Carl Weathers, Apollo Creed in the Rocky Films, Dies at 76

Carl Weathers, the former NFL player who made his mark in Hollywood as the boxer Apollo Creed in the first four Rocky films and with appearances in such other projects as Predator, Happy Gilmore and The Mandalorian, has died. He was 76.

Weathers died Thursday in his sleep at his home in Los Angeles, his manager, Matt Luber, announced in a statement.

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“Carl was an exceptional human being who lived an extraordinary life,” he said. “Through his contributions to film, television, the arts and sports, he has left an indelible mark and is recognized worldwide and across generations. He was a beloved brother, father, grandfather, partner and friend.”

The charismatic Weathers portrayed Detective Beaudreaux on the 1991-93 syndicated cop show Street Justice; the chief of police Hampton Forbes on the final two seasons of CBS’ In the Heat of the Night in 1992-94; a caricature of himself on episodes of Fox’s Arrested Development from 2004-13; and Combat Carl in Toy Story 4 (2019).

He also recurred as attorney Mark Jefferies on Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D. and Chicago Justice.

Weathers was building a new generation of fans thanks to his work in the Disney+ series The Mandalorian. He played Greef Karga, a bounty hunter turned government official who is one of the title character’s allies, and landed an Emmy nomination in 2021. It’s a role that thrust him into Star Wars fandom, putting him in the autograph and photo lines at conventions like the Star Wars Celebration in London.

He was also building a directing career, helming two episodes of The Mandalorian as well as installments of Law & Order and Chicago Med.

Born in New Orleans on Jan. 14, 1948, Weathers boxed, wrestled and was involved in football, gymnastics, soccer and other sports at St. Augustine High School in San Diego and at Long Beach (California) Poly High School.

He starred as a defensive end at Long Beach City College before transferring to San Diego State University, where he helped the Aztecs to an 11-0 record in 1968. He went on to play for the NFL’s Oakland Raiders in 1970-71 and for the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League from 1971-73.

During offseasons, he attended San Francisco State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in drama in 1974, the year he gave up football.

Weathers appeared as a demonstrator in Magnum Force (1973) and in 1975 showed up in the blaxploitation films Bucktown and Friday Foster and on episodes of Good Times, Kung Fu, Cannon, Switch, The Six Million Dollar Man, S.W.A.T. and Bronk.

He landed the role of the brash Creed — inspired by Muhammad Ali — in Rocky (1976), with his character, then the undefeated heavyweight champion, deciding to take on Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa, an unknown club fighter from Philadelphia, when the No. 1 contender gets hurt and is unable to make a bicentennial match.

Creed wins a bloody and controversial split decision, but Balboa prevails in the rematch in Rocky 2 (1979). In the third film, released in 1982, Creed has Rocky in his corner when he takes on James “Clubber” Lang (Mr. T), and he’s killed by Soviet boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) in Rocky IV (1985).

(Michael B. Jordan plays Adonis “Donnie” Johnson, son of Apollo, in the Creed films released in 2015, 2018 and last year.)

After appearing in Force 10 From Navarone (1978) and as Col. Al Dillon in Predator (1987), Weathers graduated to leading man, portraying a Detroit cop in Action Jackson (1988).

In Happy Gilmore (1996), he played Derick “Chubbs” Peterson, a pro golfer who is forced to retire after his hand is bitten off by an alligator — he then uses a wooden hand — then reprised the role in recent commercials for a golf retailer.

He also appeared in FanDuel’s Super Bowl campaign, playing a guy who is training Rob Gronkowski to kick a field goal.

Weathers played Col. Brewster on the 1989-89 CBS series Tour of Duty and was the father of Michael Strahan and Daryl “Chill” Mitchell’s characters on the 2009 Fox sitcom Brothers. And his big-screen résumé also included The Four Deuces (1975), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Hurricane Smith (1992) and Little Nicky (2002).

Survivors include his sons, Matthew and Jason.

When he auditioned for his career-making role in the first Rocky, he told THR in 2015, “There was nobody to read with, and they said you’re going to read with the writer.” That writer, of course, was Stallone.

“And we read through the scene, and at the end of it, I didn’t feel like it had really sailed, that the scene had sailed, and they were quiet and there was this moment of awkwardness, I felt, anyway. So I just blurted out, ‘I could do a lot better if you got me a real actor to work with.’ So I just insulted the star of the movie without really knowing it and not intending to.”

Apparently, Stallone felt the verbal jab was something that Apollo would say, and Weathers was hired. “Sometimes the mistakes are the ones that get you the gig,” he said.

Darah Head contributed to this report.

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