Burt Young, the veteran character actor who earned an Academy Award nomination for his role as Paulie Pennino, the loyal friend and brother-in-law of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa, has died at the age of 83. His daughter, Anne Morea Steingieser, confirmed his death to the New York Times on Wednesday but did not disclose the cause.
Young was born in Queens, New York, and served in the Marine Corps before becoming a professional boxer and then an actor. He studied at the prestigious Actors Studio and appeared in hundreds of films and television shows, often playing tough-guy or working-class characters. He was best known for his portrayal of Paulie, the gruff but lovable meat packer who supported Rocky through his ups and downs in the ring and in life. He appeared in all six of the original Rocky films, as well as the 2018 spin-off Creed II.
Young’s performance as Paulie earned him critical acclaim and an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in 1977. He lost to Jason Robards in All the President’s Men but won the hearts of millions of fans who loved his humor and humanity. Stallone paid tribute to his co-star and friend on Instagram, writing: “You were an incredible man and artist, I and the world will miss you very much.”
Young also had memorable roles in other films such as Chinatown, The Pope of Greenwich Village, Once Upon a Time in America, and The Sopranos. He was also a talented painter whose works were exhibited in galleries around the world. He is survived by his daughter, two grandchildren, and a great-grandchild.