He may not be romping around on the big screen right now with THE EXPENDABLES, but that's of little concern to the Carl Weathers. The veteran actor who once beat the crap out of Craig T. Nelson (onscreen) has got a better assignment. He's been deployed to the Pixar universe as Combat Carl in the just-released-to-DVD gem, TOY STORY OF TERROR.
It's a role that fits Weathers like a detachable prosthetic hand - which is just one of several gags writer-director Angus MacLane has sprinkled throughout the half-hour Halloween special as a tribute to the beloved actor. In many ways, Combat Carl is an amalgam of Dillon from PREDATOR and Chubbs from HAPPY GILMORE: he's a muscular, good-to-go soldier who loves to dispense advice; however, where Combat Carl differs from these characters is that Combat Carl likes to deliver his wisdom in the third person.
For close to forty years, Weathers has been an iconic presence on the big screen, thanks in large part to his boisterous portrayal of Apollo Creed in the original ROCKY. How that character evolved over four films was something I was keen to discuss with Weathers when we chatted a week ago in anticipation of TOY STORY OF TERROR's Blu-ray/DVD release. Aside from Apollo and Combat Carl, we also talked HAPPY GILMORE, the phenomenon of athletes and actors speaking in the third person and the potential for an ACTION JACKSON revival.
Jeremy: What were your first thoughts on Combat Carl?
Carl Weathers: My first thought was "PIxar? I'm in!" Then when I got a chance to see this character flesh out in the recording studio… it's the kind of thing that I found myself really enjoying being a part of. Anything where you can do something that effects some sort of emotion is great. And this particular piece, TOY STORY OF TERROR, is warm and charming and appeals to a whole new generation - which is something I've always been interested in with every movie. How can you not want to be a part of this?
Jeremy: I was listening to the commentary, and the director, Angus MacLane, said that he based Combat Carl's penchant for speaking in the third person on [Major League Baseball great] Ricky Henderson.
Weathers: (Laughs) Interesting. First of all, Angus is a really wonderful writer, director and producer. I had such a great time working with him and all of the people over at Pixar. But, yes, I think the idea that Combat Carl speaks in the third person is… first of all, there's something so funny about that. Anytime you hear someone speak about themselves in a way that is passionately referring to themselves by their surname, it's just wacky. It just sounds wacky. To say to someone, "I love you!" is one thing. To say, "Carl loves you!"… (Laughs) that's just bizarre. So to have that happen constantly with Combat Carl was, to me, just the funniest thing. I found myself constantly cracking up and trying to keep straight while we were doing it.
Jeremy: You did your time in professional sports, and you've been in the entertainment industry for a long time. There are a lot of big egos in both. Have you ever been around someone who referred to themselves in the third person?
Weathers: Of course! How can you miss it? I think it's a combination of ego and self-promotion - which may be the same thing. How can you forget someone's name if they're constantly promoting and pronouncing it? So, yes, both the movie business and, of course, in sports, you hear that. There's a bit of bravado and a lot of bluster and self-promotion in it. It's also funny, so you find yourself laughing at them a lot. At least, I do.
Jeremy: One of the nice touches with the design of Combat Carl, one that certainly speaks to your iconography, is that he's missing his right hand.
Weathers: Yes, yes, yes. It's quite interesting that that was a part of the character, and, again, something that made me laugh when I saw him. The guy's constantly looking for his hand to screw on, and, when he finds it, what a happy day that is! (Laughs) But, yes, I think in terms of making a toy, what a great idea, right? The character's missing an arm or a hand, and the kid has to push the hand back in there. It's brilliance on the part of Pixar to come up with that idea.
Jeremy: Did they ever specifically say, "You know, this is a reference to HAPPY GILMORE"?
Weathers: We never talked about it directly, but, you know, but between HAPPY GILMORE and PREDATOR, it just made perfect sense that there's some limb missing. But he's still going! He's still active and doing his thing, but the hand's missing! But, yes, I get a lot of fans who refer to either the hand if they're fans of HAPPY GILMORE, or the arm if they're fans of PREDATOR.
Jeremy: Hopefully, you don't get too many kids citing PREDATOR.
Weathers: Well, when you say "kids", there are a lot of people in their twenties and thirties who are fans of HAPPY GILMORE and the comedic roles, so the hand is a big part of that. It's so obvious that I'm holding something, and that's what's so funny about it. It's so over-the-top, it's so goofy, that you can have fun with it. That's also part of the genius of Adam Sandler.
