Burt Young, the legendary character actor who co-starred with Sylvester Stallone in the Rocky series, is dead at 83.
Some unfortunate news to report, folks. Burt Young, the legendary character actor who co-starred with JoBlo’s beloved Sylvester Stallone in Rocky, is dead at 83. Deadline was the first to report the news. Young famously played Rocky’s brother-in-law Paulie, Adrian’s (Talia Shire) brother, a wannabe tough guy who stays in Rocky’s corner despite everything. Young was nominated for an Oscar for the original film, and indeed, Paulie was a complex character. In the first film, he’s Adrian’s abusive older brother. By the third film, his mounting insecurity is confronted by the Italian Stallion, leading to him becoming a corner man for his climactic fight with Mr T’s Clubber Lang in Rocky III. He goes on to back him up for his bout with Ivan Drago in IV before giving power of attorney to a crooked lawyer in V, temporarily bankrupting the family, only for all to eventually be forgiven by the time Rocky Balboa came around.
While that movie marked Young’s last entry in the Rocky franchise, he would often show up at events with Sly and was considered a legendary character actor. Young starred in a whole bunch of classics, memorably backing up James Caan in Sam Peckinpah’s The Killer Elite, Kris Kristofferson in Convoy, plus roles in Betsy’s Wedding, The Choirboys, Back to School (opposite Rodney Dangerfield), Once Upon a Time in America and The Pope of Greenwich Village. He also played one of the most loathsome characters in horror movie history in Amityville II: The Possession.
While known for playing bullies and wise guys, in real life, Young was a wonderful guy. Several years ago, me and one of our narrators at JoBlo Originals, Travis Hopson, met Young at a party for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and we got to hang out with him for quite a while. Young was shocked that such young guys (we’re not) loved his work, and he gave us both big hugs as we left the party, telling us sincerely how happy he was that we appreciated his work. Indeed, he was a class act, and to say he will be missed is a major understatement. He was a gent.
JoBlo’s Own Chris Bumbray and Travis Hopson with Burt Young circa 2019.