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Whatever Happened To Carl Weathers?

In Hollywood, an actor can work steadily and make good money for years, even decades, but all it takes is a single memorable role in a box-office smash to transform them from a vaguely familiar face into a star. The problem sets in when audiences latch onto a performance so strongly that they expect the actor to look, act, and sound the same way in every project from then on out, never taking into account their range as an actor or considering the fact that people look different as they grow older.

Carl Weathers is a perfect example of this problem: he became a household name as a result of playing boxer Apollo Creed throughout the first four films of the "Rocky" franchise, so much so that the average movie fan still sees Weathers in their mind's eye as the man he was in those films. Given that the first "Rocky" film came out in 1976, if you can cut Weathers some slack for failing to maintain his fighting weight for the last 40 years, then we can help fill in the blanks as to what he's been doing since Ivan Drago took him down in "Rocky IV." Here's a hint: he's been hiding in plain sight.

Until his death in February 2024, the actor led a few projects. But the biggest came at the front and end of his career, in "Rocky" and "Predator" and, much later, in "The Mandalorian." Weathers hadn't gone anywhere between those big-budget projects, though — here's what he'd been up to in the interim.

He was 'the Black guy in Predator'

If you're laughing right now, it should only be for one of two reasons: 1) You're recalling the "Saturday Night Live" sketch where Carl Weathers used that phrase in a faux campaign commercial to pitch himself to voters as being just as viable a candidate for governor as his co-stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura, or 2) because you can't believe someone could ever forget that Weathers was in "Predator." He plays Dillon, an old friend of Dutch's who's working for the CIA.

Granted, "Predator" is first and foremost a Schwarzenegger film, but it was a big deal for Weathers at the time. The "Rocky" star had appeared in some major action films since his big boxing picture, including "The Bermuda Depths," "Force 10 from Navarone," and "Death Hunt," and his casting in "Predator" confirmed that Weathers was a bonafide action hero. The actor showed off his muscles alongside some of the most jacked actors of the decade and proved he could be a formidable presence on the big screen with or without Stallone, which is likely why he soon found himself headlining his own action films.

He starred in two potential movie franchises of his own

Unfortunately, the emphasis is very much on "potential" in this instance, since neither motion picture made it past its initial installment. The first of the two — "Action Jackson," released in 1988 — is the one that's most surprising in terms of its failure to secure a second film. "Yeah, people loved 'Action Jackson,'" Carl Weathers told Bullz-Eye in 2009. "I get asked all the time, 'Are you ever going to do a sequel?' I still maintain today that it could've been a better movie had we taken a little bit longer to develop the screenplay, but a lot of people liked it. In Germany, it was huge!" As for his next film, the flop "Hurricane Smith," more people probably know the singer than they do Weathers' 1992 film, which was best summed up by the alternate international title: "Dead on Delivery."

The movies were, of course, major milestones in Weathers' career, but critics didn't look kindly on them. Roger Ebert bemoaned what he thought was a lack of charisma on Weathers' part in "Action Jackson," while both films today have the reputation of being classic hypermasculine '80s and '90s schlock.

He found his funny side, thanks to a little help from Adam Sandler

Carl Weathers wasn't necessarily known for his comedy skills when agent/manager-turned-producer Bernie Brillstein steered him toward Adam Sandler, who was in the midst of making "Happy Gilmore," but Weathers soon found himself playing Chubbs Peterson, a former pro golfer who was forced into retirement after an alligator bit off his hand. The character was written for John Amos, but the studio mandated that Weathers be cast instead — and the rest is history. The performance showed the world a whole other side of Weathers, which led to further comedy roles in subsequent years.

Sandler helped keep him gainfully employed as well: You can see Weathers briefly reprise the role of Chubbs in "Little Nicky," and you can hear Weathers voicing GNC Guy in Sandler's animated Hanukkah film, "Eight Crazy Nights."

He got a stew going on Arrested Development

Although he's only appeared in a grand total of four episodes over the course of the five seasons (so far) of "Arrested Development," Carl Weathers relished the opportunity to get a little goofy by playing an exaggerated version of himself, one which he has said isn't representative of his real character at all. Series creator Mitch Hurwitz had originally contemplated going in a different direction with Bizarro Carl — one which would've involved a parody of Rocky and Apollo's beach run in "Rocky III"  — but when he asked Weathers if he had any thoughts, Weathers alternately suggested that maybe he could be really cheap. "It was so much better," Hurwitz told Vulture. "I went back to the writers' room and said, 'You're not going to believe this. Carl Weathers wants to be incredibly cheap.' All credit to Carl on that."

Weathers confirmed that the idea to play a total cheapskate was all his. "I was asked, 'If we can craft something for you, what would you like to do?'" he told the Calgary Herald. "I came up with this idea as a result of someone I knew to play a guy, a guy who I call 'the cheapest guy in the world.' They took the note, crafted something that I thought was extremely funny and we went from there."

He played Michael Strahan's dad on a short-lived sitcom

After his career in the NFL (but before he became King of the Morning Shows), Michael Strahan took a shot at sitcom stardom with FOX's "Brothers," which found him playing brother to Daryl "Chill" Mitchell. More importantly, though, Strahan's and Mitchell's parents were played by Carl Weathers and C.C.H. Pounder. "What we're going for is, No. 1, entertaining people, and No. 2, kind of informing us all about how this family copes with the issues of life today, and we try to do it with a lot of humor," Weathers told The Times-Picayune in advance of the series' September 2009 premiere. "You see a contemporary black family that expresses itself with a bit of edge — it's an edgy show—but at the same time you see the love." Unfortunately, the love wasn't shared by the viewing public: by the end of December, FOX had already bid adieu to "Brothers."

