Although he first rose to prominence as a pro-football player with the Oakland Raiders and BC Lions, Carl Weathers really broke big when he played the role of Apollo Creed in the Rocky series. Both a student of drama and a star athlete in his high school and college days, Weathers once remarked, “My one eye was on football, and my other eye was on Hollywood” – and Hollywood would be the place he really made his home.
Of course, while he played Apollo four times, there’s a lot more to Carl Weathers than that. Here are 30 things you probably didn’t know about the actor.
30. In his Rocky audition, Weathers asked to work with a “real actor” instead of Sylvester Stallone
At his Rocky audition, Carl Weathers was introduced to Sylvester Stallone knowing only he was the film’s writer, and didn’t know he was also the star of the movie. Weathers recalled in 2015 that after he got done reading a scene with Stallone there was “a moment of awkwardness… so I just blurted out ‘I could do a lot better if you got me a real actor to work with.’”
Unintentional though it might have been, this jibe actually made Weathers one of the most noticeable actors at audition – and he suspects it helped to secure him the role. “Sometimes the mistakes are the ones that get you the gig,” Weathers has since noted on his blunder.
29. While shooting Predator, Weathers worked out in secret so the other actors would think he was ‘naturally muscular’
Outside of the Rocky series, Weathers’ most celebrated role is as CIA operative Dillon in 1987 sci-fi action classic Predator. As the film’s leading man was former bodybuilding champion Arnold Schwarzenegger, there was a great deal of competition among the cast (which also included Sonny Landham, Bill Duke and wrestler Jesse Ventura) to see who could get in the best shape for the movie.
In an interview included on the Predator DVD, Weathers noted that during filming, he would rise at 3 am to begin working out on his own. Weathers admitted that he wanted his co-stars to think he was “naturally” muscular – and he would only train in secret, when none of the cast or crew were around.
28. He now makes training videos for the US Army
Weathers runs Red Tight Media, a production company that creates tactical training videos for the US armed forces. In one clip, the Rocky star directs new recruits in how to effectively deploy a Patriot missile. As well as narrating clips about first aid and missile deployment, the Predator star has taught actors who simulate war situations, which in turn are used to train real soldiers.
Weathers became an acting coach to Iraqi immigrants in the USA, who participated in these fake battles in Fort Irwin, California. This spot was a crucial training location for many soldiers who were preparing to embark on a tour in Iraq. According to author Marina Hyde, several of the soldiers ironically developed battle fatigue and PTSD from these simulations, preventing them from proceeding to the actual war zones.
27. He came up with the idea for Action Jackson on the set of Predator
While he was filming Predator, Weathers befriended producer Joel Silver (also known for Commando, Lethal Weapon and The Matrix). It was during their off-screen chats that the idea for Action Jackson, Weathers’ 1988 action movie, took root. In a 2014 interview with the A.V. Club, Weathers recalled, “I was doing Predator and talking to Joel Silver, who [like Weathers] loved blaxploitation movies.”
“Joel said, ‘Well, you know, why don’t you put something together?’ So during that time of shooting down in Puerto Vallarta, I created this story and came up with this guy – or at least this title – Action Jackson.” This was developed into a screenplay by writer Robert Renau, and was made in 1988 with Craig R. Baxley directing.
26. Weathers’ Happy Gilmore character is missing a hand in reference to his Predator role
In the Predator, Weathers’ character Dillon comes off badly when facing the titular monster, who blows arm his arm off. When Weathers later starred in the Adam Sandler sports comedy Happy Gilmore, his character was also missing a hand, in homage to his classic action role. In Happy Gilmore, Weathers’ character Chubbs is a former golf star who lost his hand to an alligator.
Chubbs acts as a mentor to Adam Sandler’s Happy, an aspiring golf player who ultimately gifts Chubbs the head of the instigating alligator. Happy Gilmore met with impressive commercial success, grossing $39 million on a budget of only $12 million. Weathers reprised the role of Chubbs in Sandler’s 2000 movie Little Nicky.
25. He took acting classes with Saturday Night Fever’s Donna Pescow
Donna Pescow and Carl Weathers used to take drama classes together in New York City, before they set out on very different Hollywood careers. Pescow, who is six years Weathers’ junior, made her film debut in the critically acclaimed Saturday Night Fever. She went on to star in the sitcoms Angie, Out of This World and Disney’s Even Stevens.
