Carl Weathers, ‘Rocky’ and ‘Mandalorian’ Star, Dies at 76

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

Carl Weathers, the towering actor best known for playing Apollo Creed in the first four Rocky films, died on Thursday, his family has announced. He was 76.

“We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Carl Weathers,” his family said in a statement, per Deadline. “He died peacefully in his sleep on Thursday, February 1st, 2024… Carl was an exceptional human being who lived an extraordinary life. 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.”

Along with the Rocky films, Weathers’ 50-year screen career included roles in Happy Gilmore, Predator, and in his later years, the Star Wars TV series The Mandalorian.

Adam Sandler, who co-starred with Weathers in both Happy Gilmore and Little Nicky, called the actor 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,” in a social media post after the news broke.

From The Mandalorian, Giancarlo Esposito posted, “You are truly one of the most wonderful human beings I have had the honor & pleasure of spending time with! I am grateful for your influence & support of all things good in my life.”

Weathers was born in New Orleans and had a successful career as an athlete before pursuing acting. He played college football at San Diego State University—where he received a degree in theater arts—and went on to play for one season in the NFL, for the Oakland Raiders, in 1970. He also had a two-year run in the Canadian Football League.

“I always wanted to be an actor,” Weathers told The Daily Beast in 2016. “I just happened to be a good enough athlete, so my life went that way for a bit. But I think I was born to be an actor, and to be in the entertainment industry. Football is entertainment, too. You’re a gladiator, but you’re there to entertain.”

After leaving football behind in the mid-’70s, he moved to Los Angeles to tackle a career in Hollywood. His early screen credits included roles in Good Times and Starsky & Hutch, but his breakthrough came after nabbing the role of the champion boxer Apollo Creed opposite Sylvester Stallone in 1976’s 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,” Weathers added in that 2016 interview. “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 would go on to appear as Dillon in Predator, Chubbs in Happy Gilmore, and the title role in the blaxploitation film Action Jackson, among dozens of other on-screen parts. In 2016 and 2017, he appeared in a slate of Dick Wolf’s Chicago network shows: Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., and Chicago Justice. Weathers also had a memorable role as Tobias’ stew-loving acting coach on the Fox-turned-Netflix series Arrested Development.

More recently, he starred as Greef Karga in the first three seasons of The Mandalorian, which earned him an Emmy Award nomination in 2021 for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. He also also directed several episodes of the Disney+ series.

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