30 Things You Never Knew About Carl Weathers
Carl Weathers rose to Hollywood stardom as Apollo Creed in the Rocky series, but he first won fame as an NFL star. Alongside his football career, Weathers studied drama at San Francisco State University. This promising young athlete had long dreamt of acting, and he found his first role as an extra in the Clint Eastwood thriller Magnum Force. As Weathers himself put it, “My one eye was on football, and my other eye was on Hollywood.”
It wasn’t long before Weathers retired from sports to feature in an impressive array of blockbusters, from Predator to Action Jackson. And as the ultimate sleeper hit, the Academy Award-winning Rocky set Weathers up for an incredible movie career.
There have been plenty of adventures on this Mandalorian star’s route from the football field to the big (and small) screen, however. Here are 30 things you probably didn’t know about Carl Weathers.
30. In his Rocky audition, Weathers asked to work with a “real actor” instead of Sylvester Stallone
During his audition for arguably his most famous role, Apollo Creed from the Rocky franchise, Carl Weathers thought Sylvester Stallone was only a writer, not the star of the movie.
“[Stallone and I] read through the scene and at the end of it, I didn’t feel like it had really sailed,” Weathers recalled in 2015.
“[The filmmakers] were quiet and there was this moment of awkwardness, I felt anyway, so I just blurted out ‘I could do a lot better if you got me a real actor to work with,’” he remembered.
Stallone, who wrote the film and took the titular role, was not pleased. “So I just insulted the star of the movie without really knowing it and not intending to.”
Still, 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’
In an interview included on the Predator DVD, Weathers noted that during filming, he would rise at 3 am to begin physical training in private.
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.
Predator was filmed in the Mexican jungle, and by all accounts it was a perilous production experience.
While gym equipment was set aside for the cast members, the filming conditions were also particularly strenuous, due to the hilly terrain.
Almost all scenes were filmed on slopes, meaning the actors stood for hours on sharply uneven ground.
The actors also huddled by permanent heat lamps due to the surprisingly chilly weather conditions in the forest.
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. Weathers came up with the idea for Action Jackson on the set of Predator
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?'” Weathers remembered from their conversation.
“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,” Weathers explained.
“And Joel found a writer [who] wrote the screenplay, and that was it. We got it made,” he concluded.
26. Weathers’ Happy Gilmore character is missing a hand in reference to his Predator role
In the (very R-rated) Predator, Weathers plays CIA officer Dillon, whose arm is blasted off in an alien attack.
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, a fantasy comedy about the sons of Satan.
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, began to build his acting career with the 70s blaxploitation movies Friday Foster and Bucktown.
He made his film debut as an uncredited demonstrator in Magnum Force, the 1973 Clint Eastwood thriller.
This movie also happened to launch the careers of the actors David Soul, Tim Matheson and Robert Urich.
24. He’s on the US Olympic Committee
As a teenager, Carl Weathers established himself as a talented athlete, ultimately winning a scholarship to St Augustine High School.
This prestigious all-boys school in New Orleans is 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 main fight in Rocky – and arguably Weathers’ best-known scene – 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.
“While Carl himself has no connection to this campaign, it is our intention to show Mr. Weathers how much New Orleans needs him,” the joke campaign website read.
“He may not be on the ballot, but this coming election, do the right thing and write in Carl Weathers,” it advised.
Funnily enough, in the same 2010 mayoral race, Brad Pitt was also graced with a fan campaign that he himself had not approved.
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,” he said. “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 Lafayette 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.
Instead, Weathers joined the cast of In the Heat of the Night in 1993, playing Police Chief Hampton Forbes.
However, Weathers would eventually end up becoming a TV sci-fi star in 2019, by starring as the bounty hunter Greef Karga in The Mandalorian.
Along with his co-stars, Weathers has praised The Mandalorian for pioneering alternatives to green screen technology – a choice that helped the actors to better imagine their environments.
As well as starring in both seasons of the Disney+ show, Weathers also directed the episode The Siege.
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.
“The institution will continue to set the tone for handsomeness moving forward,” Causgrove concluded on the group’s future.
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,” he noted.
“[He has] 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
- Credit: Fox News
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, where Dryer remained for a 13-year career.
- Credit: fdryer.com
Like Weathers, Dryer also became an actor after he retired from football. He’s best known for starring in the 1984 crime drama series Hunter.