Jeremy: Have you found that certain characters you've played emerge and become more popular over time? Do you ever feel that a particular film is more of the moment than another?
Weathers: I'm not sure how to answer that because my experience has been that the films that are really spectacular, for lack of a better word, in concept or performance, those films just become a part of [the culture]. Television has kept some of these movies alive, and I think the ones that are broader just seem to wind up in the playlist. They just keep going and going and going, and clearly there's an appetite for them.
Jeremy: For a lot of us, we came to know you through Apollo Creed. I was always waiting for you to take on a starring role, and ACTION JACKSON was just such a fun movie. Were there ever plans to move forward with a series of films?
Weathers: I certainly wanted to. Timing is very interesting in the movie business. That original movie was made at Lorimar, and Lorimar sold to Sony. The lot sold to Sony, but the library and the material all went to Warner Bros. And at the time, Warner Bros had other actors with franchises going, and I couldn't get Warner Bros to go forward with another ACTION JACKSON. So it died a natural death. But I was very interested in trying to do more.
Jeremy: It's the kind of thing that could be revisited now. Who's to say you can't go back and give it another shot?
Weathers: Absolutely! I agree with you completely. If you can do DIE HARD for over a couple of decades, why not ACTION JACKSON.
Jeremy: And there's a bunch of old men doing an action movie that's coming out soon.
Weathers: Yes. I've heard of them. Many of them I've actually had encounters with.
Jeremy: It would be lovely to get you in one of those.
Weathers: I can't tell you how many times I hear this. If I'm here, if I'm on a plane to somewhere, if I'm on Twitter… it's just constant. But I have nothing to do with that. Quite honestly, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it until someone mentions it.
Jeremy: We'll keep lobbying on your behalf.
Weathers: I appreciate it.
Jeremy: This is a bit of a fan question, but I've got you here so I'm going to ask it. It's always bugged me how in ROCKY III, Apollo is on Rocky about training and getting back the "eye of the tiger" to beat Clubber Lang, then we see Apollo turn around and make the same mistake Rocky made when he fights Ivan Drago - and he pays for it with his life! It just seems like a strange inconsistency with the character.
Weathers: That's an interesting observation actually. On a creative level, it obviously works. It kept the franchise going. So I think it was brilliant on a creative level. As an athlete… some get it, but most athletes don't see the end coming. Most athletes think they can go on forever, and are willing to put themselves in harm's way to go on forever. In too many cases, though, as in the case of Apollo Creed, as good as you may look and as well as you may move when you're training, when you get there and you face the opposition, and the opposition is younger and recovers quicker, and may be stronger because they've had less time in the ring or the field - they're less beaten up and their bodies are more resilient - you can find yourself in trouble very quickly. There's a certain degree of reality in that. I guess the greater question is, "Did anyone want to see Apollo Creed die in the ring?" To end not only Apollo Creed in the ring and his life, to show his mortality, but also to end a run for that character was, for a lot of people, disturbing. But it made a lot of sense in terms of just a way to extend that franchise. Of course, Mickey, one of the beloved characters, died in ROCKY III, and that gave Rocky a chance to get retribution. And then when Apollo Creed dies, that gives Rocky another chance to get retribution. There were devices utilized in the creative aspect of those movies, and those characters were sacrificed, if you will.
Jeremy: Have any young boxers ever approached you and said they were inspired by Apollo Creed.
Weathers: Many. Many athletes have - whether they were boxers or any other athletes, or just young people who found some inspiration in that character for changes in their life, or changes in their training habits. That's happened so many times, I could probably have a thousand hands and not be able to count the people who've been inspired by those movies and by the character of Apollo Creed.
Jeremy: Thinking about the future for Combat Carl, this is a character that could certainly hold his own in a spinoff show. Have there been any discussions about that?
Weathers: I think he's crafted in such a way that Combat Carl could do missions with others or alone. I found the character so lovable in his impassioned way of doing what he does that it would be a fantastic journey to see what Combat Carl could get himself into - and Combat Carl, Jr. of course!
Jeremy: Sure! That's a package deal!
Weathers: Absolutely! You can't have one without the other. I haven't heard anything, but I'm sure if Pixar has it in the works and makes the call, Combat Carl and Combat Carl Jr. would be glad to get on board.
Make the call, Pixar!
TOY STORY OF TERROR is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD. And if you'd like to hear one of the more in-depth breakdowns of ROCKY III ever committed to audio, I joined the Badass Podcast boys this week for a spirited discourse on this legendary film.