"It's a little scary," Burt Young says.
Young, 76, is eternally beloved for his role as Paulie Pennino in six of the seven Rocky movies, opposite Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, and Burgess Meredith. Young received an Oscar nomination for his performance in the first film, and went on to star in classics like The Pope of Greenwich Village and Once Upon a Time in America.
But Young's first love was theater. He was even trained by Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. Off-Broadway, Young appeared at the Public Theater in the drama Cuba and His Teddy Bear, a show that also gave him his Broadway debut in 1986, opposite Robert De Niro and Ralph Macchio.
After a career on-screen, Young is returning to the stage to star as an elderly bookie in David Varriale's new comedy The Last Vig at Zephyr Theatre in Los Angeles. Is he intimidated? "I'm not frightened, but I'm scared. That's all."
Here, he gives us a look at the play, his performance, and a retrospective on his career.
On what attracted him to play and how he got the part:
"The play is called The Last Vig. It's about a tough guy. He's a bookmaker. The author reached out to my manager to talk to me about it. There are five characters that are wonderful. I loved the writing. It's very, very beautifully written, very economical."
[[showconsole: ]]On starting out as a fighter and ending up an actor:
"I went seventeen and oh as a pro [fighter]. But then I met this beautiful girl who wanted nothing to do with me. She went to study with Lee Strasberg. So I did too and did every play…every storefront thing. I never thought I was gonna get a paycheck. But I enjoyed being public with my feelings."
On landing Rocky:
"Sylvester comes to me. He introduces himself. " You gotta do this part." I said, "I'm gonna do it," and he lit up like a pumpkin. We've been very close ever since. He's a friendly guy, Sylvester. Very intelligent, very quick."
On not letting age get him down:
"All I have to do is look in the mirror. My name is Young, Burt Young. I'm eternally young."