Tony Sirico, actor who played Paulie Walnuts in The Sopranos, dies at 79

American actor Tony Sirico, who played lovable but murderous mobster Paulie Walnuts in the HBO series The Sopranos and often starred in Woody Allen films, died Friday at age 79, his family said.

Sirico played a major role in the HBO drama which debuted in 1999 and became an influential hit at the start of the prestige television era.

Although he played smaller roles in six Woody Allen films from 1994 to 2016, Sirico wasn’t particularly well known until his breakout role, in which he was a captain in lead character Tony Soprano’s crime family. performed by the late James Gandolfini.

Paulie Walnuts’ character was a steely criminal who exhibited periodic kindness, occasionally offering goofy comic relief with malapropisms, but always loyal to the boss.

“A larger than life character on and off screen. I will miss you very much my friend, ” Sopranos co-star Steven Van Zandt said on Twitter.

Left to right: The Sopranos actors Steven Van Zandt, James Gandolfini and Sirico are pictured. (HBO/Getty Pictures)

Sirico often played Italian-American gangsters, including a small role in FreedmenMartin Scorsese’s popular and critical hit from 1990. Sirico also took a comedic turn by voicing the talking dog Vinny on the animated show family guy.

His credits in Woody Allen films include Bullets on Broadway from 1994, Mighty Aphrodite from 1995, Everybody say I love you from 1996, Deconstruct Harry from 1997, Celebrity from 1998, and in his post-Sopranos fame, Coffee Company of 2016.

“It is with great sadness, but 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,” said his brother. , Robert Sirico, a Roman Catholic priest, posted on Facebook.

He is survived by two children as well as an unknown number of grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews and others, his brother said.

No cause of death has been reported.

Tony Sirico actor who played Paulie Walnuts in The Sopranos
Sirico and Gandolfini hold their awards for best ensemble in a drama for their work in The Sopranos at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles in January 2008. (Chris Pizzello/Associated Press)

Born in Brooklyn on July 29, 1942, Sirico served 20 months in prison for a firearms charge in the early 1970s, according to the IMDB.com movie database.

His first film role came in 1974 crazy joeabout mob figure Joey Gallo, but his defining role was in the HBO series created by David Chase.

“When I first read David Chase’s script, I knew it was special,” Sirico told IMDB. “That’s what I’ve been looking for all my life. …I knew straight away that it was a role to kill for. »

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