Weathers, meanwhile, made his film debut as an extra in Clint Eastwood’s 1973 Dirty Harry sequel Magnum Force. He then built his acting career with the 70s blaxploitation movies Friday Foster and Bucktown.
24. He’s on the US Olympic Committee
As a teenager, Carl Weathers established himself as a talented athlete, ultimately winning a scholarship to the prestigious New Orleans private school St Augustine, the alma mater for over 30 NFL players. Weathers spent his high school years immersed in boxing, football, gymnastics, judo, soccer and wrestling. His passion for such a range of sports won Weathers a spot on the US Olympic Committee, where he helps to manage the careers of rising stars.
By chance, the iconic final fight in Rocky was filmed at LA’s Olympic Auditorium, built for the 1932 Olympics. Weathers also supports the Big Brothers Association, one of the biggest mentorship organisations for young people in the USA.
23. There was a mock political campaign to get him elected as Mayor of New Orleans in 2009
In 2003, Weathers appeared on Saturday Night Live to star in a fake political campaign advert, saying he wanted to run for governor. Poking fun at his Predator co-stars-turned-politicians Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura, Weathers said he was ready for political life, and would become the governor of any state that would accept him.
In 2009, fans continued to support this imaginary campaign and established ‘Carl Weathers for Mayor’ in Weathers’ childhood city of New Orleans. Funnily enough, in the same 2010 mayoral race, Brad Pitt was also graced with a fan campaign that he himself had not approved. Of course, neither actor won the election.
22. He released a single in 1981
Carl Weathers isn’t known for being a singer, but he did record a single in 1981, entitled You Ought to Be With Me/Love’s Calling. This collaboration with D.J. Emile took place around the time Weathers was filming the Western action film Death Hunt. And while this single has faded into obscurity, it recently reached audiences once more when it featured in Stranger Things.
According to an LA Times interview, Weathers’ love of performing music dates back to his high school days. “I started singing with bands when I was a kid, and that’s how I kind of made some money when I was young,” Weathers explained. “R&B and stuff like that. Everybody from Otis Redding to Wilson Pickett to James Brown.”
21. He auditioned to play Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Weathers reportedly auditioned for the role of Captain Benjamin Sisko in the popular 90s TV series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The role eventually went to Avery Brooks, who starred in the show for the entirety of its seven-season run. When he failed to land this role, Weathers instead joined the cast of TV’s In the Heat of the Night in 1993, playing Police Chief Hampton Forbes.
Other actors considered for Sisko include James Earl Jones and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’s James Avery. Though Weathers missed out on Star Trek, he would eventually end up becoming a TV sci-fi star in 2019, by starring as the bounty hunter Greef Karga in Star Wars series The Mandalorian.
20. He was inducted into the International Moustache Hall of Fame in 2016
Speaking to ESPN Radio in 2017, Weathers said the greatest honour of his life was being inducted into the International Mustache Hall of Fame in 2016. Weathers’ fellow honourees include Albert Einstein, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr and Hulk Hogan. “Weathers and his chevron mustache have been deeply unappreciated through his run of greatness as he carved a vital role for himself in American pop culture since the mid 1970s,” his induction speech stated.
Freddie Mercury, Burt Reynolds and Nick Offerman have similarly sported the chevron shape on their upper lips. “Enshrinement into the Hall is perhaps the most arduous yet ruggedly attractive achievement among its peer organisations,” said American Mustache Institute chief executive Adam Paul Causgrove in 2016.
19. He told Jon Favreau to put more Baby Yoda in The Mandalorian
Long before Baby Yoda became a viral sensation, Weathers had spotted the star quality of the character while filming The Mandalorian. Baby Yoda – formally named ‘The Child’ – quickly became a fan favourite in the live-action Star Wars series. Speaking to Empire Magazine in 2020, Weathers said Baby Yoda captured his heart early on in the production process.
“[The Mandalorian’s] sidekick, his ward, his little being that accompanies him on his journey, has this sweetness, this obviously childlike quality that we all love in little ones, before they can say ‘no!’ and throw things and have tantrums,” Weathers said. “When I read the script, one of my comments was to ask Jon [Favreau] to put more of the Baby in there,” he laughed.
