Why Paulie Looks So Different In Rocky II | Screen Rant

Paulie Pennino looks dramatically different in Rocky II than he does in other films in the franchise, and there's an interesting reason for the change. First introduced in 1976's Rocky, Paulie Pennino is one of the Rocky franchise's most memorable characters. Played by Burt Young across the Rocky films and dying offscreen ahead of Creed, Paulie's character is remarkably consistent across his six appearances in the franchise: he's irascible, outspoken, and lovably unpleasant.

However, there is one big change that Paulie undergoes within the franchise. Unlike almost every other Rocky character, this change isn't the result of satisfying or natural character development but is purely physical. In Rocky, Paulie is shown to carry a little extra weight, but it disappears in the time between the ending of Rocky and the start of Rocky II. Paulie is bigger again for Rocky III, making the character's physical change in the second film all the more noticeable.

Related: Why Joe Frazier Was Unhappy With The Rocky Movies

However, there's a straightforward real-life reason for this change. Put simply, Burt Young didn't initially believe he would return to the role for a sequel and therefore felt no need to maintain a consistent figure. This led to Paulie looking much slimmer in Rocky II - something which Stallone even briefly alluded to in the script to acknowledge the change.

In fact, it reportedly wasn't a simple matter of Burt Young being unaware of the sequel, but that he instead initially wasn't interested in reprising the role of Paulie and began losing weight to prepare for a role in another film. Despite the character being relatively ineffectual to the franchise's plot, Paulie is one of Rocky's best supporting characters, making his return for the sequel far more important than it may seem. Decades later, Paulie Pennino remains one of Burt Young's most iconic roles, making his decision to reprise the role a popular one.

Interestingly, the change in Paulie's appearance is actually reflected in his characterization in the film. In Rocky, Paulie's life is less than ideal, but in Rocky II, the much slimmer Paulie appears to have his life on track, even going as far as to help Rocky out when he finds himself in financial hardship. As the character gains weight again for subsequent sequels, Paulie falls on hard times once more, adding a visual layer to the narrative ups and downs of the character.

As Paulie in the Rocky franchise is one of the most memorable roles in Burt Young's long and impressive career, his choice to return was certainly the right one. Though the change in his appearance between Rocky and Rocky II is impossible to miss when watching the films in close succession, subsequent sequels having Paulie return to his original, larger frame and make the detail somewhat forgettable. All the same, the narrative reasons which align with Paulie's weight gain after Rocky II also lend the character's story a slightly more tragic air - and add an extra layer of nuance to Young's celebrated performances in the franchise.

Next: Who Is The Rocky Franchise's Best Boxing Trainer? Why It's Not Balboa

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