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February 02, 2024

Actor Carl Weathers, who starred as Apollo Creed in 'Rocky' movies, dies at 76

The former NFL player filmed a Super Bowl commercial for FanDuel's 'Kick of Destiny' ahead of Sunday's game. The company says it will adjust its campaign

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Carl Weathers Obituary Sthanlee B. Mirador/Sipa USA

Actor and former NFL player Carl Weathers died Thursday at 76. Weathers played Apollo Creed in the first four films of the 'Rocky' franchise and went on to have a long, successful career in Hollywood.

Beloved actor and former NFL player Carl Weathers, whose Hollywood legacy includes an iconic role as boxing heavyweight Apollo Creed in the "Rocky" franchise, has died at 76, his family said Friday. 

Weathers' manager, Matt Luber, told the Associated Press that Weathers died Thursday. The Weathers family said the actor "died peacefully in his sleep."

Starting with the first installment of "Rocky" in 1976, Weathers played the world champ who gave Sylvester Stallone's underdog character, Rocky Balboa, the chance to rival him in a title bout in Philadelphia. Weathers developed the Creed role further in subsequent films, becoming the Italian Stallion's trainer in "Rocky III." And in the next movie, Creed dramatically dies in the ring during his bout with Soviet fighter Ivan Drago. His character's son, Adonis Creed, later goes on to helm the "Creed" trilogy starring by Michael B. Jordan. 

Stallone and Jordan had not publicly commented on Weathers' death by early Friday evening.

Though Adonis Creed helped put Rocky on the fictional map, Stallone had a similar impact on Weathers in real life.

In a 2015 interview, Weathers told the The Hollywood Reporter that he nearly ruined his chance to be in "Rocky" because he had mouthed off about Stallone during his audition. Weathers said he had been told there was nobody available to read lines with, so he'd have to do so with the writer of the movie — Stallone. 

"And we read through the scene, and at the end of it, I didn't feel like it had really sailed, that the scene had sailed, and they were quiet and there was this moment of awkwardness, I felt, anyway," Weathers said. "So I just blurted out, 'I could do a lot better if you got me a real actor to work with.' So I just insulted the star of the movie without really knowing it and not intending to."

Stallone reportedly felt the outburst was in character for Creed and that Weathers' mistake made him stand out for the role. 

Prior to becoming an actor, Weathers played linebacker in the NFL for the Oakland Raiders and also spent time in the Canadian Football League, during which time he pursued a degree in drama. 

Weathers' memorable roles included his appearances in "Predator," in which he starred alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, and in "Action Jackson," for which got a nomination for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture. More recently, Weathers starred as Greef Karga in Disney's "The Mandalorian" and directed two episodes of the "Star Wars" series.

Weathers' most-quoted character may be Derick "Chubbs" Peterson, the quirky golf guru who mentors Adam Sandler in "Happy Gilmore." Chubbs famously clasps his arms around Happy Gilmore ahead of an important putt — showing off the false wooden hand he wears to replace the appendage he lost to an alligator bite — and tells Gilmore that the game of golf is "all in the hips." 

Sandler, who invited Weathers to reprise the Chubbs role in "Little Nicky," shared a message on X, formerly Twitter, remembering his longtime friend.

Weathers' death came after he filmed a Super Bowl commercial with former football player Rob Gronkowski, who's slated to participate in FanDuel's "Kick of Destiny" before Sunday's game between the Chiefs and 49ers. Fans are invited place bets on whether Gronk will make or miss the kick — which, in the commercial, Weathers tells him he "won't miss."

In a statement on X, FanDuel said it is "deeply saddened" by Weathers' passing. The company told AdAge it plans to adjust its campaign accordingly out of respect for the family.