Hollywood legend Sylvester Stallone has paid tribute to Rocky co-star Carl Weathers after the latter’s death at the age of 76.
His family released a statement through his agent to announce that he died “peacefully in his sleep” on February 1.
“Carl was an exceptional human being who lived an extraordinary life,” the statement continued.
“Through his contributions to film, television, the arts and sports, he has left an indelible mark and is recognised worldwide and across generations. He was a beloved brother, father, grandfather, partner and friend.”
Weathers starred in movies such as Predator and Happy Gilmore, but he’s arguably best known for his role as the iconic Apollo Creed in Rocky.
Weathers first appeared in the iconic role in 1976’s Rocky, before reprising the role in 1979’s Rocky II (1979), and 1982’s Rocky III, before the character was killed in the ring by Ivan Drogo 1984’s Rocky IV.
Stallone, who wrote and starred as Rocky Balboa paid tribute to Weathers in an emotional Instagram post.
“Today is an incredibly sad day for me. I’m so torn up I can’t even tell you,” Stallone said.
“I’m just trying to hold it in because Carl Weathers was such an integral part of my life, my success, everything about it.
“I give him incredible credit and kudos because when he walked into that room and I saw him for the first time, I saw greatness but I didn’t realise how great.
“I never could have accomplished what we did with Rocky without him.
“He was absolutely brilliant. His voice, his size, his power, his athletic ability but more importantly in his heart and his soul. It’s a horrible loss.”
Stallone filmed the video in front of a painting of the pair in the ring at the end of Rocky III, with the famous freeze-frame ending as Rocky and Apollo settle their trilogy behind closed doors.
Stallone added: “It was probably the last moment we were ever in the ring together and I’ll never forget it.
“He was magic and I was so fortunate to be part of his life.
“So, Apollo, keep punching.”
The Rocky series has spawned a franchise of nine films, including five Rocky films, 2006’s Rocky Balboa and the Creed trilogy, which follows his son Adonis Creed, played by Michael B. Jordan.
A 10th movie, Creed 4, is reportedly in development.
Jordan posted a short tribute on his Instagram Stories, writing: “We lost a legend”.
But the original remains one of the greatest sports films in history.
Rocky ranked 78th in the American Film Institute’s 100 Years … 100 Movies list, while Vulture ranked it the third greatest sports film of all-time, while Rolling Stone ranked it second in its list.
It was just the tip of the iceberg on the tributes for Weathers, comedian Adam Sandler, who Weathers starred alongside in Happy Gilmore and Little Nicky, posted a touching tribute of his own.
“A true great man. Great dad. Great actor. Great athlete. So much fun to be around always. Smart as hell. Loyal as hell. Funny as hell. Loved his sons more than anything. What a guy! Everyone loved him. My wife and I had the best times with him every time we saw him. Love to his entire family and Carl will always be known as a true legend,” Sandler wrote.
Weathers was recently seen on the small screen in Star Wars spin-off series The Mandalorian — a guest role for which he won an Emmy.