18. His college football teammate was NFL star and actor Fred Dryer
Weathers began his football career as a linebacker at San Diego State University, where he played alongside Fred Dryer. Both Weathers and Dryer went on to join the NFL, but Dryer remained in the sport for 13 years, serving as defensive end for the New York Giants, New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams before retiring in 1981.
Like Weathers, Dryer also became an actor after he retired from football. He’s best known for starring in 80s TV cop show Hunter, but also came close to playing Sam Malone on sitcom Cheers before Ted Danson was cast instead.
17. An injury on Happy Gilmore left Weathers with ‘debilitating’ pain for years
While starring in Adam Sandler’s comedy Happy Gilmore, a serious accident befell Weathers – but he kept quiet about it for years. In a stunt fall gone wrong, Weathers missed a stunt bag and ended up trapped between the safety equipment and the wall. Breaking his long silence about the injury, Weathers told GQ Magazine in 2020: “I didn’t tell anyone because, you know, I’m tough, man.”
“I hurt my back and actually, to this day, it still really bothers me, because it was right on the spine… I went out backwards instead of hitting something flat, my body kind of got trapped, my head on the bags, and my tailbone at the wall, and so it just would crunch on the spine.” He fractured two vertebrae and suffered “debilitating” pain for the following four years.
16. He demanded a role in the sixth Rocky movie – even though his character was killed off in Rocky IV
Weathers’ famous character Apollo Creed perishes in the boxing ring in the Rocky franchise’s fourth movie. Weathers put a lot of work into his Creed persona, long considered his most iconic role. When the sixth movie, Rocky Balboa, entered production, Stallone requested to use some of the old Rocky footage. While Mr T and Dolph Lundgren were happy to see their earlier work on the big screen once more, Weathers instead asked for an actual role in the film.
When his request was denied, Weathers refused to allow Stallone to use old footage of Apollo Creed’s glory days. However, the pair later made up and Weathers eventually permitted Stallone to recycle his old footage for the 2015 film Creed.
15. His first ever screen role was in a groundbreaking sitcom
After retiring from football in 1974, Weathers sought out minor TV and film roles to build his acting experience. In 1975, he secured a guest appearance in Season 2, Episode 16 of the family sitcom Good Times. It was the first ever sitcom with a two-parent Black family to reach television, and won widespread popularity. Gary Coleman, Bubba Smith and Judy Chicago were among the other guest stars on the show, which ran from 1974 to 1979.
Weathers stars in his episode as the husband of an art model, who poses for the family’s eldest son JJ. Within a year, Weathers also found one-episode roles in The Six Million Dollar Man, Kung Fu and Starsky & Hutch.
14. Every time Weathers met Muhammad Ali, they would break into pretend fighting
It’s no secret that Sylvester Stallone was inspired to write Rocky after the famous boxing match between Muhammad Ali and underdog Chuck Wepner. While Stallone was presenting the Best Supporting Actress award at the 1977 Academy Awards, he was mock-ambushed by Ali. “I’m the real Apollo Creed,” Ali berated Stallone. “You stole my script! I watched the movie, all of it was me!”
This running joke made it into Carl Weathers’ real-life encounters with the boxer, who would pretend to fight Weathers whenever they met. Weathers recalled such an incident to the Hollywood Reporter in 2015, when the boxing legend passed Weathers outside a restaurant and yelled, “’Apollo Creed!’ Then all of a sudden, there is Muhammad and I standing on the sidewalk throwing punches. It was so bizarre. It was all just in good fun, of course.”
13. As a child, Weathers’ favourite actor was Sidney Poitier
Hollywood legend Sidney Poitier was among the actors to inspire Weathers to pursue a career in acting. “My first love was acting,” Weathers has said of his early childhood. “I went to Sidney Poitier films as a kid. I sat in the theatre and dreamed of being an actor.” Bahamian-American actor Poitier was a pioneer for black actors in Hollywood, famously becoming the first man of colour to win the Best Actor Oscar for 1963’s Lilies of the Field.
