Carl Weathers, the actor who co-starred in the first four Rocky movies, passed away at the age of 76 at his home in Los Angeles on February 1. Weathers leaves behind an impressive legacy in Hollywood that stretches back to 1973 after he retired from a professional football career that included a stint with the Oakland Raiders.
To celebrate Weathers’ life and his 51-year run in film and television, we’re taking a chronological look back at the ten most memorable roles that he ever had.
Weathers had quite an arc in the first four Rocky movies. He was the ultimate adversary of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) in the first two movies before forming a genuine bond of friendship with him in Rocky III. Apollo was partially motivated by a desire to get back at the arrogant Thunderlips (Mr. T) who defeated Rocky for the championship. Regardless, Apollo’s offer to serve as Rocky’s trainer made the difference in the final fight.
Rocky III famously ended with a private rematch between Rocky and Apollo for their own satisfaction. By the time of Rocky IV, they were close friends. That’s why Rocky took it so hard when Apollo was fatally beaten in the ring by Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) before avenging his friend in an unsanctioned match in the Soviet Union. Decades later in Creed, Rocky still felt loyalty to Apollo when he agreed to train his son, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), for his own boxing ambitions.
In a different movie, Al Dillon (Weathers) could have been the villain of Predator. Dillon is the film’s CIA operative and an old war buddy of Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who lured Dutch and his team to South America to finish a mission that even the Green Berets couldn’t handle. In other words, it was a suicide mission.
Yet when the alien Predator (Kevin Peter Hall) starts picking off Dutch’s men one by one, Dillon doesn’t turn and run. He fights by their side and has a warrior’s death. Weathers’ appearance in this movie solidified his status as an action star, which led to his own solo film, Action Jackson.
Has there ever been a more perfect action hero name than Jericho “Action” Jackson? Action Jackson was Weathers’ first real shot at becoming an action star on par with Stallone or Schwarzenegger. It didn’t quite work out that way. Having said that, Action Jackson did pull in $65 million, which was a great box office result for 1988.
Weathers’ title character was a detective who was demoted after his efforts to bring down corrupt businessman Peter Anthony Dellaplane (Craig T. Nelson) blew up in his face. Dellaplane was so cartoonishly evil that both his wife, Patrice Dellaplane (Sharon Stone), and his mistress, Sydney Ash (Vanity), turned to Jackson for help exposing him. Critics hated this film, but fans ate it up, and it’s an underrated gem.
Although Action Jackson didn’t give Weathers the big-screen stardom that he deserved, he had more luck on TV. Weathers headlined the syndicated action series Street Justice for two seasons starting in 1991, where he portrayed Vietnam war veteran Adam Beaudreaux.
During the war, Adam’s life was saved by Grady Jameson (Bryan Genesse), the son of Canadian missionaries who were killed during the conflict. Two decades later, Adam and Grady reunited in America, where they helped people in need like a two-man A-Team. Grady also learned martial arts during a stint in a Vietnamese prison, which was his contribution to the action on this show.
Weathers’ Billy “Hurricane” Smith also has an absolutely fantastic name for an action hero. Unfortunately, Hurricane Smith is nowhere near as good as Action Jackson. This B-movie plays like a reverse Crocodile Dundee minus the laughs, as Hurricane heads to Australia to rescue his sister from Charlie O Dowd (Jurgen Prochnow) and his criminal organization.
While down under, Hurricane also wins the heart of Julie (Cassandra Delany), a woman in O Dowd’s employ. There’s not a lot of action in this flick, but Weathers is always fun to watch.
Weathers had a more serious turn in the seventh and final season of the police drama, In the Heat of the Night. Carroll O’Connor headlined the series for its entire run as Bill Gillespie, the police chief of Sparta, Mississippi. In season 7, Gillespie was forced out of his job, and Weathers’ Hampton Forbes became the new chief of police.
Instead of fostering conflict between the two, Gillespie and Forbes quickly became close friends and allies. Thus when Gillespie became the new acting Sheriff of Newton County, he and Forbes had a great working relationship.
In one of his funniest turns on the big screen, Weathers had a co-starring role in Happy Gilmore as the mentor for Adam Sandler’s title character. Weathers portrayed Derick “Chubbs” Peterson, a former professional golfer who lost his career and one of his hands to a freak alligator attack.
Under Chubbs’ guidance, Happy greatly improves his golf game and challenges his rival, Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald), to a grudge match. Unfortunately, Happy’s attempt to thank Chubbs had some dire consequences for his friend. But Weathers did briefly reprise his role in Sandler’s Little Nicky a few years later.
It shouldn’t be too surprising that one of Carl Weathers’ best roles was when he played himself. Weathers guest starred in Arrested Development‘s first season when he met Tobias Fünke (David Cross) and agreed to become his acting coach. However, Weathers’ real talent was finding hilarious ways to save money in any situation. That was a running gag for Weathers when he returned in subsequent seasons for a few additional appearances.
Years after spoofing himself on Arrested Development, Weathers accepted a voice role as Combat Carl in Toy Story of Terror!, a TV special produced by Pixar in 2014. Jessie (Joan Cusack) was the primary character, as her friends Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and more met mysterious fates while their owner was on vacation in a spooky hotel.
This special plays like a parody of Predator, and that’s why it was so amusing to see Weathers voicing a character that was clearly based on Dillon from that movie. Combat Carl spoke almost exclusively in third person, which only made it even funnier. Weathers reprised his role in Toy Story 4.
In what turned out to be his final live-action role, Weathers was reintroduced to modern fans in The Mandalorian as Greef Karga, the head of the Bounty Hunters’ Guild who used to be the boss of Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal). After falling out with Din over the fate of Grogu, Greef has a change of heart and becomes a friend and an ally to both while doting on Grogu.
Lucasfilm also gave Weathers the chance to direct episodes in the second and third seasons. Unfortunately, since The Mandalorian movie hasn’t begun production yet, it’s unlikely that Weathers had any further performances of the character.
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