Tony Sirico won multiple awards for his role as Paulie ‘Walnuts’ Gualtieri in the hit mobster series
Actor Tony Sirico, best known for his role in ‘The Sopranos’, has passed away at the age of 79, according to family members and colleagues.
Though a cause was not disclosed, Sirico’s brother Robert confirmed his death on Thursday, announcing the news “with great sadness, but with incredible pride, love and a whole lot of fond memories.”
“The family is deeply grateful for the many expressions of love, prayer and condolences and requests that the public respect its privacy in this time of bereavement,” the statement continued.
Launching his career in earnest in the 1970s, Sirico appeared in dozens of films and TV shows, often portraying gangsters on screen, including a brief appearance as wiseguy Tony Stacks in 1990’s ‘Goodfellas’.
He was best known for his role in ‘The Sopranos’, where he played a top henchman of protagonist Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), earning two Screen Actors Guild awards and five nominations between 2000 and 2008. The critically acclaimed mobster drama itself reeled in countless other awards and plaudits.
A Brooklyn native, Sirico at times blurred the lines between fact and fiction, having been arrested 28 times throughout his life for various offenses, and spending some time behind bars. Speaking to the LA Times for an interview in 1990 – nearly a decade before the debut of ‘The Sopranos’ – he declared that he was once a “pistol-packing guy” and described his stints in jail.
“The first time I went away to prison, they searched me to see if I had a gun – and I had three of ‘em on me,” he told the newspaper.
Sirico’s manager Bob McGowan also weighed in on his death, saying he was a “very loyal client of 25 years,” and a military veteran who “gave to many charities.” His family noted that any donations would be forwarded onto Wounded Warriors, St. Jude’s Hospital, and the Acton Institute to honor his memory.
The actor’s brother Robert will host a memorial service next week in Brooklyn, New York.