Tony Sirico, best known for his role as “Paulie Walnuts” Gualtieri on The sopranos, has passed away. He was 79.
Sirico died Friday at a residential care facility in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, according to his manager of 25, Bob McGowan. No cause of death was revealed, but Sirico had been suffering from dementia for a few years.
“Not only was he a loyal customer, he was also a good friend,” McGowan said The Hollywood Reporter.
Sirico portrayed “Paulie Walnuts” Gualtieri, a close confidant of James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano, in the HBO series.
To be sopranos co-star Michael Imperioli paid tribute to Sirico on his Instagram post: “It pains me to say that my best friend, colleague and partner in crime, the great TONY SIRICO, passed away today. Tony was like no other: he was as tough, as loyal and as big-hearted as anyone I’ve ever known.”
He continued: “I was by his side through so much: in good times and bad. But mostly good. And we had a lot of laughs. We found a groove like Christopher and Paulie and I’m proud to say that I put in a lot of my best and best job done with my dear friend Tony. I will miss him forever. He is truly irreplaceable. I send love to his family, friends and his many fans. He was loved and will never be forgotten. Heartbreaking today.”
Born on July 29, 1942 in New York City, Sirico served in the military before starting his acting career in the 1970s. Sirico made his acting debut in the 1974 drama Crazy Joe starring Henry Winkler.
Sirico was also known for roles in such films as goodfellas† Police country and Mickey Blue Eyes† He often collaborated with Woody Allen and appeared in the director’s films Bullets Over Broadway† Mighty Aphrodite† Everyone says I love you† Harry deconstruct, Celebrity and Miracle wheel.
Among his TV work was a voice role in five episodes of Family man as Vinny Griffin, who was temporarily the family dog. Sirico also returned on Netflix’s lily hammer and as a vote for American father! Other TV roles include: Miami Vice† Chuck† Medium† Taxi Brooklyn and The Grindr.
His most recent work includes the film Respect the Jux.
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 definitely not a Zen master. He was so rowdy, so funny, so talented. Me am very happy for him that in his mid fifties and sixties he finally learned how talented and loved he was i was just thinking about him yesterday strangely and was reminded that he was the main reason for the success of… The Sopranos† I will miss him greatly, Gennaro. Just like the world.”
Sirico was also remembered by his co-stars Lorraine Bracco and Stevie Van Zandt. sopranos and goodfellas star Bracco tweeted“A stand-up guy who was always behind me and who loved my kids and my parents. I have a lifetime of memories with Tony – starting with Goodfellas to The Sopranos and beyond, but my gosh, what fun we had doing the Bensonhurst Spelling Bee. I hope he’s in heaven now and terrifying everyone. I love you, my friend.” Bracco also co-starred with Sirico in a Funny or Die short The Bensonhurst Spelling Bee.
Siricos lily hammer co-star Zandt wrote“RIP Tony Sirico. Legendary. Silvio’s best friend ‘Paulie Walnuts’ in The Sopranos, Frankie ‘The Fixer’s’ older brother Antonino ‘Father Tony’ Tagliano in Lilyhammer. A larger-than-life character on and off screen. I’m going to make you very very much missed friend. Deepest condolences to the family.”
Meanwhile, HBO described Sirico as “a” enormous, unique talent. †On The Sopranos, his legendary performance as the unwavering Paulie Walnuts made him an icon, loved for his one-liners and steadfast dedication. He will be sorely missed by the HBO family,” he says statement shared on HBO’s official Twitter account.
Sirico leaves daughter Joanne, son Richard and brother Robert.
July 8, 9:18 PM Updated with Chase’s statement.