The original Rocky won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1977 and spawned six sequels, so it seems natural to consider it one of the best sports movie of all time. Yet, Apollo Creed actor Carl Weathers considers the film more of a love story.
During a wide-ranging interview on The Rich Eisen Show, Weathers declared, “It’s a love story. Not only is it a love story in the traditional sense in the romance with the woman, it’s a love story between those two men.”
The two men are Weathers’ cocky world champion Apollo Creed and Sylvester Stallone’s scrappy underdog Rocky Balboa. They face off in an epic match, and while Creed is pronounced the winner, the foes come to have a great respect for each other.
“You try to do your best to defeat the competition, but you also have this tremendous love because you know what that man or woman has had to go through to become the best that they are,” continued Weathers. “So you admire them, you compete against them, you love them… because you aspire to be as great as they are.”
Weathers returned as Creed for three sequels before the character was tragically killed in the ring by Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. (The acclaimed 2015 film Creed focused on the boxer’s son.) But Weathers almost didn’t land the iconic role. “They didn’t want anything to do with me because I was nobody,” he said. Eventually, he begged his way into an audition, along with 100-plus other actors. He was soon auditioning across from Stallone, whom Weathers didn’t realize was to be the star of the film.
“He sits down, and they introduce that this is the writer of the screenplay,” he recalled. “At the end of the reading, it’s like quiet, it’s like crickets. The producers and directors are kind of leaning toward each other. I see our director John Avildsen giggle a little bit, and I’m really nervous now because I think I blew the interview, right? So I chirp out, ‘You know, if you get me a real actor, I can do a lot better.'”
Laughing, Weathers added, “I tell people I think I got the job because Sly wanted to beat the hell out of me.”
Listen to the clip above, in which he also discusses his role in another sports film, Happy Gilmore.