Carl Weathers, best known as Apollo Creed in the Rocky franchise, and recently as Greef Karga on Star Wars’ The Mandalorian has died. He was only 76 years old.

His death was announced by his family in a statement. It read ((via Deadline):

We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Carl Weathers. He died peacefully in his sleep on Thursday, February 1st, 2024. … 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. He was a beloved brother, father, grandfather, partner, and friend.

Weathers was often noted for his muscular physique and intense athletic presence on screen — and, in fact, before he was an actor he was a professional athlete. Born in 1948, he played with the Oakland Raiders for two seasons in the early 1970s, and then played for the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League for several years. While playing football in college and professionally, Weathers also studied drama and theater arts. When he retired from football, he transitioned into acting.

After a few years working small roles on TV and film he got his big break in 1976’s Rocky, where he was cast as Apollo Creed, the heavyweight boxing champion who offers a long shot title match to Philadelphia club fighter Rocky Balboa. The character was loosely based on Muhammad Ali, and Weathers captured some of the real Ali’s swagger and machismo, while also lending the character his own unique emotional dimensions.

Weathers reprised his role as Apollo in Rocky IIIII, and IV, and he continued to show more sides to his character — and more range as an actor — as Apollo evolved from Rocky’s nemesis to his friend and trainer. He has a particularly memorable speech in Rocky III. Watching it now, the scene takes on even more melancholic dimensions.

Weathers parlayed his success as Apollo Creed into a string of big ’80s action movies. He was the second lead in 1987’s Predator, where he played opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dillon, the CIA agent who recruits Schwarzenegger’s unit for a special mission. Schwarzenegger and Weather’s handshake in the opening scene of the film has been immortalized as a meme.

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Weathers also headlined his own ’80s action movie, 1988’s Action Jackson.

As Weathers got older, he transitioned into different sorts of roles. In 1996, he had a very memorable turn as the title character’s coach in Adam Sandler’s Happy Gilmore.

He was also unforgettable in a recurring role spoofing himself on Arrested Development as a hard-up acting coach (but extremely inventive stew maker).

In recent years, Weathers had reinvented himself yet again, as a major force both in front of and behind the camera on The Mandalorian. He played Greef Karga, the bounty hunter who hired Mando to deliver Grogu in the very first episode of the show. Weathers quickly became a fan favorite, and returned through all three seasons of the show to date. Weathers also became one of The Mandalorian’s regular directors as well; he directed one episode in Season 2 and Season 3.

This is a shocking and very sad loss. Weathers was still a lively and surprising onscreen presence — and with his work as an actor and director on The Mandalorian he seemed on the cusp of a whole new phase of his career which has tragically now been cut short.

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