletic scholarship at San Diego State College (now University) while majoring in drama. “Some of the guys … thought I was this weird Jekyll and Hyde character, because I was making this trek across campus to go put on tights and do Shakespeare,” he told Entertainment Weekly.

He had a brief pro football career with the Oakland Raiders and the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League, and finished his college degree in 1974 at what is now San Francisco State University. He then moved to Los Angeles and became a regular guest performer in shows including “Good Times,” “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “Barnaby Jones.”

Among later roles, he was a golf pro in the 1996 comedy “Happy Gilmore” opposite Adam Sandler, was chief of police for the final two seasons (1993-95) of the police and crime drama “In the Heat of the Night,” and starred in Dick Wolf’s short-lived TV series “Chicago Justice” in 2017.

His marriages to Mary Ann Castle​​, Rhona Unsell​​ and Jennifer Peterson​​ ended in divorce. Survivors include two sons from his first marriage.

 

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Betsy Reed, Editor Headshot for Guardian US Epic
Betsy Reed
Editor, Guardian US

 

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