Carl Weathers, Apollo Creed from the Rocky movies, dies at 76

American actor Carl Weathers has died at the age of 76, according to his family.

Weathers, who played Apollo Creed in the first four Rocky films, “died peacefully in his sleep,” according to a statement released by his family.

His other film credits include Predator, with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Adam Sandler’s Happy Gilmore.

Weathers, who began his career as an NFL linebacker, “was an exceptional human being who lived an extraordinary life,” his family statement added.

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“Through his contributions to film, television, the arts and sports, he has left an indelible mark and is recognized around the world and across generations,” the family said.

“He was a dear brother, father, grandfather, partner and friend.”

The athlete-turned-actor was comfortable starring in action and comedy, in appearances ranging from Arrested Development to The Mandalorian, where he appeared in all three seasons of the hit Disney+ series.

His former co-star, former California governor and superhero action star Schwarzenegger, praised Weathers on X, formerly Twitter: “Carl Weathers will always be a legend. An extraordinary athlete, a fantastic actor and a great person.

“We couldn’t have made Predator without him. And we certainly wouldn’t have had as much fun doing it.”

Born in 1948 in New Orleans, Weathers began his career playing football at San Diego State University, where he studied theater acting, before joining the Oakland Raiders in 1970.

During his more than 50-year career in Hollywood, he appeared in more than 75 movies and television shows, according to Deadline.

In 2021 he was nominated for an Emmy for his role in The Mandalorian. He directed two episodes of the Star Wars series, as well as episodes of Law & Order and Chicago Med.

He was also known for Action Jackson, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Eight Crazy Nights, Little Nicky and the Toy Story franchise.

Adam Sandler paid tribute on social media, writing: “A truly great man. Great father. Great actor. Great athlete.”

“What a guy!! Everyone loved him,” he wrote. “Love to his entire family and Carl will always be known as a true legend.”

Breaking Bad actor Giancarlo Esposito said: “I will greatly miss my dear friend and brother Carl Weathers. You truly are one of the most wonderful human beings I have ever had the honor and pleasure of spending time with!”

In a video posted to Instagram, Rocky star Sylvester Stallone said Weathers was “an integral part of my life, my success… I give him incredible credit.”

“I could never have achieved what we did with Rocky without him. He was absolutely brilliant,” Stallone added in an emotional tribute.

In an interview with the Detroit News last year, Weathers called himself a “lucky guy.”

“There are so many people who came before me who I admired and whose success I wanted to emulate, and who just met the benchmarks that they reached in terms of success, that created a path that I have been able to travel and find success as a result,” he said. “And I hope I can inspire someone else to do good work too.”

“I guess I’m a lucky guy.”