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Burt Young

Paulie, Rocky's brother-in-law

While younger audiences became acquainted with Burt Young through his work on “Rocky,” the actor had already established himself as a streetwise character actor in such fare as Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown” and Mark Rydell’s “Cinderella Liberty.”

Please, Mr. Young: “I read the script and was knocked over by its simplicity, wonderful street prose and earthiness. It was a 98-page piece of American literature. … The producers read everyone for their parts but me … they really wanted me to do the part. I was with William Morris and they didn’t want me speaking with (producers) Winkler and Chartoff. Sylvester shows up at the commissary, kneels by my table and says, ‘Mr. Young, I’m Sylvester Stallone, I wrote “Rocky.”‘ I complimented him on how fantastic the script was. He beamed and said, ‘You gotta do the part.’ I responded, ‘Shhhh, I’m going to do it, but let me squeeze their arm a bit.”

Sly as director: “He’s a workaholic. He’s never in the trailer, doesn’t understand downtime or why it takes so long to set up lighting. He has an insight of what the public could use and what they should have…he’s also shy about his talent. If I tell him he writes like Arthur Miller, he’ll look at me and blush.”

Character dynamic: “In terms of the way Paulie holds himself, he’s ridden with arthritis. He has to turn his whole body when he talks to you. He always complains about how his bones hurt because he works in the meat freezers. The rest of the stuff — anger, hurt, fear — is just a matter of me milking it … Paulie was never conceived as comic folly. I was shocked sometimes when people would laugh at him because I was playing him for real.”

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