Jul 8, 2022
Tony Sirico, the Brooklyn-born actor who played Paulie Walnuts on ‘Sopranos,’ has died
Forever a real one, he once said at the peak of his fame: 'The only way to stay grounded is living in my native Brooklyn'
Actor Genaro Anthony “Tony” Sirico, Jr., famous for his performance as Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri on HBO’s “The Sopranos,” has died at the age of 79.
Sirico played Paulie Walnuts in every episode of “The Sopranos” and he’s the fourth “Sopranos” actor to die in 2022 after Bruce MacVittie and Paul Herman. Ray Liotta, who died in May, played “”Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti in the “Sopranos” prequel “The Many Saints of Newark.”
On the show, Paulie Walnuts was bombastic and hilarious. A loyal servant to the Sopranos crime family, Walnuts was the last henchman seen in “The Sopranos” before Tony’s infamous diner scene in the finale.
Tony Jr Sirico grew up in my Brooklyn neighborhood. He was a local legend even back then. He hung around Artie's Pool Hall on Ave J.
He ripped off my squad and me for 50 bucks for weed. True story. RIP pic.twitter.com/P0A8GnUfws
— Cʜʀɪs Sᴛᴇɪɴ (@chrissteinplays) July 8, 2022
Sirico was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Midwood. The actor attended Brooklyn’s Midwood High School, the same alma mater as director Woody Allen, who is credited with getting Sirico into movies.
Allen cast his friend in nine movies, including “Bullets Over Broadway” (1994), “Mighty Aphrodite” (1995), and “Celebrity” (1998). Recently the old friends worked together on Allen’s Coney Island-based comedy “Wonder Wheel” (2017), which closed the New York Film Festival that year.
“Tony Sirico is a terrific actor,” Woody Allen told the New York Daily News in 2002. “He can play menacing, and [do] comedy if you need him to. He’s also a loyal friend; we go back to high school together. He has a great, large, movie-star personality. Like Cagney or George Raft. I love working with him.”
Before Sirico began acting, he rose in the ranks of Brooklyn’s Colombo crime family, serving under crime boss Carmine “Junior” Persico. At its peak, the Colombo family was one of the most powerful mafia organizations in America. Sirico was arrested 28 times during his time in the organization.
In one episode of “The Sopranos,” fiction met reality when Paulie references Sirico’s gangster past, “I lived through the ’70s by the skin of my nuts when the Colombos were going at it.”
RIP Tony Sirico. Paulie Walnuts wasn’t concerned about the afterlife because he said he had totaled up the punishment value of his mortal and venial sins and “I can do that time standing on my head.” Hopefully Tony will have a much easier time of it. What a unique actor.
— Matt Zoller Seitz (@mattzollerseitz) July 8, 2022
Sirico had said that the Sopranos role changed his life forever.
“Fame, money, gossip, parties, openings, charity work for St. Jude’s and Heartshare,” he said all came with the part. “The only way to stay grounded is living in my native Brooklyn. Brooklyn people love Paulie, but they know I’m still Tony. Here, even my landlord is my pal.”
Paulie Walnuts was the best of the best on the 🐐 show. Legendary character that will always be in my Top 5 all time. #TonySirico
— Bryan Hayes (@HayesTSN) July 9, 2022
Oh no! Now Paulie Walnuts? “Madone T! U want some Ba-jah Fresh? I’ll send the kid.”
— Mike Missanelli (@MikeMiss25) July 9, 2022
Paulie Walnuts is probably a top 5 character on THE SOPRANOS but the bench on that show is so deep that I can’t say for sure. On certain days I might say The Russian that Paulie and Christopher couldn’t kill is a top 5 SOPRANOS character.
— Steven Hyden (@Steven_Hyden) July 9, 2022
Ah man! Sonny Corleone dies yesterday and then Paulie Walnuts gets called in by the Boss for his sitdown. RIP Tony Sirico.
— Cheo Hodari Coker (@cheo_coker) July 9, 2022
“I was born, grew up, spent a few years in the army, couple more in the can, and here I am, half a wise guy, so what”
— BIG MAN ON CAMPUS (@JeffNadu) July 9, 2022
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