Carl Weathers, who died Thursday at age 76, made his name as the formidable boxing adversary Apollo Creed in the Rocky films. But it was his career pivot with the 1996 Adam Sandler comedy Happy Gilmore that made him newly relevant to a younger generation. As it turns out, his road to landing in the beloved comedy was an unlikely one.
Dennis Dugan — who directed Happy Gilmore, in addition to such other comedy hits as Problem Child, Big Daddy and the Grown Ups films — tells The Hollywood Reporter that Weathers “literally couldn’t be a nicer guy, and he was so Chubbs. Nobody else could have ever been Chubbs but him.” The film centers on Sandler’s title character, who can’t hack it as a hockey player but becomes a surprising golf sensation, thanks to his monster drives and the assistance of his mentor, Derick “Chubbs” Peterson.
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Dugan recalls wanting to cast Christopher McDonald as memorable villain Shooter McGavin, and that when he reached out to McDonald’s agent, the rep suggested another client for a different role. Dugan remembers being confused about the suggestion that Weathers would play former golf pro Chubbs, given that the actor was previously an NFL player and known for more macho roles.
“He said, ‘I have another client, Carl Weathers, and he’d love to read for this,'” the filmmaker shares. “And I said, ‘Isn’t he a football player guy?’ He said, ‘Yeah, but he really wants to read for it.’ And I understood the subtext being, ‘Read Carl, and I can get you Chris McDonald,'” Dugan says with a chuckle.
The director remembers relaying the situation to a puzzled Sandler. “Adam goes, ‘Oh, man, I don’t know. I didn’t picture that,'” Dugan says. Luckily, everyone agreed to give Weathers a shot, and the rest is history: “He comes in — charming, wonderful, sweet, nice guy — and killed it, and got the part right there.”
Dugan got a further sense of Weathers’ humble nature when the actor showed up to set on the first day, and due to apparent confusion from a crew member not recognizing him, was sent to the holding area for the extras. “He was sitting having breakfast with the background actors,” Dugan says, laughing. “And it wasn’t like, ‘Do you know who I am?’ But that’s who he is. He was just this really sweet, nice, terrific guy.”
Weathers’ other prominent credits included such films as Predator and a voice role as Combat Carl in the Toy Story franchise, in addition to television parts on Arrested Development and The Mandalorian.
Sandler took to X (formerly Twitter) on Friday to fondly remember his former co-star: “A true great man. Great dad. Great actor. Great athlete. So much fun to be around always. Smart as hell. Loyal as hell. Funny as hell. Loved his sons more than anything. What a guy!!”
Additionally, the Directors Guild of America shared a statement paying tribute to Weathers. The message read, “The world may have seen Carl as an iconic actor, but here at the DGA we knew him as an accomplished television director on series like The Mandalorian, Chicago Med and Law & Order, but more importantly to us, as an exceptionally dedicated leader of the Guild for the past 20 years, always seeking to improve the lives of his fellow members.”
A true great man. Great dad. Great actor. Great athlete. So much fun to be around always. Smart as hell. Loyal as hell. Funny as hell. Loved his sons more than anything. What a guy!! Everyone loved him. My wife and I had the best times with him every time we saw him. Love to… pic.twitter.com/Gi2lPWFTgt
— Adam Sandler (@AdamSandler) February 2, 2024
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