Tony Sirico, the longtime character actor best known for his run as Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri on “The Sopranos,” has died at the age of 79. The news was shared by his brother, Fr. Robert Sirico, on Facebook.
“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,” he wrote. “The family is deeply grateful for the many expressions of love, prayer and condolences and requests that the public respect its privacy in this time of bereavement. Memorial donations may be made in his honor to Wounded Warriors, St. Jude’s Hospital and the Acton Institute.”
Born in New York City in 1942, Sirico frequently found himself in trouble with the law as a young man, but turned his attention to show business after an acting troupe visited him in jail. His first onscreen appearance came as an extra in the 1974 film “Crazy Joe.”
In the subsequent decades, he found steady work as a character actor specializing in Mafia roles. He frequently worked with Woody Allen, appearing in films like “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Mighty Aphrodite,” “Everyone Says I Love You,” “Deconstructing Harry,” “Cafe Society,” and “Wonder Wheel.”
In 1990, along with many of the other greatest Italian-American actors of his generation, Sirico appeared in Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas.” His role as Tony Stacks was his highest profile role to date, but his career as an onscreen gangster was just getting started.
In 1999, Sirico was cast on “The Sopranos,” HBO’s groundbreaking mob series that changed television forever. Sirico originally auditioned for the role of Tony’s Uncle Junior, but when that role went to Dominic Chianese, he was cast as Paulie. His performance as Tony Soprano’s dim-witted but endlessly loyal Mafia lieutenant quickly made him a fan favorite. He remained with the show throughout its run on HBO, famously appearing in iconic episodes including “Pine Barrens,” which many consider to be a high point of the show.
Sirico is survived by his two children, Joanne Sirico and Richard, and multiple “grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews and many other relatives,” according to his family.