Sopranos actor Tony Sirico, who played Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri on the hit HBO show, has died at the age of 79, his family has announced.
The actor, who appeared in all six seasons of The Sopranos with James Gandolfini, died Friday morning.
His 25-year-old manager, Bob McGowan, told the Hollywood Reporter that Sirico had died in a Fort Lauderdale residential care facility, suffering from dementia in recent years.
A statement posted by his brother Robert Sirico on Facebook read: “It is with great sadness, but with incredible pride, love and many fond memories, that the family of Gennaro Anthony ‘Tony’ Sirico would like to inform you of his passing on the morning of July 8, 2022.
“The family is deeply grateful for the many expressions of love, prayer and condolences and asks the public to respect their privacy at this time of mourning.”
His Sopranos colleague Michael Imperioli paid tribute to Sirico on Instagram, calling him “my best friend, colleague and partner in crime”.
“Tony was like no other: he was as tough, so loyal and as big of heart as anyone I’ve ever known,” he wrote. “I was by his side through so much: in good times and bad. But above all good. And we laughed a lot. We found a groove as Christopher and Paulie and I am proud to say that I did a lot of my best and most fun work with my dear friend Tony. I will miss him forever.”
Born in New York City in 1942, Sirico often played gangsters in films throughout his career, including in Goodfellas, Cop Land, and Mickey Blue Eyes. He has appeared frequently in Woody Allen films including Deconstructing Harry, Celebrity, Bullets Over Broadway, Mighty Aphrodite, Everyone Says I Love You and Wonder Wheel.
He originally auditioned for the part of Uncle Junior in The Sopranos, but Dominic Chianese got the part. The show’s creator, David Chase, instead offered him the role of Paulie Gualtieri, who accepted Sirico with the condition that his character “wouldn’t turn into a rat.”
Sirico is survived by a daughter and brother.