LOS ANGELES: Veteran character actor Burt Young, best known and Oscar nominated for his role as the brother-in-law and meat-cutting friend to Sylvester Stallone’s prize-fighting protagonist in the “Rocky” films has died at age 83, his manager said on Wednesday.
Young’s death on Oct 8 in Los Angeles, first reported by the New York Times on Wednesday citing the actor’s daughter, Anne Morea Steingieser, was confirmed to Reuters by his Los Angeles-based manager Lynda Bensky.
Born Gerald Tommaso DeLouise in New York City’s Queens borough, the burly performer served in the US Marine Corps in the 1950s and later studied at Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio. He went on to build a career playing mostly tough-guy and Italian-American characters on television and film.
He was best remembered for his role in the original 1976 “Rocky” film, playing Paulie Pennino, the alcoholic butcher and pal to Stallone’s lead character, Rocky Balboa, who made punching slabs of meat in the storage locker where Paulie worked part of his regular training routine as an aspiring boxer.
The role of Paulie, who was also the brother of Rocky’s painfully shy love interest and soon-to-be wife, Adrian (she marries Balboa in “Rocky II”), earned Young an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor.
The original “Rocky,” a motion picture sensation, amassed a total of 10 Oscar nominations and won three awards, including the prize for best picture, for its portrait of a small-time Philadelphia club boxer who gets an unlikely crack at the world heavyweight title.
Young reprised the Paulie role in all six of the original “Rocky” sequels.
Other film credits include “Chinatown,” “The Pope of Greenwich Village” and “Once Upon a Time in America.” He also made numerous guest appearances on television on such series as “M*A*S*H,” “The Rockford Files,” “Baretta” and “Law & Order.”
In later years, Young made a name as painter, whose works were displayed in galleries around the world.