Check out this great interview about Burt Young’s acting career from Adam Lawton for MediaMikes.com…From Burt’s early days of getting into acting to the Rocky Film series to The Sopranos? Burt Young has appeared in over 100 film and television roles since the 1970’s. He is most often known as the gruff brother in-law Paulie Pennino in “Rocky” series. Movie Mikes had the pleasure of speaking with Burt recently to talk about his career in the film business and a few of his upcoming projects. Check this out!
Adam Lawton: How did you get into acting?
Burt Young: I was chasing a girl! I was about 28 at the time and this very attractive girl wanted to go to Lee Strasberg’s acting school but she couldn’t get in. At the time I had no idea who Lee was and actually thought he was a girl. I knew I could get into anywhere I wanted with perseverance so I wrote Lee a letter. I guess it sparked his interest as he invited me over and from there I became very involved.
AL: How did your role in the Rocky films come about?
BY: My name was already out there as I was fairly established in the business prior to the first Rocky film. I had worked with the producers of the Rocky film previously and they asked me if I would be interested in the part.
AL: What were your initial thoughts of the original script?
BY: I knew it was a home run and so did the producers. The studio seemed a little leery but the producers really never had any doubt that the film was going to be a hit.
AL: What did you think when it was announced that there was going to be a sequel?
BY: That was very surprising. I didn’t really know sequels at that period of time nor did I wish to do the second film. I told Sylvester that I wasn’t up for it as I was going to be working on a film that I had written. I did tell him that if there was a problem to give me a call. Sylvester ended up calling which led to me being in the second film as well as the others.
AL: What were your feelings towards the latest film “Rocky Balboa”?
BY: I thought it was wonderful. Being set 17 years after the last film which I didn’t think was too good Sylvester took all the flavor of the first film and gave it chronological history resulting in what you saw. I enjoyed myself doing that picture.
AL: What was it like working with Ernest Borgnine and Kris Kristofferson in “Convoy”?
BY: That was fun! Ernest Borgnine was already a friend of mine prior to the film. He’s a very sweet man. I met Kris for the first time when we started shooting. I got to know him more throughout the filming and I thought of him as a shy genius. I enjoyed getting to know him. I really like working with director Sam Peckinpah who I had worked with previously. It ended up being a wild time.
AL: Is there anything that sticks out for you from behind the scenes?
BY: There was a little bit of tension on set as Steve McQueen kept jumping around as he and Ali McGraw were not getting along at the time so that was fun. There were 96 trucks in that film so we were bound to have some fun.
AL: How was your experience working on “The Sopranos”?
BY: In my opinion that series was like American Shakespeare. So I was very pleased to be a part of it. The episode I was in actually gave them their first Emmy. Everyone was very swell and gentle to work with. It was really great. The first day I was there James Gandolfini came up to me and said “To work with a master is very much a favor.” I had known some of the cast and crew from previous work but the whole experience was wonderful.
AL: If you had to pick one of your roles as a favorite which one would it be?
BY: That’s a hard question as I have been in over 125 movies. For different reasons there are different movies that I like. Location is always a factor as well as the individuals involved. The creativity of the script is important along with the depth of the character and how far I am allowed to take that character. I really liked some of the work that I have written. I of course love the first “Rocky” film. I also enjoyed some of the episodes from way back of “Baretta” that won Emmys and helped get that show renewed.
AL: Can you tell us about some of your upcoming projects?
BY: I just finished a movie called “Win Win” with Paul Giamatti that will be out soon. I think that movie is going to be really good. Paul was a pleasure to work with. I have a two character play I wrote called “Artists Found in Port Washington Flat” that should go to Broadway with a little finger crossing.
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