Carl Weathers: Sylvester Stallone leads tributes to ‘Rocky’ star and NFL player-turned-actor following death at 76 | NFL News

Actor Carl Weathers, a former professional American football player who shot to fame by playing boxer Apollo Creed in the Rocky movies, has died aged 76.

Matt Luber, his manager, said Weathers died on Thursday. His family said he died “peacefully in his sleep”.

Though he had other prominent roles, acting in the recent Star Wars spin-off series The Mandalorian and the 1987 science-fiction horror movie Predator, Weathers was best known for playing Apollo Creed opposite Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa in the hit movies of the 1970s and 1980s.

Weathers’ character was at first a rival and later an ally to the Rocky character in the first four movies of the series.

He also helped launch the career of Stallone, at that time a Hollywood unknown who wrote and starred in the 1976 film that went on to sweep the 1977 Oscars, snagging best picture and best actor for Stallone, who said in a video tribute he was “torn up” and “just trying to hold it in”.

“When he walked into that room, and I saw him for the first time, I saw greatness,” Stallone said, standing before a LeRoy Neiman painting of the two of them boxing in a video posted on Instagram.

“But I didn’t realise how great. I never could have accomplished what we did with Rocky without him.”

**FILE PHOTO** Carl Weathers Has Passed Away** SANTA BARBARA, CA - FEBRUARY 9: Carl Weathers and Sylvester Stallone at the 31st Santa Barbara International Film Festival Montecito Award at Arlington Theatre on February 9, 2016 in Santa Barbara, California. Credit: PGSK/MediaPunch /IPX
Sylvester Stallone paid tribute to his Rocky co-star Carl Weathers

While he could show off his physique in movies like Action Jackson, in which he played the lead character in the 1988 film, Weathers also played comedy, taking a turn opposite Adam Sandler as the one-handed golf coach in Happy Gilmore in 1996 and parodying himself in the television series Arrested Development in four episodes from 2004 to 2013.

Sandler paid tribute to his co-star on X, writing Weathers was: “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 his entire family and Carl will always be known as a true legend.”

Weathers had a brief career playing for the Oakland Raiders in the NFL and retired from the sport to pursue acting.

He landed steady work in minor roles until he was cast as Creed, who was modelled after Muhammad Ali,

In a 2016 interview with The Daily Beast, Weathers said he “stole a lot” from Ali in creating the character.

“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 said.

“But that’s a one-off, so you’ve got to follow it up with something. Fortunately, those movies kept coming.

Carl Weathers talks to Adam Sandler in a scene from the film 'Happy Gilmore', 1996. (Photo by Universal/Getty Images)
Carl Weathers talks to Adam Sandler in a scene from Happy Gilmore

After the Creed character ran its course, Weathers teamed up with the other major action star of the period, Arnold Schwarzenegger, with a role in the 1987 hit Predator. The Mandalorian put Weathers back into the limelight over 10 episodes from 2019 to 2023.

Married and divorced three times, Weathers is survived by two children, Jason and Matthew. The statement from his manager described Weathers as a: “Beloved brother, father, grandfather, partner, and friend.”

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