According to an announcement made by his family, Tony Sirico, best known for his role as Peter Paul “Paulie Walnuts” Gualtieri on The Sopranos, passed away. This month, the actor would have turned 80 years old.
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 family said in a statement. “It is with great pride, love, and a whole lot of fond memories that the family of Gennaro Anthony ‘Tony’ Sirico wishes to inform you of his death,” the family said.
There is no indication as to what caused Sirico’s death; nevertheless, in recent years he had been struggling with dementia, and his health had been deteriorating. His passing occurred in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in an assisted living home.
Sirico portrayed the fan-favorite villain Paulie Walnuts on The Sopranos during the entirety of the show’s run on HBO, which spanned six seasons. Because of his health, he was unable to reprise the character he had played in the original film in the prequel film directed by David Chase and released in 2021 titled The Many Saints of Newark.
It was for his role as the violent, devoted, menacing, and rather simple Paulie Walnuts that he received a total of seven nominations and two SAG Awards for Drama Ensemble. Paulie Walnuts was a capo whose steely glower and quick temper made him a tough guy to fear, but also to root for. He shared two of the SAG Awards for Drama Ensemble.
The character was noted for his unwavering devotion to his employer Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini, who passed away in 2013), as well as his willingness to take on any and all dirty labor. He gained notoriety for his signature slicked-back hairstyle with two-toned wings. Paulie had a soft side that belied his tough exterior and could be described as a mama’s boy.
Because of his past as a street kid who had been jailed 28 times and spent 20 months at New York’s notorious Sing Sing prison, Sirico gave realism to the role with his background.
In an interview with Deadline that was held in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of The Sopranos, executive producer Terence Winter stated that he recalled Sirico by the name Junior Sirico, which was the name he went by back in the day. “He was this intimidating mob figure… he was the real deal.” “He was the real deal.”
During his initial round of casting, Sirico was considered for the part of Junior. After three different rounds of testing, the creator of The Sopranos, David Chase, gave him a call and told him that he had another character, Paulie Walnuts, in mind for him to play.
“You tell me, who is he? David responds, ‘You’ll like him.’ And boy, let me tell you, I loved him,” Sirico stated in the same interview with Deadline. “And boy, let me tell you, I loved him.” “I am still Paulie. I can’t go home anymore. I am Paulie, till I pass,”
The Sopranos immediately became a phenomenon after it debuted on HBO in January 1999. The program swiftly became a show that people talked about at water coolers and won four Emmys. The mob drama, which took place in New Jersey, was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series for each of its seven installments, with the exception of its seventh and final season, which was split into two parts. However, the series did not win the award until 2008, when it had completed its run. During its run, The Sopranos was nominated for 21 Emmys, however, Sirico was never considered for a nomination in the category of Supporting Actor.
In addition, Sirico appeared in a number of films as a gangster, notably the role of Tony Stacks in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. In addition, he was heavily featured in the motion pictures Mob Queen, Love and Money, Fingers, The One Man Jury, The Last Fight, and Defiance.
Before being cast in The Sopranos, he appeared in various films directed by Woody Allen, such as Bullets Over Broadway, Celebrity, and Mighty Aphrodite. These roles helped him hone the skills necessary to play a wiseguy in New York and New Jersey.
Sirico was born in the city of New York on July 29th, 1942. His first known role in a film was as an extra in the 1974 picture Crazy Joe. This position was his first role in the film industry. In the movies Dead Presidents and Deconstructing Harry, he also portrayed the role of a law enforcement officer.
His roles on television programs such as Kojak, Police Squad!, and Miami Vice helped propel his acting career forward in the latter half of the 1970s and the early 1980s. His list of film credits also includes The Pick-Up Artist (1987), which starred Robert Downey Jr. and Molly Ringwald, and White Hot (1989), which starred Robbie Benson. Both of these films were directed by Robert Altman.
Vinny Griffin, the family’s beloved dog, was played by him on the animated television series Family Guy for an arc that spanned three episodes. He took over for Brian Griffin, the family’s previous dog after the latter passed away. Later on, he provided the voices of several characters, including a gangster, in a pair of episodes of American Dad!, another animated comedy series created by Seth MacFarlane.
In 2018, he appeared in the film Sarah Q alongside other former Sopranos cast members Federico Castelluccio and Vincent Pastore.
Following the conclusion of The Sopranos, the character of Tony Sirico was featured in a number of humorous ads for Denny’s restaurants, in which he did not use his own name. In one of them, he tries to pay with counterfeit currency because, as he puts it, “That’s not a real meal.” In another, he uses his automobile and a chain to bring down the enormous sign that reads “Ultimate Breakfast” that is located outside of another restaurant. He also appeared in a commercial for the DVD rental company Netflix at the time, in which he played the part of an intimidating wise guy who enlightens a person who is not yet a subscriber. “Late fees?” he asks in surprise. “Fuhgeddaboudit.”
The manager of Sirico for the past 25 years, Bob McGowan, noted that Tony was a very devoted customer. “He was a Wounded Veteran Project member who always gave to charity,” added McGowan, a former Marine who had known Sirico for many decades. “He was an Army vet,” McGowan said, “who always gave to charity.”
According to information provided by Sirico’s family, he is survived by his two children, Joanne Sirico Bello and Richard Sirico, as well as grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews, and a large number of other relatives.
At 10:30 in the morning on Wednesday, July 13, at the Basilica of Regina Pacis, Sirico’s brother, the Reverend Robert Sirico, will preside over the celebration of a Christian funeral mass. The family has requested that memorial contributions be given in honour of Sirico to the Wounded Warriors organization, St. Jude’s Hospital, and the Acton Institute.