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Carl Weathers, 'Rocky's' Apollo Creed and 'Mandalorian' star, dies at 76

VENICE, CA - OCTOBER 8, 2014 -- Actor Carl Weathers takes center stage at the French Market Cafe in Venice on October 8, 2014. Weathers, who is well-known for playing the character Apollo Creed in the Rocky movies, will make an appearance at a double feature of his movies, "Predator," and "Action Jackson," at the Egyptian Theatre as part of the American Cinematheque on Friday, Oct 24, 2014. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)
Shown in 2014, Carl Weathers played Apollo Creed in the "Rocky" films and starred in "Predator" and "The Mandalorian." The actor has died at age 76. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

For the record:
7:07 a.m. Feb. 3, 2024: An earlier version of this article misidentified where Weathers completed his studies as San Francisco University. It is San Francisco State University.

Carl Weathers, the actor who traded blows with Sylvester Stallone in the “Rocky” franchise and starred in films “Predator,” “Action Jackson” and the TV series “The Mandalorian,” has died. He was 76.

Weathers "died peacefully in his home" on Thursday, his manager Matt Luber confirmed Friday to The Times. A cause of death was not revealed.

“Carl was an exceptional human being who lived an extraordinary life,” his family said in a statement shared with multiple outlets. “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.”

Michael B. Jordan, star of the "Creed" films inspired by Weathers' character, said on social media, "We lost a legend."

Read more: Where to stream Carl Weathers' essential movies and TV shows

A former NFL linebacker, Weathers found lasting Hollywood success as an athlete from another sport: a boxing star named Apollo Creed. After taking on minor roles in a variety of projects in the mid-'70s, Weathers became an overnight sensation in 1976 for originating the fictional boxer, the rival to Stallone’s boxing champ Rocky Balboa. He appeared in the first “Rocky” film, and reprised the role for the franchise’s second, third and fourth films. Weathers' character went on to inspire Jordan's "Creed" film series.

"[It's] a heady experience. You actually think you know something,” Weathers told The Times in 2014 of his time in the franchise. “If you buy into it, it takes so long to dig yourself out. I never ever get too up or too down about anything."

Beyond the "Rocky" films, Weathers was an actor whose talents spanned decades and genres. The Louisiana-born actor also built a career with the lead role in "Action Jackson," which co-starred singer-turned-actor Vanity, and the sci-fi classic "Predator," which also starred fellow athlete-turned-Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Following a chapter of action-packed films in the '80s, Weathers turned his attention to television, starring in series including "Street Justice" and "In the Heat of the Night." Also on Weathers' diverse résumé were minor parts in the Adam Sandler-led comedies "Happy Gilmore," "Little Nicky" and "Eight Crazy Nights."

Read more: 'Everyone loved him': Sylvester Stallone, Adam Sandler and other stars on Carl Weathers' death

Sandler remembered Weathers, "a true great man," in a social media post shared Friday.

"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," Sandler continued. "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."

In the two decades before his death, Weathers took up even more diverse acting jobs, ranging from "Toy Story" roles to network procedurals ("Magnum P.I.," NBC's One Chicago franchise) to video game characters. Among Weathers' most notable roles in recent years was in "The Mandalorian," the Disney+ "Star Wars" series where he starred as Greef Karga, the leader of a bounty hunter organization. He earned an Emmy Award nomination for his "Mandalorian" performance in 2021.

Weathers' "Star Wars" community also paid tribute. "The Mandalorian" creator Jon Favreau mourned his childhood "hero" in a blog post on the "Star Wars" website.

"He had the energy and curiosity of a young man paired with the wisdom that his rich life and career afforded him," he said.

"Mandalorian" star Pedro Pascal shared a photo of his colleague on Instagram writing in the caption, "words fail" to express his grief.

Read more: Classic Hollywood: Carl Weathers of 'Rocky' still a hit with fans

He was also a director who helmed episodes for shows including "The Mandalorian," "Law & Order" and "The Last O.G." The actor also touted a small handful of producing credits, according to IMDB.

Directors Guild of America (DGA) President Lesli Linka Glatter celebrated the "accomplished" star for his directing career and his commitment to the Hollywood guild off-screen. He served on the DGA's board since 2003 and continually sought to "improve the lives of his fellow members."

"Carl always found ways to give back and participate, while showing grace and kindness to every person he encountered," Linka Glatter said in a statement. "Though his passing leaves a void, Carl's legacy lives on through the talent he nurtured and the lives he brightened."

Weathers was born on Jan. 14, 1948, and studied theater at San Diego State University where he played football. He played one NFL season for the Oakland Raiders in 1970. Weathers also played two years in the Canadian Football League as he completed his studies at San Francisco State University. He earned a bachelor's degree in drama in 1974.

Read more: Carl Weathers at Ease With All the 'Action' in His Career

Inspired by stars including Woody Strode, Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte, and Muhammad Ali, Weathers made the pivot to Hollywood.

“There are so many people that came before me who I admired and whose success I wanted to emulate, and just kind of hit the benchmarks they hit in terms of success, who created a pathway that I’ve been able to walk and find success as a result," he told the Detroit News in 2023. "Hopefully I can inspire someone else to do good work as well. I guess I’m just a lucky guy.”

Some of Weathers' additional credits include TV series "Colony," "Regular Show," "Psych" and films "Hurricane Smith," "Death Hunt," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "Friday Foster."

He is survived by two sons.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.