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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Actor Tony Sirico, of ‘The Sopranos’ fame, dies at 79

LOS ANGELES ( Associated Press) — Tony Sirico, who played impeccable mobster Paulie Walnuts in “The Sopranos” and brought his tough-guy swagger to movies like “Goodfellas,” died Friday. He was 79 years old.

Sirico died at an assisted living facility in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, his manager, Bob McGowen, said. There was no immediate information on the cause of death.

A statement from Sirico’s family confirmed the death of Gennaro Anthony “Tony” Sirico “with great sadness, but incredible pride, love and many fond memories.”

McGowan, who represented Sirico for more than two decades, remembered him as “loyal and generous,” with a strong philanthropic streak. That included helping ex-soldiers’ causes, which deeply affected the Army veteran, his manager said.

READ MORE: Ray Liotta, star of ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Field of Dreams’, dies at 67

Steven Van Zandt, who played opposite Sirico as mobster Silvio Dante on “The Sopranos,” hailed him on Twitter as “legendary.”

“A character larger than life on and off screen. I’m going to miss you so much, my friend,” said the actor and musician.

Michael Imperioli, who played Christopher Moltisanti on “The Sopranos,” called Sirico his “dear friend, colleague and partner in crime.”

“Tony was like no one else – he was as tough, loyal and big-hearted as anyone I’ve ever met,” Imperioli said on Instagram.

Sirico wasn’t worried about being cast in a string of villainous roles, McGowan said, most prominently as Peter Paul “Paulie Walnuts” Gualtieri in the 1999-2007 series of the acclaimed HBO drama starring James Gandolfini as the boss of the Mob Tony Soprano. (Gandolfini died in 2013 at age 51.)

“He didn’t mind playing a mob guy, but he wouldn’t play an informant,” or as Sirico put it, a “snitch,” McGowan said.

READ MORE: Bob Saget, Beloved ‘Full House’ TV Dad, Dies at 65

Sirico, born July 29, 1942, in New York City, grew up in the Flatbush and Bensonhurst neighborhoods, where he said “every man was trying to prove himself. You had to have a tattoo or a bullet hole.” .

“I had both,” he told the Los Angeles Times in a 1990 interview, calling himself “unstable” during that period of his life. He was repeatedly arrested for criminal offenses, he said, and served time in prison twice. In his last stint behind bars, in the 1970s, he saw a performance by a group of ex-cons and got the acting bug.

“I saw them and thought, ‘I can do that.’ She knew he wasn’t bad looking. And I knew I had the guts to stand up and (bull) people,” he told the Times. “You get a lot of practice in prison. I used to stand in front of these cold-blooded killers and kidnappers and make them laugh.”

Sirico also broke out of the gangster mold, playing police officers in the films “Dead Presidents” and “Deconstructing Harry.” His other credits include Woody Allen films such as “Bullets over Broadway” and “Mighty Aphrodite,” and appearances on television series such as “Miami Vice” and voice roles in “Family Guy” and “American Dad.”

Sirico is survived by his daughter Joanne Sirico Bello; son Ricardo Sirico; his brother, Roberto Sirico, a priest; and other relatives.

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World Nation News Desk
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