For his part, Weathers said he enjoyed it while it lasted. On Strahan, he told Sean Daly for the St. Pete Times (via Stuck in the '80s), "The guy is so talented and he's such a natural, and he is such a great guy to be around. ... It's great to have a guy who comes from the NFL at the level that Mike did and to see him just succeed." Weathers probably enjoyed being able to share the screen with another charismatic star with football roots, since Weathers himself was a professional linebacker for two years.

His distinctive voice has resulted in a number of job opportunities on animated projects

Even when you weren't seeing Carl Weathers onscreen, you were often hearing him, as he lent his smooth, baritone vocals to a variety of animated and video game projects. After reuniting with his "Happy Gilmore" costar Adam Sandler for the Hanukkah comedy "Eight Crazy Nights," Weathers voiced Kirby in the direct-to-video sequel "Balto III: Wings of Change," the Basketball King on "Regular Show" and Omnitraxus on "Star vs. the Forces of Evil." He also voice acted in several video games, playing Lightman in "The Artful Escape," Jax "Dillon" Skin in "Mortal Kombat X," and Col. Samuel Garrett in "Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction."

Most famously, Weathers parodied his tough guy persona as the voice of Combat Carl — as well as his pint-sized alter ego, Combat Carl, Jr. — in the "Toy Story" franchise. The military action figure made his first appearance in the 2013 video short "Toy Story of Terror!" In the short made-for-TV film, Andy's toys are stolen by the evil motel manager Ron (Stephen Tobolowsky) to be sold online. When Jessie (Joan Cusack) manages to evade capture, she meets the wayward toy Carl. Carl helps Jessie reunite with her toy friends Buzz (Tim Allen) and Woody (Tom Hanks) and rides away with them in the hopes of finding his missing human. Weathers returned to the series in 2019 for "Toy Story 4," which would sadly turn out to be his final big-screen performance.

He traveled to a galaxy far, far away in The Mandalorian

The original "Star Wars" film hit theaters in 1977, just one year after Weathers became a superstar with "Rocky." Four decades later, Weathers gained a new generation of fans by joining the intergalactic franchise, playing Greef Karga in the Disney+ series "The Mandalorian." It was the most prominent role the actor had enjoyed in years, and he clearly relished the opportunity.

As a leader of the Bounty Hunters' Guild, Greef is in charge of doling out assignments to the titular Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal). It's Greef who tasks his protege with tracking down Grogu, aka Baby Yoda, to be delivered to the Client (Werner Herzog). Greef likes to do his job by the books and is equal parts friend and foe to the Mandalorian, with things coming to a head over the fate of little Grogu. His allegiances change when Grogu uses the Force to save Greef's life, and he remains forever loyal to his newfound alien friend. Weathers appeared in nine episodes throughout the show's first three seasons, earning an Emmy nomination for his guest performance for the second season installment "Chapter 12: The Siege." He also directed two episodes, including the one for which he earned that Emmy bid (he also helmed "Chapter 20: The Foundling" in Season 3). When "The Mandalorian" eventually returns, either in a fourth season or a feature film, Greef's presence will be sorely missed.

Weathers became a prolific television director

Between acting jobs, Weathers established himself as a top director of episodic television. Starting in the early 1990s with episodes of "Silk Stalkings" and "Renegades," Weathers became a trusted hired hand on a variety of programs. Among his most prominent credits were installments of "The Last O.G.," "Law & Order," "Chicago Med," and the reboot of "Hawaii Five-O." But perhaps most famously, he helmed two episodes of "The Mandalorian," on which he also starred as bounty hunter Greef Karga.

In a 2023 interview with Hypebeast ahead of the Season 3 finale of "The Mandalorian," Weathers talked about his work behind the camera, saying that as much as he enjoyed acting, he had "fallen in love" with directing. "It allows me to provide my personality and artistic bent," he explained. "There's so much more opportunity to be creative because you're really involved with the entire piece, working on every aspect of it." He found "The Mandalorian" in particular to be "a wonderful sandbox to play in" and expressed interest in helming a movie centered on his character, Greef Karga, which would recount "those formative teenage years" that, like "Solo: A Star Wars Story" does for Harrison Ford's smuggler, influence the character we meet in "The Mandalorian." He added, "I love the issues of the pirates, Empire, resurgences, Moff Gideon — there's so much good stuff in there. Those elements would be fantastic to put into one screenplay to see where Greef Karga ultimately winds up." Sadly, that film never came to fruition during Weathers' life.

Weathers died in 2024 at the age of 76

On February 1, 2024, just 18 days after celebrating his 76th birthday, Weathers passed away. According to a statement released by his family (as reported by Deadline), Weathers "died peacefully in his sleep." The statement further read, "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."

There was an outpouring of tributes from Weathers' friends and collaborators when news of his passing broke on February 2. "My life was forever changed for the better the day I met Carl Weathers," said his "Rocky" costar Sylvester Stallone in a post on Instagram. "He was magic, and I was so fortunate to be part of his life," he said in the video. Adam Sandler paid tribute to his "Happy Gilmore" costar on X (formerly Twitter), writing, "A true great man. Great dad. Great actor. Great athlete. So much fun to be around always." In a statement, "The Mandalorian" creator Jon Favreau called him "a hero from my childhood who I was lucky enough to meet and then had the amazing good fortune to work with." His "Mandalorian" costar, Pedro Pascal, posted a photo of Weathers on Instagram and wrote simply, "Words fail." Fellow "The Mandalorian" star Giancarlo Esposito also expressed his grief on Instagram, posting a photo of him and Weathers on set and calling him "one of the most wonderful human beings I have had the honor and pleasure of spending time with."