Tony Sirico: actor and star of The Sopranos passes away at 79

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Tony Sirico, best known for his role as Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri on The Sopranos, has died at the age of 79



<p>Tony Sirico as Paulie Walnuts in a Season 6 episode of The Sopranos (Credit: HBO)</p><div data-ad-id=
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Tony Sirico as Paulie Walnuts in a Season 6 episode of The Sopranos (Credit: HBO)

Tony Sirico, the actor best known for playing Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri on The Sopranos, has died at the age of 79.

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Sirico’s family confirmed his death with a statement on Facebook. “It is with great sadness but with incredible pride, love and many fond memories that the family of Gennaro Anthony ‘Tony’ Sirico Jr. would like to inform you of his passing on the morning of July 8, 2022.” Read a post by Sirico’s brother Robert Sirico .

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“The family is deeply grateful for the many expressions of love, prayers and condolences and asks the public to respect their privacy at this time of grief,” the statement continued.

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Sirico was born on July 29, 1942 in New York City. He grew up in Brooklyn, a place where he lived once described in the Los Angeles Times as somewhere “every guy was trying to prove himself. You either had to have a tattoo or a bullet hole.”

Before his acting career, Sirico was arrested 28 times and spent several years in prison — it was a visit to an acting troupe made up of ex-convicts that prompted Sirico to perform himself.

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His first role was as an extra in the 1974 crime drama Crazy Joe, which eventually led to larger roles in films such as Goodfellas, Bullets Over Broadway and Dead Presidents. However, Sirico was best known for playing Paulie Walnuts on The Sopranos, the HBO mafia drama that ran from 1999 to 2007.

Sirico, who first auditioned for the role of Uncle Junior that eventually went to Dominic Chianese, appeared in 74 episodes of The Sopranos.

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His former co-stars were among those paying tribute to Sirico. Michael Imperioli, who shared many scenes with Sirico as Christopher Moltisanti, said, that “Tony was like no other: he was as tough, as loyal and as generous as anyone I have ever known. I’ve been by his side through so much: through good times and bad. But mostly good.”

“And we laughed a lot. We found a groove as Christopher and Paulie and I’m proud to say that I’ve done a lot of my best and funniest work with my dear buddy Tony. I will miss him forever. He really is irreplaceable. Sending love to his family, friends and his many, many fans. He was loved and will never be forgotten.”

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Michael Gandolfini (son of series director James Gandolfini) expressed similar sentiments. “He was a phenomenal actor and an even better person,” wrote Gandolfini of Sirico. “Tony was unique. He touched many with his gift and my heart goes out to his family, friends and all his fans. We love you Tony, thank you for all the joy you have brought to so many. We will miss you.”

Rolling Stone television critic Alan Sepinwall, who has written a book about The Sopranos, wrote that “Few actors in the history of filmed entertainment have enjoyed being associated with their most celebrated role more than Sirico.”

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“There’s a version of the character created by Chase that’s a complete caricature in the hands of another actor,” suggested Sepinwall. “But the joy of Sirico’s performance – what made Paulie so charismatic and loved despite being a pathetic, murderous, self-pitying jerk – was how it managed to have things both ways. Sirico wasn’t subtle, but somehow he was nuanced.”

Sirico is survived by his daughter Joanne, brother Robert and a number of grandchildren. He had been living with dementia for the past several years and was living in an assisted living facility at the time of his death.

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