Los Angeles: Tony Sirico, who played the mobster Peter Paul ‘Paulie Walnuts’ Gualtieri on the American crime-drama series ‘The Sopranos’, died at the age of 79. Tonys death was confirmed by his manager to ‘Variety’.
Sirico’s Paulie Walnuts is described as a bombastic and furiously funny foot soldier to James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano with one-liners like no one else. Sirico was a ‘Sopranos’ scene-stealer from the start.
Sirico, according to ‘Variety’, balanced Paulie’s menace with his deadpan humour, and his penchant for malapropisms, once calling Sun Tzu ‘Sun Tuh-Zoo’, later referring to the philosopher as the ‘Chinese Prince Matchabelli’.
�Variety’ notes that Sirico appeared on all six seasons of ‘The Sopranos’, after he initially auditioned for the role of Uncle Junior. Dominic Chianese ultimately landed that part.
Born Gennaro Anthony Sirico Jr. on July 24, 1942 to an Italian family in New York City, Sirico spent much of his early life getting into trouble with the law, and has been associated with the real-life Colombo crime family.
He was arrested 28 times , first as a seven-year-old after he stole nickels from a newsstand, before getting into acting. He went to prison twice, once after being charged for possessing an illegal weapon, and again for armed robbery.
Sirico made his acting debut as an extra in the 1974 mobster drama ‘Crazy Joe’ alongside Henry Winkler. That film preceded Sirico’s countless later roles as gangsters and criminals, from Martin Scorsese’s ‘Goodfellas’ in 1990 to Woody Allen’s ‘Bullets Over Broadway’ in 1994.
Sirico appeared in a number of Allen’s films, including ‘Cafe Society’ in 2016 and ‘Mighty Aphrodite’ in 1995.
In an Instagram post, Sirico’s ‘Sopranos’ co-star Michael Imperioli wrote: “It pains me to say that my dear friend, colleague and partner in crime, the great TONY SIRICO has passed away today. Tony was like no one else: he was as tough, as loyal and as big hearted as anyone I’ve ever known. I was at his side through so much: through good times and bad. But mostly good. And we had a lot of laughs (sic).
“We found a groove as Christopher and Paulie and I am proud to say I did a lot of my best and most fun work with my dear pal Tony. I will miss him forever. He is truly irreplaceable. I send love to his family, friends and his many many fans. He was beloved and will never be forgotten. Heartbroken today.”