Tony Sirico death: The Sopranos actor who played Paulie Walnuts dies aged 79

‘He was beloved and will never be forgotten,’ said co-star Michael Imperioli

Leonie Cooper
Saturday 09 July 2022 08:58 BST
The Sopranos - series trailer

The Sopranos actor Tony Sirico, who played Paulie Walnuts on the hit mobster series, has died.

News of 79 year-old Sirico’s death on Friday was shared by his co-star, Michael Imperioli, who said “I will miss him forever.” Since the news broke, many of his co-stars have been paying tribute to Sirico on social media.

Sirico died at an assisted living facility in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, his manager Bob McGowen said. There was no immediate information on the cause of death.

A statement from Sirico’s family confirmed the death of Gennaro Anthony “Tony” Sirico “with great sadness, but with incredible pride, love and a whole lot of fond memories.”

Tony Sirico was best known for his role in The Sopranos (AP2006)

“It pains me to say that my dear friend, colleague and partner in crime, the great Tony Sirico has passed away today,” wrote Imperioli on Instagram.

“Tony was like no one else: he was as tough, as loyal and as big hearted as anyone I’ve ever known. I was at his side through so much: through good times and bad. But mostly good. And we had a lot of laughs.

“We found a groove as Christopher and Paulie and I am proud to say I did a lot of my best and most fun work with my dear pal Tony.

“I will miss him forever. He is truly irreplaceable. I send love to his family, friends and his many many fans. He was beloved and will never be forgotten. Heartbroken today.”

Sirico pictured with the late James Gandolfini (Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

McGowan, who represented Sirico for more than two decades, added that the actor was “loyal and giving,” with a strong philanthropic streak. That included helping ex-soldiers’ causes, which hit home for the Army veteran, his manager said.

Sirico, born in New York City on 29 July , 1942, grew up in the Flatbush and Bensonhurst neighbourhoods where he said “every guy was trying to prove himself. You either had to have a tattoo or a bullet hole.”

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“I had both,” he told the Los Angeles Times in a 1990 interview, calling himself ”unstable” during that period of his life.

His first film role was in 1972 crime drama Crazy Joe and he became known for his depictions of gangsters in various films, including Goodfellas, Mighty Aphrodite, and Mickey Blue Eyes.

Sirico also was cast outside the gangster mold, playing police officers in the films “Dead Presidents” and “Deconstructing Harry.” Among his other credits were Woody Allen films including “Bullets over Broadway” and “Mighty Aphrodite,” and appearances on TV series including “Miami Vice” and voice roles on “Family Guy” and “American Dad!”

But he found fame playing the character of Peter Paul “Paulie Walnuts” Gualtieri in the much-loved HBO crime drama The Sopranos, which debuted in 1999.

Sirico with Michael Imperioli in The Sopranos (HBO)

Before he became an actor, Sirico was reportedly convicted of a host of crimes. He was arrested 28 times for offences including disorderly conduct, assault, and robbery.

In 1971, he was sentenced to four years in prison for extortion, coercion and felony weapons possession. He served 20 months at the notorious Sing Sing prison.

Sirico is survived by daughter Joanne Sirico Bello, son Richard Sirico and his brother, Robert Sirico, a priest.

A Christian burial, celebrated by his brother is due to take place on Wednesday July 13 in Brooklyn, New York.

​Memorial donations may be made in his honour to Wounded Warriors, St Jude’s Hospital and the Acton Institute, to which Sirico was a big contributor.

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