Among Poitier’s best-loved works is the 1958 movie The Defiant Ones, in which he stars with Tony Curtis as an escaped convict. In 1986, Weathers took up Poitier’s role in a made-for-television remake of the movie, appearing alongside Robert Urich in the Curtis role.
12. He’s a prolific TV director
Weathers has a total of 13 TV directing credits to his name, finding his first director role with an episode of the 90s cop drama Renegade. In the early 2000s, he directed five episodes of Sheena, the cartoon-inspired action-adventure series set in the central African jungle. Silk Stalkings, 18 Wheels of Justice and Strong Medicine have all brought in the Rocky star as a director.
And in 2019, he directed an episode of Hawaii Five-0’s ninth series, entitled Gone on the Road from Which There Is No Returning. Most recently, Weathers called the shots on the fourth episode of The Mandalorian season two. On the art of directing, Weathers said to Syfy in 2020, “You learn a lot about yourself.”
11. He appeared in Arrested Development as a parody of himself
In 2004, Weathers joined the cast of acclaimed sitcom Arrested Development for a three-episode arc. Weathers played himself in the show, but a slightly warped version who was extremely stingy, and constantly looking for freebies. Working as Tobias Fünke’s acting coach, Weathers advises his boss to save restaurant scraps and take them home to make a stew.
He’s also keen to meet Fünke’s wife who works in a restaurant, as she may enjoy a staff discount. Weathers was not known as a comic actor, but his Arrested Development performance met with a warm critical reception. This comedy role marked a revival for the actor, who went on to secure more parts in popular TV shows as a result.
10. Weathers’ fans love introducing themselves with Schwarzenegger’s coarse greeting from Predator
Despite his slew of iconic movie lines, there’s one quote that hounds Carl Weathers in public places. Speaking to ComicBook.com in 2019, Weathers says that his fans most often greet him with an Arnold Schwarzenegger line from Predator. “Usually what they say is ‘Dillon, you son of a b****,’” he noted. “I think it’s flattering.” These words hark back to Schwarzenegger’s character Dutch first greeting his old friend from Vietnam, played by Weathers.
Weathers added, “I think it certainly says something about the popularity, and the success, of Predator, and the impact that Dillon made in that film in terms of one of the number of pieces, or characters, that I’m known for throughout my career… My God, I hear it so many times.”
9. The Predator handshake was a copy of Weathers’ and Schwarzenegger’s real-life embrace
In the same Predator scene where Dutch and Dillon reunite, they grasp each other’s hands upwards in something akin to arm wrestling. The moment has become a popular internet meme, spawning fan art and the informal title Epic Handshake. The handshake was not fabricated for the movie, though – it was reportedly the way that Weathers and Schwarzenegger used to greet each other in real life.
According to the Ultimate Action Movie Club, the stars favoured it as a way to show off their relative strength and physical performance. The actors have been known to recreate the iconic handshake for photographers when they happen to meet at events.
8. He voiced an array of action figures in the Toy Story franchise
Carl Weathers first joined the Toy Story franchise in 2013 with the Halloween TV special Toy Story of Terror! He lent his voice to two characters, named Combat Carl and Combat Carl Jr – both intrepid lost toys. Combat Carl only speaks of himself in the third person, and, in homage to Weathers’ character in Predator, he is missing one hand. Weathers went on to voice three Combat Carls in Toy Story 4.
Director John Lassenter first dreamt up the Combat Carl action range after he was banned from using G.I. Joe in the original Toy Story. G.I. Joe’s owner Hasbro reportedly refused their permission for the action figures to be used in the 1995 film when they learned the toy would be blown up by the sadistic child Sid.
7. Weathers used to be scared of Dolph Lundgren
While Rocky co-stars Weathers and Dolph Lundgren remain good friends, their working relationship got off to an uneasy start. Lundgren joined the Rocky cast for the fourth movie, in which he plays the Soviet champion Ivan Drago who fatally beats Apollo Creed in the ring. According to a 2020 interview with Yahoo Entertainment, Weathers was upset at how aggressive Lundgren was during filming.
Lundgren recalls, “I was a fighter, a karate champion from Europe and I think when Carl showed up, he was like, ‘I’m gonna have to fight this guy? He seems like he’s the real thing.’ I didn’t dislike anybody on that set but I think he got a little scared of me.” Things got so bad that Weathers walked off set, halting the filming process for four days.
