Each sopranos fan knows “Paulie Walnuts” Gualtieri, Tony Soprano’s loyal but violent lieutenant. Paulie, played by Tony Sirico, appeared in every season of the show and was the focus of some of its most memorable episodes, including the immortal “Pine Barrens,” widely regarded by most critics and fans alike. The Sopranosbest episode.
Alas, Sirico – whose career stretched back years before and after his most famous work on the sopranos — died on the morning of July 8. No cause of death was given. Sirico was 79 years old.
His brother Robert announced the news on Facebook, writing that Sirico’s family is “deeply grateful for the many expressions of love, prayer and condolences and requests the public to respect his privacy at this time of mourning.”
Shortly after his death became public, sopranos co-star Michael Imperioli wrote on his Instagram account, “Tony was like no other: he was as tough, so loyal and as big-hearted as anyone I’ve ever known. I’ve stood by his side through so much: in good and bad. times. But mostly good. And we laughed a lot. We found a groove like 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 .”
Sirico was able to draw on some of its own history by playing Paulie Walnuts; he was arrested multiple times in his teens and twenties, eventually spending more than a year in prison on various charges. A decade earlier The SopranosSirico talked about some of his criminal past in the 1989 documentary The big Bang.
While in prison, Sirico became interested in acting. After his release, he began to appear on the screen in small roles. His early film appearances include: fingers† The pick-up artistand that of Martin Scorsese Good friends. During the 1990s, he starred in Woody Allen films several times, including: Mighty Aphrodite† Everyone says I love youand Deconstruct Harry.
But his breakthrough came in 1999 when he played Paulie in The Sopranos. Sirico eventually appeared in 74 of the series’ 86 episodes. Over the years, Paulie became one of the most complex and fascinating characters in the series. As Paulie, Sirico could be terrifying, pathetic, recognizable, monstrous or hilarious – and he was a master of the malapropisms that make one of the The Sopranoscomic signatures.
In the years that followed The SopranosSirico appeared in more movies and TV shows. But there is no doubt what he will be remembered for. There is only one Paulie Walnuts.