“He’s a brilliant guy who I’ve been inspired by time and time again.”
Actor Carl Weathers, looking strong and handsome as ever, appeared at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival last night to present the prestigious Montecito Award to Sylvester Stallone. Weathers spoke without a script, but straight from the heart.
Stallone appeared at the film fest for a special sit-down Q&A session and a career retrospective before Weathers took the podium to introduce him.
Weathers told the now-famous story about meeting with the producers of the original Rocky at a massive casting call. The Rocky team were fatigued after a long day of seeing actor after actor when Weathers finally showed up to read for the part of Apollo Creed. “I give it my best, best shot,” he said of his audition. “I was a professional athlete, I knew how to kick ass. I kicked ass this time.”
After a quiet reception from the producing team, Weathers said: “If you get me a better actor, I can do a much better job!” Which brought laughter from the room in 1975, and disapproving “oohs” from the crowd at the film festival.
“Remember, they didn’t say the writer was gonna star in the movie. He wasn’t Sylvester Stallone – the movie star – he was the writer! I believe to this day the only reason this man allowed me to play this role was because he wanted to beat the hell out of me himself!”
Weathers then called for a round of applause for Stallone’s work on the screenplay of the first Rocky, and then went on to liken the Rocky phenomenon to that of the epic classic Spartacus.
“If you think about it, it was this gladiator that really was supposed to be a guy who could never stand up against everything that he went up against. And at the end of the movie when they were looking for Spartacus, everyone held up their hand and said ‘I am Spartacus!’, ‘I am Spartacus!’.
Well, how many people have said ‘I Am Rocky.’ Right?
“We need to see more of your [directing] work.”
“That is a brilliant work of a writer,” Weathers continued. “A creator who created an Academy Award winning film at a very young age. I had the great priviledge of working with him many times, and I also had the great privilege of being directed by him many times. And to this day I still say, as good an actor as he is, he is as good if not a better director.”
The actor then turned to Stallone, seated off to the side. “I can’t imagine why you haven’t directed more. You need to. We need to see more of your work.” At this, the crowd burst into applause.
Stallone was then met with a standing ovation as he rose to accept the award from Weathers, who shook his old friend’s hand, and then respectfully stepped back out of the spotlight as Sly showed off the award to the cheering crowd.
A spectator shouted out “We want a rematch!” to which Weathers replied: “Ain’t gonna be no rematch!”
“I never realized Carl Weathers was so loquacious or I’d have cast him as Hamlet,” Sly began as he took the podium.
“I’ve been very, very blessed to be around people who have made me actually maybe better than I should be.”
Stallone went on to mention by name the rest of the cast from the original Rocky, as well as the film’s director John Avildsen and composer, Bill Conti, to recognize that they were all part of the enormous success of the film.
“If we as actors and writers and musicians, can somehow tap into that universal quest for just peace of mind – for some sense of respect within our lifetime – then we have what is known as a dream. And everyone needs a dream. You need it. It’s what keeps us going. It’s what made life bearable. It’s whats created civilization. I want to say thank you for making my dream come true. I hope to keep hoping to interpret your dreams, too, in the future in films.”
A touched Stallone then returned to Weathers and the two men shook hands and then posed for fists-up press photos as “Eye of the Tiger” played on the loud speaker.