Burt Young, who played Paulie in Rocky, has passed away at the age of 83
Burt Young, the actor known for his role in Rocky, passed away in Los Angeles on October 8th at the age of 83. The news of his death was confirmed by his daughter, Anne Morea Steingieser, although the exact cause was not disclosed.
The missed Oscar
For his role in Rocky, Burt Young narrowly missed the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. In the famous saga, he portrayed Paulie Pennino, Rocky Balboa’s brother-in-law. Interestingly, Burt Young was a former professional boxer in real life. His actual name was Gerald “Jerry” Tommaso DeLouise, and he was born to Italian-American parents Giuseppina and Michele in Queens. He studied acting at the Actors Studio under the guidance of Lee Strasberg. Widowed since 1974, he was a loving father to a daughter who followed in his footsteps. Additionally, he owned a restaurant in the Bronx and was a well-known character actor. Over the years, he worked in both film and television, collaborating with some of the industry’s greatest directors. Nevertheless, his most notable role remained that of Paulie in Rocky, which earned him an Oscar nomination. Sylvester Stallone, his colleague and friend, fondly remembered him on Instagram with an affectionate post.
Burt Young’s career
Throughout his career, Burt Young appeared in over 160 films and TV series. He played gritty laborers covered in grease and mud, mafia bosses, and cunning detectives. Lee Strasberg described him as “a library of emotions” because, despite his physical stature and his past as a Marine and professional boxer, even when he portrayed a villain, he always brought a certain level of complexity to his work.
Over the years, he was directed by Sam Peckinpah in films like “Killer Elite” and “Convoy”. His daughter shared that both directors were nonconformists with a deep respect for the art and authenticity.
In Roman Polanski‘s neo-noir masterpiece, “Chinatown”, he portrayed a Los Angeles fisherman entangled in a story of incest and murder.
Burt Young also worked with renowned directors such as Sergio Leone in “Once Upon a Time in America,” Wim Wenders in “La terra dell’abbondanza”, Pupi Avati in “Il nascondiglio,” and Abel Ferrara in “Go Go Tales”.
The Rocky experience
His true breakthrough came with Rocky, the story of an underdog boxer (Sylvester Stallone) who has an unlikely encounter with the heavyweight cha.mpion, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers).
The film catapulted Sylvester Stallone to global fame, but at the time of filming, Burt Young was the most famous person on set. In a 2017 interview with The Rumpus, he said, “I was the only actor who didn’t audition for the first Rocky, and I was the highest paid”. He also recalled his initial meeting with Sly: “He knelt beside me and asked me to act in his Rocky”
The film later became an iconic piece of cinema, with ten Oscar nominations (including Young’s for Best Supporting Actor) and three wins, starting with the Oscar for Best Picture.