Carl Weathers, the actor who played Apollo Creed in the first four Rocky films, has died at the age of 76. The death happened on Thursday night, according to the performer’s agent, Matt Luber. The actor, most famous in the 1980s for action films such as Predator, had recently made a comeback in The Mandalorian series, one of the Star Wars universe spin-offs created for the Disney+ platform. Weathers’ family claims he passed away peacefully in his sleep.
Weathers became one of the heavy hitters who dominated American cinema during the 1980s. His physical strength was exploited on screen from the moment he debuted as an extra in Magnus Force, one of the installments of Clint Eastwood’s celebrated detective Harry Callahan. Weathers’ body was not cultivated in theaters or on television sets. It was in gyms and on the football field. Before making his big screen debut, he was a college football player. He wore the jersey of San Diego State University, a team he used as a springboard to the NFL, where he played one season for the Oakland Raiders, now in Las Vegas, where he was coached by the legendary John Madden.
“When I found football, it was a completely different outlet. It was more about the physicality, although one does feed the other. You needed some smarts because there were playbooks to study and film to study, to learn about the opposition on any given week,” he said in an interview with Detroit News. But Weathers, a defensive tackle who was starting on the bench, simply didn’t have the mettle. Madden told him he was too sensitive after one game, according to an interview with Sports Illustrated. After an inconsistent campaign with Oakland in 1970, he tried his luck for two years in the Canadian Football League. He used the time off to graduate with a degree in acting from San Francisco State University.
Weathers always claimed that acting was his first love. He was in his first play when he was a high school student in his native New Orleans. He did it in a musical, where he also had a singing part. “What I fell in love with — most actors, I think, would probably say the same thing — was applause and approval. There’s something about that that’s so heady, particularly when you’re a kid,” Weathers told the Los Angeles Times a few years ago.
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