Last Updated on July 9, 2022
Tony Sirico, best known for playing the iconic role of “Paulie Walnuts” Gualtieri on The Sopranos, passed away Friday at the age of 79. Cast members and fans have paid tribute to the late actor following his passing.
Sirico passed away Friday at an assisted living facility in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., according to his manager of 25 years Bob McGowan. No cause of death was revealed but Sirico had been suffering from dementia in recent years, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Tony Sirico appeared in a number of movies and television shows over a career that spanned from 1974 through 2019. He primarily played mafia and organized crime roles, which was the case in Martin Scorcese’s Goodfellas and Miami Vice.
Sirico was born in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn in 1942. While growing up, Tony Sirico flirted with a life of crime himself and was arrested 28 times. In 1970, he was arrested at a restaurant while carrying a .32 caliber pistol. He was ultimately convicted on several charges and was sentenced to over four years in prison, which he served at the infamous Sing Sing.
While incarcerated, Sirico found the inspiration to turn his life around and pursue an acting career after a group of performers visited the prison.
His background was instrumental in landing him his iconic “Paulie Walnuts” role in The Sopranos. Tony Sirico appeared in each of the show’s six seasons from 1999-2007 and was arguably the show’s most popular character due to hilarious one-liners.
Tributes from Sirico’s co-stars have poured in following his passing. “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,” wrote Sopranos co-star Michael Imperioli in an Instagram post.
The Sopranos creator David Chase paid tribute to Sirico with a statement that read, “Tony was a jewel. The way Buddhists refer to a jewel — supernatural and a master. But certainly not a Zen master. He was so uproarious, so funny, so talented.”
Sirico was a strong supporter of the St. Jude’s Childrens Hospital and the USO. He made multiple trips to combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan throughout the 2000’s and early 2010’s where he met with active-duty soldiers.
RIP Gennaro Anthony Sirico Jr. aka Tony Sirico aka Paulie Walnuts. Famous for his role in The Sopranos, Tony visited thousands of troops overseas with legendary James Gandolfini while starring in their hit show, supporting @the_USO. He passed away today at the age of 79. 🐐🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/fF9Mh6qRPm
— Drunk Old Grad (@DrunkOldGrad) July 9, 2022