In “Rocky III,” Carl Weathers’ Apollo Creed delivers one of the great lines in movie history, telling Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky, “You fight great, but I’m a great fighter.” It was a fitting bit of dialog for Weathers, a man who fought his way up from the “bowels” of New Orleans into a Hollywood career that spanned five decades, particularly given that he got his role in the first “Rocky” film by insulting Stallone’s acting.
Though Weathers, who passed away on Feb. 1, was always attracted to drama and acting, growing up in New Orleans didn’t afford him many opportunities to pursue those passions. Drama wasn’t seen as a manly pursuit for a young man, and he suffered many insults as a result. In the eighth grade, though, his desire for a girlfriend led him to another pursuit, one that would ultimately take him to California, where he would realize his dream of making it in Hollywood — football.
He wasn’t destined to be a star on the field, saying of himself that he wasn’t “dedicated enough to become a great player.” Nevertheless, he did make it to the NFL in 1971 after a successful college career, playing for the Oakland Raiders for one season. After the first game of his second season, Head Coach John Madden cut Weathers, telling him, “You’re just too sensitive.” From there he went to the Canadian Football League, where he would play for the BC Lions for 13 games before retiring from the sport in 1974.
At that point, it was off to the races for his true passion. Getting his start first with small roles before landing leading ones in blaxploitation films, it was the role of Apollo Creed that launched his career. After playing Creed in the breakout hit that was “Rocky,” Weathers would go on to act in films such as “Predator,” “Action Jackson,” “Happy Gilmore,” “Creed,” “Toy Story 4,” and “The Mandalorian.” His career was prolific, even if he never made it into elected office, unlike two of his co-stars.
It wasn’t that Weathers was serious about running for office. He was serious about entertaining, though, and in 2003, he appeared on “Saturday Night Live” to joke about the idea. The skit started with a voiceover: “Jesse Ventura. Arnold Swartzenegger. Mavericks. Americans. Governors. And stars of the movie ‘Predator.’”
After that intro, he delivered his monologue.
Hi, I’m Carl Weathers. I’m the black guy from “Predator.” This American classic has already provided two state governors and frankly, I’d like to be the third. I’m not fussy; I mean any state is fine. And while I’ve never voted personally, I was in the movie “Predator,” where I played the black guy. My compatriot and good friend Arnold Schwarzenegger said “Hasta La Vista” to politics as usual when he terminated Gray Davis. Well, I’d like to think that I’ve got the Apollo credentials to be your governor. Why? Because I am a man of action Jackson. And I was in “Predator.” Alright, I know what you’re thinking. Wasn’t Danny Glover the black guy from “Predator”? And shouldn’t he, therefore, be your governor? No. That was “Predator 2.” Doesn’t America deserve better than the star of “Predator 2”? The America I know and love won’t settle for less. But more importantly, do you remember that I was in “Predator”? Well, I was in “Predator.”
The skit ends with another voiceover: “Carl Weathers for Governor. He was the black guy in ‘Predator.’” It was hilarious and a reminder of a time when “SNL” was not only still occasionally funny, but that people didn’t use to take things so seriously when they were trying to make people laugh, though it’s probably for the best that Weathers didn’t go on to the governor’s mansion of any state.
Could he have been a great governor? Maybe. Schwarzenegger and Ventura’s records were mixed, though, and serving as governor would have distracted from his true passion. Had his “SNL” skit been taken seriously, he never would have appeared as a fictionalized version of himself on “Arrested Development.” The world is better off with that portrayal instead of whatever he would have come up with for a State of the State address, even if he’d mentioned there still being meat on the bone in discussing fiscal responsibility. Alas, the world will never know.
What we do know, however, is that Weathers did deliver on-screen in role after role throughout his career. Though athletics may have served as his springboard, it was his dedication to acting that lifted him to the heights of great entertainer, one who moved from drama to action to comedy with ease. In other words, despite his rough upbringing, he was never destined to be a great fighter, but he made it his destiny to become a great actor.