Rocky Actor Carl Weathers Dead At 76

Carl Weathers, the actor best known as Apollo Creed in the "Rocky" movies, has died at age 76, according to Deadline. Weathers, born in New Orleans, Louisiana on January 14, 1948, was a professional football player before his rise to fame as an actor. He was a linebacker with the Oakland Raiders in the early 1970s before beginning his acting career with bit parts on TV shows like "The Six Million Dollar Man." His breakout role came in "Rocky" in 1976, and his acting career included credits in "Predator" and most recently in the "Star Wars" spinoff "Mandalorian."

Weathers' family, in a statement given to Deadline, said they were "deeply saddened to announce" the actor's passing. "He died peacefully in his sleep on Thursday, February 1st, 2024.," the statement reads. "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. He was a beloved brother, father, grandfather, partner, and friend."

A unique drive

Carl Weathers competed in many sports when he was younger and attributed this drive to his need for validation. He first experienced the feeling during a school play, where he had the crowd laughing and cheering at his jokes and delivery. "Even as a grown man in an NFL locker room, that feeling — and that need to chase it — persisted," Sports Illustrated reported. Bearing this in mind, it's unsurprising that Weathers ended up in entertainment.

Interestingly, when John Madden sat down Weathers to tell him he was being cut, the Raiders coach said one thing that hurt him at the time: "You're just too sensitive." But Weathers came to learn that this sensitivity is a benefit for certain careers, including show business. "We trade on performances that delve into the humanity of us all," he told Sports Illustrated. "And without sensitivity, how can you do that? ... So, God bless John Madden for seeing something in me and naming it what it actually is: a certain amount of sensitivity."

Happy Gilmore

Carl Weathers' early-developed ability to command a crowd is definitely on display in Adam Sandler's "Happy Gilmore," in which the former NFL-er plays Chubbs Peterson. But Benny Safdie — one half of the directing duo behind "Uncut Gems" — told Vulture the role was initially written for John Amos. "Sandler and [Tim] Herlihy wrote it for John Amos!" Safdie said. "And then the studio is like, 'Love John Amos, but what about Carl Weathers?'" The studio ultimately made the decision, and Weathers apparently loved the script right off the bat.

"I loved it man," Weathers said during an interview on "The Rich Eisen Show." "At the time it was interesting because there were so many crazy kinda movies being made, and Adam Sandler was on the ascent." The "Rocky" actor said he met with Sandler, who gave his blessing, and the rest is history.

An 'excruciating' injury

"Happy Gilmore" also gave Carl Weathers an injury that lasted years, as he explained to GQ. "I hurt my back and actually, to this day, it still really bothers me, because it was right on the spine," he said. According to Weathers, it was a "blind fall" during a stunt bag mishap that caused him to fall backward and "crunch" his spine. "I felt the pain and the burning sensation immediately," he said. "But again, I'm an athlete, I'm tough, I'm an actor, let's keep going. And after about three or more of those, I said, 'No more of that.'"

Years later he found out that he had fractured two vertebrae, which led to the growth of osteophytes — bony lumps that typically happen near joints or on spinal bones. In his case, they fused back together in a "really bad place," and he was in "excruciating pain" for three or four years. At the time of the GQ interview, he said it had been almost three years since he had experienced pain.

As noted by TMZ, it's unclear if Weathers was experiencing any health issues at the time of this death.