Carl Weathers, the actor known for playing boxer Apollo Creed in the Rocky films, has died, his manager said Friday. He was 76.
"We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Carl Weathers," his manager, Matt Luber, said in a statement, adding that the actor died peacefully in his sleep.
"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."
In addition to the Rocky films, Weathers had memorable roles in films including Predator and Happy Gilmore. He also appeared on TV in the crime drama Street Justice and on the sitcom Arrested Development. In 2021, he was nominated for an Emmy for his recurring role in the Star Wars-inspired streaming series The Mandalorian.
Before his career as an actor, Weathers, a New Orleans native, was a football star at San Diego State University and later played in the NFL for the Raiders.
Weathers played in a total of eight regular NFL season games before turning his attention to acting in 1974, according to the Raiders website.
"I just remember being bitten by the [acting] bug when I was in grade school," Weathers said in an interview with WGN Morning News last year. "The first play I did I was in fifth or sixth grade when I was in one of those pageant plays. And then the next time I did a play, the following year, was a scripted play that one of my teachers did. And there is nothing like standing on stage as a kid and suddenly hearing [applause]."
His first acting roles were small parts in the 1975 films Friday Foster and Bucktown.
The following year, he was cast in the first Rocky film as Apollo Creed, a character inspired by real-life boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Creed was the rival of Sylvester Stallone's Rocky Balboa in the first two Rocky films, then became one of the protagonists in Rocky III and in Rocky IV.
"I have no idea why it's so enduring," Weathers said about the legacy of Rocky in an interview with Red Carpet News TV in 2016. "About the best explanation for it is, it just happened to be the right movie at the right time with the right people in it."
"Stallone wrote some great characters and a great story arc and character arc, and maybe just a lot of people related to it, and still do," he added. "Because no matter which generation for people who's seeing it for the first time after 40 years or who has seen it 40 times in the last 40 years, people still love the movie, so how fortunate it is to be in a movie like that."
Weathers is survived by his two sons.