6. Weathers said a BBC comedy was “the most outrageous thing I’ve ever done”
In a 2007 interview with Black Film, Weathers commented, “I just came back from the UK and I did another comedy for BBC that’s probably the most outrageous thing I have ever done.” This was a TV pilot entitled Phoo Action, a madcap mix of comedy and martial arts which cast Weathers as an American police chief based in London. Weathers praised the show’s unorthodox tone, remarking, “The Brits do that sort of humor, raunchy and all, so well.”
Phoo Action was based on late 90s comic strip Get the Freebies by writer/artist Jamie Hewlitt, best known as the creator of Tank Girl and the co-founder (with Blur’s Damon Albarn) of unorthodox ‘virtual’ band Gorillaz. Despite winning two awards, Phoo Action was not ultimately developed into a series.
5. He snapped a tooth in half while filming Hurricane Smith
1992’s Hurricane Smith stars Weathers as an oil rig worker battling drug smugglers in Australia. ‘Ozploitation’ movies were notorious for their lax attitude towards health and safety, and the film’s director Colin Budds confessed that Weathers at one point learned this the hard way. “In the final sequence, Hurricane Smith runs toward a helicopter fleeing with our heroine, and makes a grab for the skid,” the director explained.
“The steel skid was suspended from a crane, and Carl enthusiastically hurled himself upward, driving his front teeth into the unforgiving skid.” Weathers was left “with one front tooth neatly snapped in half,” and was rushed to an emergency dentist who had him fixed up and back on set within hours.
4. He doesn’t think anyone could play him in a movie of his life
In a flash round of questions with MTV in 2007, Weathers was asked who he’d cast as himself in a movie about his life. Weathers responded in a flash, “Who out there is good enough? Who is strong enough? Who is handsome enough?” he quipped. “Who is funny enough? He hasn’t been born yet.” However, when it comes to Apollo Creed, Weathers has been very complimentary of Michael B Jordan, who shouldered the character’s legacy.
Jordan stars as Apollo Creed’s son (and an aspiring boxer) in the 2015 movie Creed, the latest Rocky instalment. Upon the film’s release, Weathers tweeted to Jordan, “You did well for the Creed name! Congrats on [a] great job, my friend. May your success continue.”
3. Action Jackson is very popular in Germany
When it hit cinemas in 1988, Action Jackson looked like it might give Weathers his long-anticipated break as a leading man, after playing second fiddle to Stallone in the Rocky movies and Schwarzenegger in Predator. The box office numbers were good (making $65 million off a $7 million budget), but the reviews were mostly scathing, and unlike other Joel Silver productions like Lethal Weapon and Die Hard, Action Jackson never became a franchise.
However, in a 2009 interview with Bullz-Eye, Weathers noted that the film remains very popular among German audiences. “In Germany, it was huge,” he said. “Man, I got so much fan mail from Germany…and still do! Yeah, [German] people loved Action Jackson. Go figure!”
2. He’s described himself as a “bit of a control freak”
Early on in his acting career, Weathers resolved to take his role selection into his own hands. “It would’ve been easy to put it in cruise control and let everyone else take care of everything–a lot of people have done that,” said the former NFL star in a 1988 interview. “But I would have gone crazy that way,” he said. “I’m a little bit of a control freak. I’ve got to have my hands in the pie.”
However, he’s always been philosophical about the changing demands of audiences – and the fact he has to adapt to them. “That’s just what I have to do, please folks who buy tickets. For the time being, cars flipping in the air and assault rifles going off are what does it… You have to give the people what they want.”
1. His dream role would be in a British gangster movie
In a 2017 interview with Fandom, Weathers was asked which role he’d most like to take up in future. He answered that he would love to star in a “British gangster flick” and would accept “in a heartbeat.” Among his favourite movies of all time is the 2000 British crime drama Sexy Beast, which earned Ben Kingsley an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Sexy Beast sees Ray Winstone star as a former criminal living peacefully as an expat in Spain, until he’s pulled back into a London bank robbery. Weathers went on to name Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels as another one of his favourite movies. “Yes, please,” Weathers said in regard to such roles. “I love them. Americans never say: ‘Yes, please,’” he emphasised.