This week, Carl Weathers, a former NFL linebacker turned Hollywood action movie and comedy star, died at the age of 76. A contemporary of 1980s action cinema, Weathers got his big break as nemesis-turned-ally Apollo Creed in the "Rocky" movies before going on to star side-by-side with Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Predator," work on Adam Sandler's golf game in "Happy Gilmore," and travel to a galaxy far, far away as Greef Karga in "The Mandalorian."
On Friday, Weathers' family issued a statement that he "died peacefully in his sleep" the day before. No cause was given. In an Instagram video, "Rocky" co-star Sylvester Stallone mourned his passing:
"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.
Stallone, who stood before a painting of the two boxing, ended the touching video tribute with the words: "Apollo, keep punching."
Whether you're a long-time Weathers fan or are looking to get a sense of why he was such a beloved fixture of the '70s and '80s action movie scene, we've rounded up Weathers' five essential screen roles below.
Released in 1976, this film marked the inception of an enduring franchise that continues to thrive today. "Rocky" stands as the archetypal sports movie, and its tale of an underdog triumphing against insurmountable odds went on to serve as a template for a slew of genre films that followed. Yet, few can compare to the original's timeless appeal.
While the "Rocky" franchise is perhaps best known for catapulting Sylvester Stallone into overnight stardom, Carl Weathers also saw his breakout role as the overconfident heavyweight champion Apollo Creed who goes toe to toe with Rocky Balboa. Weathers would go on to reprise the Creed character in subsequent "Rocky" movies, where he goes from being Rocky's greatest in-ring rival to a trusted friend.
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The appetite for Adam Sandler comedies is alive and well, as we saw last year when his big Netflix debut, You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah, quickly ousted "Hustle" to become Sandler's highest-rated film on Rotten Tomatoes yet. The comedian's iconic sports comedy Happy Gilmore is made all the better by Weathers as the brilliantly named Chubbs Peterson, an aging golfer convinced he can mold Sandler’s short-tempered, failed hockey player into a PGA Tour champ.
It's a kind of riff on Creed's role mentoring Rocky in "Rocky III" that sees Weathers blend seamlessly into Sandler's zany comedy world. He's not shy about fully committing to the bit, like when Chubbs dons a colossal fake wooden hand after an alligator snaps off his real one, all in pursuit of a good laugh.
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After hitting it big as Creed in the "Rocky" franchise, Weathers moved into the realm of sci-fi for his next box office hit: "Predator." Starring alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in this now-beloved '80s movie, Weathers takes on the role of the resident skeptic who remains unconvinced a hulking alien with a thirst for blood is hunting down his crew. That is until it's too late.
Weathers' Agent Dillon plays the number two badass to Schwarzenegger's Dutch, two Vietnam War buddies now leading a military rescue team in a dangerous mission before said alien crashes the party. While he doesn’t get to go blow-for-blow with the titular Predator as Dutch does, he scores plenty of memorable on-screen moments, like when he and Arnie greet each other by locking hands and showing off their biceps.
At the tail end of the '80s, after playing second fiddle to two action movie greats, Weathers tried his hand at being the leading man with "Action Jackson." He channels his inner John McClane in the title role of Police Detective Sergeant Jericho Jackson, a Detroit cop trying to clean up the city that faces off against a power-hungry auto magnate.
While "Action Jackson" didn't see the same level of commercial success as his other films, it's since amassed a cult following as a classic B-movie of the era. Weathers nails it as an '80s action hero, kicking ass and taking names with the best of them. Not to mention rattling off some killer one-liners (“You almost tore that boy’s arm off!” “So? He had a spare”).
'Force 10 from Navarone'
Jumping from one action-packed thriller to another, Weathers goes to war in this follow-up to the highly successful movie “The Guns of Navarone.” Playing Sergeant Olen Weaver, he joins a team of oddly assorted military experts on a mission to raid and destroy a bridge vital to enemy strategy during World War II.
Weathers is joined by a cast of celebrated actors including Robert Shaw (in what would be his final role), Harrison Ford, and Edward Fox.