Tony Sirico, the actor best known for playing mobster Peter Paul “Paulie Walnuts” Gualtieri in “The Sopranos”, has died at age 79.
His manager Bob McGowan confirmed the news with Variety on Friday, calling him “a very loyal and great customer” who would “always help people in need”.
His “Sopranos” co-star Michael Imperioli, who played mobster Christopher Moltisanti, also shared the news in a heartfelt Instagram post.
“Tony was like no one else: he was as tough, as loyal and as generous as anyone I’ve ever met,” he wrote. “I was by his side in many things: in good times and in bad. But mostly good. And we had a lot of laughs. We found a rhythm like Christopher and Paulie and I’m proud to say I did a lot of my best and most fun work with my dear friend Tony. I will miss him forever. He is truly irreplaceable. I send love to her family, friends and her many fans. He was loved and will never be forgotten. Heartbroken today.”
No cause of death has been publicly shared.
Along with the “Sopranos” cast members, Sirico has been nominated seven times for a Screen Actors Award for an ensemble performance in a drama series and won twice. He appeared in nearly every episode of the six-season series on HBO, which many critics consider one of the greatest television shows of all time.
Sirico, born Gennaro Anthony Sirico Jr. in New York in 1942, he lived a real life of crime before playing a TV mobster. He was arrested multiple times for disorderly conduct, assault and robbery, and was imprisoned for nearly two years before he began acting in 1974. In addition to his role in “The Sopranos,” he played gangsters in more than a dozen films.
His last big screen appearance was as mobster Angelo in Woody Allen’s 2017 film “Wonder Wheel.”
Sirico’s death comes a day after that of James Caan, another actor known for playing a mobster, for his role in “The Godfather.”
He was preceded in death by The Sopranos lead actor James Gandolfini in 2013.
“He was one of my best friends in life,” Sirico said of Gandolfini after his death. “We visited Iraq and Afghanistan together. He was like family to me. I love him. I already miss him.”
Sirico and Gandolfini spent time together visiting wounded veterans and troops abroad in the early 2000s.
“They loved seeing us and we loved hanging out with them. Jimmy and I can’t hug them enough,” Sirico said of his and Gandolfini’s visits with the military.