Sylvester Stallone paid tribute today to Carl Weathers, who played Apollo Creed in the first four Rocky films and died Thursday at 76.
In an emotional Instagram video post (watch it below), the three-time Oscar nominee recalled his longtime friend in a sometimes-quivering voice: “”My life was forever changed for the better the day I met Carl Weathers. … He was magic, and I was fortunate to be part of his life. … Rest in power and keep punching.”
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Standing in front of an abstract painting from their Rocky days in the ring, Stallone says in the video: “Hello, everyone. Today is an incredibly sad day for me. … Carl Weathers was such an integral part of my life which he says everything about it. I give him incredible credit …. because when he walked into that room, and I saw him for the first time, I saw greatness, but I didn’t realize how great. I never could have accomplished what we did with Rocky without him. He was absolutely great. His voice, his size, his power, his athletic ability, but more importantly, his heart, his soul.”
Stallone was a nascent actor and screenwriter when he and Weathers first matched up. It was in the seminal 1976 underdog-boxer film Rocky, which won Best Picture and two other Oscars on 10 nominations, which included Best Actor and Original Screenplay for Stallone.
Weathers was cast as Apollo Creed, the beloved, star-spangled and understandably cocky heavyweight champion who sees dollar signs and good publicity by giving a local lug a title shot. Enter Stallone’s Rocky Balboa, who gets the gig in part due to his catchy nickname, “The Italian Stallion.”
Their championship bout is etched in blood, broken ribs and cinematic history.
Balboa and Creed met again for the title in 1979’s Rocky II, which saw the ex-loan shark enforcer from Philly win the belt. Rocky III came along in 1982, which Creed stepping in to train Balboa for his fight against the bruising brawler Clubber Lang (Mr. T), after the death of Balboa’s trainer Mickey (Burgess Meredith).
Weathers made one final screen appearance as Creed in Rocky IV, the flag-draped Cold War sequel starring Dolph Lundgren as the Soviet contender Ivan Drago. He and Creed take part in an exhibition match in which the former champ meets his demise.
Below is Stallone’s touching tribute, shot in front of the Leroy Neiman painting that provided a visual coda to Rocky III. Stallone says in the video that it represents the last time he and Weathers were in the ring together.
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