Actor Tony Sirico, best known for his role as Paul ‘Paulie Walnuts‘ Gualtieri on The Sopranos, has died at the age of 79, his brother, Rev. Robert Sirico, announced on Facebook Friday (July 8) evening.
“It is with great sadness, but with incredible pride, love and a whole lot of fond memories, that the family of Gennaro Anthony ‘Tony’ Sirico wishes to inform you of his death on the morning of July 8, 2022,” the post stated. “Tony is survived by his two beloved children, Joanne Sirico Bello and Richard Sirico, grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews and many other relatives.”
Sopranos co-stars Michael Imperioli, Steve Schrippa and Jamie-Lynn Sigler, as well as Michael Gandolfini, the son of late Sopranos star James Gandolfini, who recently portrayed his father’s signature role as a younger Tony Soprano in the film The Many Saints of Newark, all shared posts tributing Sirico after news of his passing Friday night.
“Tony was like no one else: he was as tough, as loyal and as big hearted as anyone i’ve ever known,” Imperioli wrote on his verified Instagram. “I was at his side through so much: through good times and bad. But mostly good. And we had a lot of laughs.”
Sirico, a Brooklyn native, was credited in numerous films throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, including Goodfellas, Mighty Aphrodite and Mickey Blue Eyes before landing his signature role as the wise-cracking but brutal Paulie Walnuts at the age of 55.
During an interview with the Daily Star in 55, Sirico said he was sleeping on his mother’s couch when he initially auditioned for another role on the Sopranos and was approached by creator David Chase to instead take on his iconic character.
“He said, ‘You want the good news or the bad news?'” Sirico said. “I said, ‘Give me the bad news.’ He said, ‘You didn’t get Uncle Junior. But I have something in mind. Would you be willing to do a recurring role on the show? I have a character called Paulie Walnuts.'”
Sirico also appeared on several other television shows after the completion of the Sopranos including Lilyhammer, The Grinder and Family Guy.