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Carl Weathers, Apollo Creed from ‘Rocky’ and ‘Mandalorian’ star, dies at 76

The beloved actor, who also had roles in "Happy Gilmore" and "Predator," died in his sleep, his family said.
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LOS ANGELES — Carl Weathers, the actor best known as Apollo Creed in the “Rocky” movies and more recently for his role in the hit "Star Wars" series "The Mandalorian," died Thursday in his sleep, according to his family.

He was 76.

“We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Carl Weathers,” according to the family statement. “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," his family said. "He was a beloved brother, father, grandfather, partner, and friend.”

Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers perform a boxing scene in the movie "Rocky" in 1977
Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers perform a boxing scene in the movie "Rocky" in 1977. Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Weathers got his big-screen break in 1976, when he landed the role of Creed in “Rocky,” according to his bio on IMDb. He continued his role in three other “Rocky” movies. Weathers also landed parts in 1987’s "Predator," starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, in Adam Sandler’s "Happy Gilmore" in 1996 and on the small screen in “The Mandalorian.”

Weathers also was the voice for Combat Carl in "Toy Story 4" and other shorts in the beloved Disney-Pixar franchise.

He also earned comedy cred by playing a bizarro version of himself in the cult sitcom "Arrested Development." Other TV acting credits include "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," "Magnum P.I." and "Chicago P.D."

Actor Carl Weathers and actor/producer Sylvester Stallone attend the Premiere of 'Creed'
Actor Carl Weathers and actor/producer Sylvester Stallone attend the Premiere of 'Creed' on Nov. 19, 2015 in Westwood, Calif.Barry King / Getty Images file

Before his decades'-long acting career took off, Weathers saw success on the gridiron. He played collegiately at San Diego State University and then played professionally for the Oakland Raiders. He retired from the sport in 1974 to seriously pursue acting, according to his biography.

Weathers was nominated for an Emmy in 2021 for Outstanding Guest Actor for the re-occurring role as Greef Karga in "The Mandalorian."

Tributes began pouring in Friday from Weathers' colleagues, including Hollywood titans.

Adam Sandler posted on the X platform that his "Happy Gilmore" costar will forever be known as a “true legend.”

Image: Carl Weathers
Carl Weathers at the London West Hollywood hotel in West Hollywood, Calif., on Oct. 19. 2019.Mark Von Holden / Invision / AP file

“A true great man. Great dad. Great actor. Great athlete. So much fun to be around always,” Sandler wrote.

“Smart as hell. Loyal as hell. Funny as hell. Loved his sons more than anything," Sandler said. "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.”

Similarly, Schwarzenegger on X lauded Weathers' acting chops and his character.

"Carl Weathers will always be a legend. An extraordinary athlete, a fantastic actor, and a great person. We couldn’t have made Predator without him. And we certainly wouldn’t have had such a wonderful time making it," Schwarzenegger said.

He continued, "Every minute with him — on set and off — was pure joy. He was the type of friend who pushes you to be your best just to keep up with him. I’ll miss him, and my thoughts are with his family."

In an emotional video tribute on Instagram, Stallone, who became a household name while Weathers starred in the "Rocky" franchise with him as Creed, said he owed much of the movies' success to Weathers' talent.

Weathers' character evolved from Rocky’s opponent to his best friend before he died in the ring in “Rocky IV."

“Today is an incredibly sad day for me. … I’m so torn up, I can’t even tell you. I’m just trying to hold it in because Carl Weathers was such an integral part of my life, my success, everything about it. I give him incredible credit and kudos 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 brilliant. His voice. His size. His power. His athletic ability. But more importantly, his heart — his soul.”

Stallone then stopped, breathed heavily and said: “It’s a horrible loss.” 

“I’m standing here in front of this painting because it was probably the last moment we were ever in the ring together. And I’ll never forget. He was magic. And I was so fortunate to be part of his life," Stallone said.

“So, Apollo,” Stallone raised his right fist and shook it before dropping it to his side. He then again raised that fist and shook it.

“Keep punching,” Stallone said, his voice cracking.

Diana Dasrath reported from Los Angeles and Antonio Planas from New York.