Carl Weathers at Ease With All the ‘Action’ in His Career
This guy, a red-white-and-blue-clad super-boxer? This guy, a superhuman gun-less crime-stopper in the Motor City? This guy, a man-eating professional linebacker?
This well-spoken man who makes allusions to anthropology, Lucretius and Hemingway?
Well, yes. Carl Weathers is or has been all of those things over the last 20 years, and physically, it’s not hard to see why: He’s about 6-foot-2 and dashing, with an oversized presence that makes casting directors for action films take notice.
Then there are those Hollywood credentials. First, there was Apollo Creed, “Rocky’s” nemesis-turned-friend, throughout the wildly successful four-part series; and now Jericho (Action) Jackson, a wisecracking, ham-fisted cop ridding Detroit of its more twisted criminals. (“Action Jackson” is doing respectable box-office business, too: a tad over $10 million in its first 10 days of release.)
But at his Stormy Weathers Productions office on the Lorimar-Telepictures lot, Carl Weathers seems anything but a palooka. Often speaking with the fervent tones of a well-read motivational counselor, Weathers--the producer and actor--takes the non-screen element of his career very seriously.
“I struggled a pretty long time at the beginning of it, trying to figure out what role I might have in the entertainment industry,” Weathers says, settling into his producer’s chair. “I had come from the entertainment business, in a sense--football is primarily entertainment--but I had to figure out how long I wanted to stay around.
“It would’ve been easy to put it in cruise control and let everyone else take care of everything--a lot of people have done that. But I would have gone crazy that way. I’m a little bit of a control freak. I’ve got to have my hands in the pie.”
Weathers is refreshingly frank about his acting abilities and puts on few airs about the people-pleasing business he’s in.
“That’s just what I have to do, please folks who buy tickets,” Weathers says, spreading his big hands.
“For the time being, cars flipping in the air and assault rifles going off are what does it. Right now, ‘The Sun Also Rises’ or adaptations of Moliere don’t do it. And it doesn’t even matter what I think about it, in a sense. You have to give the people what they want.”
If a sense of hopelessness in the face of The System is coming across, though, Weathers is quick to try to dispel it. Instead, he said, that fatalism comes from his long training as a member of a professional sports team, with the accent on team .
“I’ve thought for a long time now that everyone would benefit by playing some kind of team sport throughout their lives--men, women, E.T.s, everybody ,” Weathers says. “It’s not just a case of my espousing something that did me right. Playing on a team--any team--reinforces the notion of social and professional contract that we all live by.
“The bottom line is: You must do something for someone. You in turn can reap the benefits of someone doing something for you. The thing is, you see, is that we’ve gotten very far away from that as a society. Now it’s all me, me, me.
“And when you perceive yourself as a contributing member of a team, you can’t worry any more about the cosmic significance of what you’re doing. You have to contribute , man. And learning what that contribution is takes the rest of your life.”
Weathers’ production debut, a short-lived and critically panned TV series called “Fortune Dane,” was a learning process that Weathers describes as “pretty brutal.” His professional acting apprenticeship goes back to 1974, when he put down the cleats and helmet for small parts in TV series. He has a bachelor’s degree in drama from San Diego State.
“I was learning so many lessons so fast that I had to back off a while and let them sink through this hard head of mine,” Weathers says. “It is always difficult accepting failure, and when it’s ego failure and financial failure both, well . . . it took a while.”
But the most important lesson Weathers says he learned was escaping the “maze of typecasting that goes with this territory.
“That doesn’t mean that I won’t do action heroes--look at Mr. Jackson,” he says with a slow smile. “What it does mean is that now I have a production company that becomes involved in the project when I do. It means having a bit of power to say no, to initiate the things I’d like to get done. And it means juggling about 12,000 concerns at once.”
Depending on how “Action Jackson” pans out at the box office--and producer Joel Silver’s touch (“Predator,” “Lethal Weapon”) is fairly Midas-like--Stormy Weathers Productions may have a future with Lorimar. The company’s film division chairman, personal manager Bernie Brillstein, has said, “Right or wrong, I think Carl Weathers is going to be a star for us.”
And with his production company acting as a funnel for Weathers-tailored projects, the former football player may not have to settle for “Action Jackson” rehashes.
“It may turn out completely different; I may do three-hour-long filmed readings of Lucretius,” Weathers says, laughing. “If that’s what people are finding entertaining in 1995, that’s what Carl Weathers will be busting his butt trying to do, and do as well as I possibly can.”