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October 19, 2023

Burt Young, who played Paulie in the 'Rocky' series, dies at 83

The New York-born actor's performance as the boxer's best friend earned him an Academy Award nomination. He appeared in more than 160 movies and TV shows, including 'Convoy' and 'The Sopranos'

Obituaries Actors
Rocky Burt Young Anthony Behar/SIPA USA

Academy Award-nominated actor Burt Young, right, best known for his role as Paulie Pennino in the 'Rocky' movies, died at age 83. Above, Young and Sylvester Stallone attend at the opening of the Broadway musical 'Rocky' in 2014.

Burt Young, the actor who co-starred with Sylvester Stallone in much of the "Rocky" film series, died at 83 in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

The cause of death with complications from colon cancer, according to the New York Times

A native of Queens, Young appeared in more than 160 films and television shows, but he was best known for his role as Paulie Pennino in "Rocky." His performance earned Young an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor – 1 of 10 the movie received. 

Young also had roles in the movies "Harry and Walter Go to New York," "Convoy" and "Once Upon a Time in America." He made TV appearances on "The Sopranos" and "Russian Doll."

Young started to make a name for himself in Hollywood in the 1970s, performing in films like "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight," "Across 110th Street," "Chinatown" and "The Gambler." He also appeared on the hit TV show "M*A*S*H." 

In 1976, Stallone recruited Young to play Paulie in the first "Rocky" film, written by Stallone. Following the film's critical success, Young returned to costar in "Rocky II," in which Paulie became Rocky's brother-in-law. He played the loud-mouthed and abrasive Paulie in the next five "Rocky" sequels, too. But he declined to return for "Creed" or "Creed II."

Stallone paid tribute to Young on Instagram, writing "you were an incredible man and artist, I and the World will miss you very much...RIP."

Famously set in Philadelphia, the film series has in many ways become culturally intertwined with the identity of the city. Each year, an estimated 4 million people visit the 72-step, front entrance to the Philadelphia Museum of Art – commonly known to tourists as "the Rocky steps" in honor of the film's famous training montage. 

After filming "Rocky III" in 1982, Stallone gifted the iconic Rocky statue to Philadelphia. It now stands triumphantly in a courtyard outside the museum. The placement initially was controversial – some art museum staffers balked at the presence of the "movie prop" –  but the Rocky statue has become a tourist magnet.

Earlier this month, a Rocky-themed store known as the "Rocky Shop" opened near the front entrance of the Art Museum. First conceived by Stallone, the shop will carry licensed merchandise related to the film.