Tony Sirico, best known for his role on HBO’s “The Sopranos” as henchman Peter Paul “Paulie Walnuts” Gualtieri, has died at the age of 79, according to his manager Bob McGowan.
Sirico was described by McGowan as a “very loyal and long-term client” who had been a 25-year customer and “always gave to charity” despite the fact that no cause of death was given.
Sirico’s “Sopranos” co-star Michael Imperioli also announced his death on Instagram, stating that Sirico died on Friday.
“Tony was unlike anyone I’d ever known: he was as tough, loyal, and big-hearted as anyone I’d ever known,” he wrote. “I was by his side through it all, both good and bad. But it’s mostly good. We also had a lot of fun.”
He rose to prominence as the colorful but brutal-when-necessary Paulie Walnuts on “The Sopranos,” particularly among cable-subscribers.
In one interview, he recalled being 55 and sleeping on his mother’s couch at the time of his audition. He’d auditioned for a different role, but creator David Chase approached him with a different role that would become iconic in its own right.
“He asked, ‘Would you like good news or bad news?'” In a 2021 interview, Sirico recalled. “‘Give me the bad news,’ I said. ‘You didn’t get Uncle Junior,’ he said. But I have another plan. Would you be interested in playing a recurring character on the show? Paulie Walnuts is one of my characters.'”
Sirico went on to appear in shows such as “Lilyhammer,” “The Grinder,” and “Family Guy” after the show ended.
But “The Sopranos” remained his most memorable work, thanks in part to the show’s renewed popularity via streaming.
Imperioli continued, “We hit our stride as Christopher and Paulie, and I’m proud to say I did a lot of my best and most enjoyable work with my dear friend Tony. “I’ll never forget him. He truly is irreplaceable. I send my condolences to his family, friends, and countless fans. He was well-liked and will not be forgotten. “I’m heartbroken today.”
On Instagram, Michael Gandolfini, son of late “Sopranos” star James Gandolfini, paid tribute to Sirico.
He wrote, “Tony Sirico was one of the kindest, fiercely loyal, and heartfelt men I’ve ever known.” “He was always Uncle Tony to me, and Tony was always there for my family and me.” His cheek pinches and contagious laugh will be sorely missed. In addition to being a fantastic actor, he was also a great person.
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