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Carl Weathers, prolific actor famous for ‘Rocky’ and ‘The Mandalorian,’ dead at 76

Carl Weathers, who came to fame as Apollo Creed in the “Rocky” movies and proceeded to appear in dozens of movies and TV shows from “Predator” to “The Mandalorian,” has died, according to his manager Matt Luber. Weathers was 76.

The actor “died peacefully at home” on Thursday, Luber told CNN. No cause of death was available.

“Carl was an exceptional human being who lived an extraordinary life,” his family said in a statement provided to CNN. “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.”

Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers perform a boxing scene in the movie "Rocky" directed by John G. Avildsen. - Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers perform a boxing scene in the movie "Rocky" directed by John G. Avildsen. - Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Weathers was actually a former football player who had never boxed when he auditioned for the role in “Rocky,” proceeding to appear as Apollo Creed in the Oscar-winning film and the next three sequels.

In a 2015 interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Weathers recalled auditioning with Sylvester Stallone, who he was told was the film’s writer, not knowing that Stallone was also the star. Afterwards, feeling the reading hadn’t gone well, he recalled, “I just blurted out, ‘I could do a lot better if you got me a real actor to work with.’”

The character was obviously inspired by Muhammad Ali, who Weathers later met.
He later parlayed his “Rocky” exposure into a number of other roles that capitalized on his imposing physicality, including the 1987 sci-fi action movie “Predator,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Carl Weathers and Arnold Schwarzenegger on the set of "Predator" (1987). - Sunset Boulevard/Corbis Historical/Getty Images
Carl Weathers and Arnold Schwarzenegger on the set of "Predator" (1987). - Sunset Boulevard/Corbis Historical/Getty Images

The next year, he starred as a Detroit cop in the poorly received “Action Jackson.”

Subsequent roles included the Adam Sandler comedy “Happy Gilmore” and “In the Heat of the Night” TV movies, the series “Arrested Development” and providing the voice of Combat Carl in the “Toy Story” franchise.

Most recently, Weathers played a key supporting role in the Disney+ “Star Wars” series “The Mandalorian” – earning an Emmy nomination as guest actor in a drama – and also directed one of the episodes.

Weathers had also directed episodes of several other TV series, including “Chicago Med,” “Law & Order” and “Hawaii Five-O.”

American actor and former professional football player Carl Weathers posing in June 1979. - Michael Putland/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
American actor and former professional football player Carl Weathers posing in June 1979. - Michael Putland/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Born in New Orleans, Weathers played college football at San Diego State and briefly played professionally with the Oakland Raiders and in the Canadian Football League.

He gave up football in the mid-1970s and began to pursue acting, earning roles in two blaxploitation movies before his breakthrough with “Rocky.”

Weathers was married three times, and is survived by two sons.

‘A true great man’

Upon learning of Weathers’ death, his “Mandalorian” costar Pedro Pascal simply wrote “words fail” alongside a broken heart emoji in the caption next to a photo of the fallen star on Instagram.

Weathers’ “Predator” costar Schwarzenegger said on Instagram that they “couldn’t have made” the movie without him, “and we certainly wouldn’t have had such a wonderful time making it.”

“Every minute with him - on set and off - was pure joy,” the former California governor added. “He was the type of friend who pushes you to be your best just to keep up with him.”

Sandler also posted in honor of Weathers on Instagram, writing alongside a gallery of images that he was “a true great man.”

“Great dad. Great actor. Great athlete. So much fun to be around always,” he wrote, adding later, “My wife and I had the best times with him every time we saw him.”

Stallone, meanwhile, said he was “torn up” by the loss of Weathers, whom he called “an integral part of my life” and “my success.”

“I never could have accomplished what we did with ‘Rocky’ without him,” he said in a video posted to Instagram. “He was absolutely brilliant — his voice, his size, his power, his athletic ability. But more importantly his heart, his soul.”

Stallone spoke to the camera while standing in front of a painting that depicts a scene they shared in one of the “Rocky” movies. He said it was likely one of the last moments they were ever in the ring together, “and I’ll never forget it.”

“I was so fortunate to be part of his life,” he said.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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