At San Diego, Weathers was coached by the famous Don Coryell, star of the College Football Hall of Fame.
Coryell featured in three TV documentaries, and he was the first ever coach to surpass 100 victories at both collegiate and professional level.
In the parody sports film The Comebacks, Weathers himself stars as football coach Freddie Wiseman, who trains the Lone Star State Unbeatables.
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,” he noted.
“The [stunt] bag wasn’t pushed all the way against the wall, so when 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,” Weathers recalled.
He fractured two vertebrae and suffered “debilitating” pain for the following four years, he said.
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.
Good Times was the first ever sitcom with a two-parent Black family to reach television, and it 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.
“One time in Beverly Hills, I was sitting outside a restaurant and Ali was coming down the street and had a group of people around him”, Weathers recalled to the Hollywood Reporter in 2015.
“They look over where I’m sitting and Ali goes ‘Apollo Creed!'” Weathers said. “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.”
“You have been and continue to be an inspiration,” Weathers tweeted in a 94th birthday message to Poitier in 2021.
Poitier is a Bahamian-American actor and director, famed for becoming the first Black man to win the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1964.
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.”
“I don’t have to be the sharpest tool in that box, but I can take credit for it when I’m directing somebody else,” he joked. “They come up with the answer, I’ll take credit for it and it’s OK.”
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, so it just depends on age, demographic, part of the country,” he said. “I don’t escape it. Let’s put it that way.”
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 became a popular internet meme in 2018, 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.
- Credit: The Ringer
The handshake was also chosen as the official handshake of the Ultimate Action Movie Club, signalling membership.
Initial reviews of Predator in 1987 were mostly negative, but opinions rose steadily and it’s now heralded as a classic action movie.
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 – is missing one hand.
Once again, Weathers voiced three Combat Carls in the franchise’s most recent film, 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 movie.
Hasbro, creators of G.I. Joe, reportedly refused their permission when they heard their 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.
At one point, Weathers reportedly walked off set, halting the filming process for four days.
“I like Carl,” Lundgren commented to Yahoo. “But I’d worked out with Sly for five months before the picture. So I knew him pretty well. And 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,” Lundgren noted. “Then I had to kill him, of course.”
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 TV pilot production, named Phoo Action, sees Weathers star as Benjamin “Ben” Benson, the New York-born Chief of Police in London.
This kung-fu comedy-drama was mostly filmed in Glasgow. Despite winning two awards, it was not developed into a series.
It was based on Get the Freebies, which was the cartoon creation of artist Jamie Hewlitt. Hewlitt also created Tank Girl and co-created The Gorillaz.
“The Brits do that sort of humor, raunchy and all, so well,” Weathers commented on the pilot’s style.
“The writer of this piece was a fan of mine and they came after me and I read it and I thought it was absolutely wonderful and unbelievably funny and I gave it a go,” he elaborated.
5. He snapped a tooth in half while filming Hurricane Smith
Hurricane Smith – a 1992 ‘ozploitation’ movie – is the tale of a US oil worker (played by Weathers) battling drug smugglers in Australia.
The cast and crew loved working with the action star, who used to rustle up gourmet meals for them.
The director Colin Budds reflected in 2018, “there was only one very, very minor sour moment when it came to Carl Weathers.”
“In the final sequence, Hurricane Smith runs toward a helicopter fleeing with our heroine, and makes a grab for the skid,” Budd described.
“The steel skid was suspended from a crane, and Carl enthusiastically hurled himself upward, driving his front teeth into the unforgiving skid,” he explained. “Landing with one front tooth neatly snapped in half, he was immediately organising flights back to a specialist in Los Angeles.”
Budd stepped in and sent Weathers to his own dentist in Southport, who fixed the actor’s grin and had him back on set within two 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 installment.
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 be Weathers’ independent break as an action star.
Weathers plays a demoted police officer who begins investigating the criminal exploits of a major business heir.
The film performed decently at the box office, but many critics provided scathing feedback, with a fair few saying it had drained away Weathers’ charisma.
“Action Jackson is a movie where some of the parts are good, but none of them fit and a lot of them stink,” critic Roger Ebert commented on the movie.
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, 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,” he summarized.
“For the time being, cars flipping in the air and assault rifles going off are what does it,” he said in this 34-year-old interview. “… And it doesn’t even matter what I think about it, in a sense. 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.