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Carl Weathers, Rocky, Predator and The Mandalorian star, dies aged 76

Carl Weathers, the Rocky franchise’s Apollo Creed and star of films including Predator and Happy Gilmore, has died aged 76.

He died in his sleep at his Los Angeles home on Thursday (1 February), his manager, Matt Luber, confirmed on Friday (2 February).

“Carl was an exceptional human being who lived an extraordinary life,” Luber said in a statement shared with The Hollywood Reporter.

“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.”

His Happy Gilmore co-star Adam Sandler saluted him as “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,” Sandler wrote on X.

Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on 14 January 1948, Weathers played college football at Long Beach City College before transferring and playing at San Diego State University. He obtained his master’s degree in theatre arts at the latter.

After he failed to get drafted into the National Football League (NFL), he signed on as a free agent with the Oakland Raiders in 1970 but was let go a year later.

He then played for the Canadian Football League’s BC Lions for three years before officially retiring from football in 1974. That same year, he made the decision to pursue acting as a career.

Carl Weathers (2023 Invision)
Carl Weathers (2023 Invision)

His first significant on-screen roles were in the 1975 films Bucktown and Friday Foster, both directed by his longtime friend Arthur Marks.

It was shortly after that, that he was cast as Apollo Creed, the main antagonist in Rocky (1976)and Rocky II (1979), opposite Sylvester Stallone’s titular boxer Rocky Balboa. Real-life boxing legend Ken Norton had originally signed on to play Apollo but the role eventually went to Weathers after the latter criticised Stallone’s acting during the audition. Apparently Stallone felt the verbal jab was something Apollo would say.

Weathers went on to reprise his character in Rocky III (1982) and Rocky IV (1985).

He then starred as CIA agent Dillon alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1986 sci-fi classic, Predator.

He also co-starred with Bryan Genessee on the two-season action series Street Justice from 1991 to 1993. Additionally, he guest-starred in other TV shows, including Colony, Chicago Fire, Magnum PI and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

His final role was portraying High Magistrate Greef Karga in three seasons of the Star Wars spin-off series The Mandalorian, which wrapped its third season in April 2023.

Season four of the series had not confirmed casting, so it was unknown whether Greef Karga was expected to return.

Weathers is survived by his two sons, Jason and Matthew, whom he shares with his ex-wife Mary Ann Castle.