Burt Young, the acclaimed actor renowned for his role as Paulie Pennino in the iconic Rocky film series, has died at the age of 83.
His daughter Anne Morea Steingieser confirmed he passed away on 8 October, and no cause was given.
While Young’s career included notable performances in films including Chinatown, Once Upon A Time In America and TV series such as The Sopranos, he will always be cherished for his portrayal of the gruff and endearing Paulie, Sylvester Stallone’s brother-in-law in the Rocky movies.
In the original 1976 film, Paulie’s character – an embittered meat packer in Philadelphia – captivated audiences with his raw authenticity. Young’s ability to embody middle-aged characters regardless of his age added depth to his roles.
The Rocky franchise achieved phenomenal success, propelling Stallone to stardom and securing Young’s place in cinematic history.
Stallone shared a photo from their first film together and wrote: “You were an incredible man and artist, I and the World will miss you very much.”
Rocky was nominated for 10 Oscars, with Young earning a nod for best supporting actor.
The movie triumphed in three categories, including the prestigious best picture award. However, Young and his co-star Burgess Meredith lost to Jason Robards from All The President’s Men.
Throughout the series, Paulie’s character undergoes a transformation. Initially a perpetual worrier, Paulie’s scepticism about Rocky’s success provided comic relief.
Despite his constant fear of Rocky getting defeated, Paulie’s surprise at Rocky’s resilience brought laughter to audiences, making him a beloved character in the films.
“It was a great ride, and it brought me to the audience in a great way,” Young said in an interview with Celebrity Parents magazine in 2020. “I made him a rough guy with a sensitivity. He’s really a marshmallow even though he yells a lot.”
Born and raised in Queens, New York, Burt Young had a diverse life before his acting career. He served in the Marine Corps, was a professional boxer, and worked as a carpet layer. He later pursued acting, studying under renowned teacher Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio.
In his later years, he focused on theatre and his passion for painting. His wife of 13 years, Gloria, died in 1974. He is survived by his daughter, a grandchild, and a brother.