Tony Sirico, who brought his tough-guy swagger to films such as “Goodfellas,” passed away on Friday. He was known for his role as the impeccably groomed mobster Paulie Walnuts in “The Sopranos,” and he brought his tough-guy swagger to other films as well. He was 79.
According to his manager, Bob McGowen, Sirico passed away at an assisted living facility in the city of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. There was no information available right away regarding what caused the death.
Gennaro Anthony “Tony” Sirico’s passing was confirmed by his family in a statement as “with great sadness, but with incredible pride, love, and a whole lot of fond memories.”
McGowan, who represented Sirico for more than two decades, recalled that he had a strong philanthropic streak and was “loyal and giving.” According to his manager, this included assisting the causes of former soldiers, which hit close to home for the Army veteran.
On “The Sopranos,” Steven Van Zandt, who played the role of Silvio Dante, Sirico’s co-conspirator and fellow mobster, paid tribute to Sirico by calling him “legendary” on Twitter.
“A character who is larger than life both on and off the screen. Going to think about you and miss you a lot, my friend “the singer-songwriter and actor said.
Michael Imperioli, who played Christopher Moltisanti on “The Sopranos,” referred to Sirico as his “dear friend, colleague, and partner in crime.” Sirico was Michael Imperioli’s “dear friend, colleague, and partner in crime.”
Imperioli reminisced about Tony in an Instagram post, writing, “Tony was like no one else: he was as tough, as loyal, and as big-hearted as anyone I’ve ever known.”
McGowan stated that Sirico did not seem bothered by the fact that he was cast in a series of antagonistic roles, the most prominent of which was that of Peter Paul “Paulie Walnuts” Gualtieri in the 1999–2007 run of the critically acclaimed HBO drama starring James Gandolfini as mob boss Tony Soprano. (Gandolfini died in 2013 at age 51).
“He didn’t mind playing a mob guy,” McGowan said, but he wouldn’t play an informant, or a “snitch,” as Sirico put it. “He didn’t mind playing a mob guy.”
Sirico was born in New York City on July 29, 1942. He spent his childhood in the neighborhoods of Flatbush and Bensonhurst, where he is said to have spent most of his time “Every guy was looking to establish his credibility. You were required to either have a tattoo or a bullet hole in your body.”
In an interview given to the Los Angeles Times in the year 1990, he stated, “I had both,” and referred to himself as “unstable” during that time in his life. According to him, he had multiple run-ins with the law and spent time behind bars on two separate occasions. While serving his final sentence in prison in the 1970s, he attended a performance given by a group of former inmates, which sparked his interest in the performing arts.
“After observing them, I reasoned, “If they can do it, so can I.” I was aware that my appearance wasn’t terrible. And I was confident that I possessed the courage to speak my mind and intimidate others, “he expressed to the Times. “In jail, you get a lot of opportunities to hone your skills. I used to be able to stand in front of these people who committed murder and kidnapping in cold blood and make them laugh.”
In the movies “Dead Presidents” and “Deconstructing Harry,” Sirico was cast as law enforcement officers, demonstrating that he was more than just a gangster actor. His other work includes roles in films directed by Woody Allen such as “Bullets over Broadway” and “Mighty Aphrodite,” as well as guest spots on television shows such as “Miami Vice” and “Family Guy,” as well as voiceover work for “American Dad!”
Richard Sirico, his daughter Joanne Sirico Bello, his brother Robert Sirico, a priest, and other relatives survive him. Richard Sirico is also survived by other relatives.