Burt Young obituary: Rocky star was 83

Chris Tilly
Burt Young packing meat in Rocky.

Burt Young – the Oscar-nominated actor who played ‘Paulie’ in multiple Rocky movies – has died at the age of 83.

Burt Young’s daughter Anne Morea Steingieser has confirmed to The New York Times that the actor – best-known for playing gangsters and tough guys – has died.

Born in New York in 1940, Burt Young was raised in Queens, before attending the Actor’s Studio where he was trained by industry legend Lee Strasberg.

A brief stint in the army followed – where he enjoyed a successful boxing career – before Young returned to his first love: acting. And ultimately found fame in a boxing movie.

Burt Young obituary: Rocky star was 83

Burt Young played Paulie in the Rocky movies, older brother of Adrian, with whom boxer Rocky Balboa falls in love.

Paulie is a complicated character – angry, resentful, jealous, and capable of flying into violent rages. But also caring, loving, and loyal. At times he’s Balboa’s greatest cheerleader. And on other occasions he gets him into trouble, even causing his brother-in-law to go bankrupt in Rocky V.

The role earned Young an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in 1976, and he ultimately starred in six Rocky movies before his character was killed off.

Playing gangsters and tough guys

Young’s brilliance in the role led to parts as gangsters and tough guys in acclaimed films like Chinatown, Once Upon a Time in America, The Pope of Greenwich Village, and Last Exit to Brooklyn.

He also sent that persona up in comedies like Back to School, where he played Rodney Dangerfield’s driver and fixer. And Mickey Blue Eyes, where he starred as a mob boss opposite James Cann and Hugh Grant.

Other notable movie roles include Convoy, Transamerica, New York, I Love You, and Win Win.

Young also appeared on TV in the likes of The Rockford Files, Miami Vice, and on the show where he was perhaps most at home, The Sopranos.

But in spite of a long and varied career, he’ll always be remembered as Paulie, shouting at Rocky as he punches meat, and cheering Balboa on from his corner.

His co-star in those movies – Sylvester Stallone – paid tribute to the actor on Instagram, writing: “To my dear friend, Burt Young, you were an incredible man and artist, I and the world will miss you very much.”

Burt Young’s wife Gloria died in 1974, but he’s survived by his daughter Anne Morea.

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