Tony Sirico, Star in 'The Sopranos,' Dead at 79

Tony Sirico

Tony Sirico, the beloved actor who played famed mobster Paulie "Walnuts" Gualtieri in all six seasons of The Sopranos, died on Friday. He was 79.

Sirico's manager, Bob McGowan, confirmed the news to CBS News, who said Sirico was "a great, loyal client" who "would do anything to help people in need." McGowan did not provide the cause of death. Michael Imperioli, who won an Emmy for playing Christopher Motisanti in the hit HBO series, took to Instagram on Friday to share the news.

"It pains me to say that my dear friend, colleague and partner in crime, the great TONY SIRICO has passed away today," the actor's lengthy statement read. "Tony was like no one else: he was as tough, as loyal and as big hearted as anyone I’ve ever known. I was at his side through so much: through good times and bad. But mostly good. And we had a lot of laughs. We found a groove as Christopher and Paulie and I am proud to say I did a lot of my best and most fun work with my dear pal Tony."

"I will miss him forever," he continued. "He is truly irreplaceable. I send love to his family, friends and his many many fans. He was beloved and will never be forgotten. Heartbroken today."

Tony Sirico
Tony Sirico

Before earning fame and critical acclaim for his role in The Sopranos, Sirico had tons of other big and small screen credits to his name, including a small role in Goodfellas, playing Tony Stacks. He appears briefly near the beginning of the film.

He played a no-nonsense mobster who rolled among Tony Soprano's (James Gandolfini) main crew. When he wasn't cracking the skulls of those who failed to pay their weekly dues, Sirico's character ran a gambling scheme and took care of his ailing mother, going so far as stealing from -- and then killing -- an elderly woman at his mother's retirement home after the elderly woman rebuffed his mother's repeated attempts to strike a friendship.

Sirico and Imperioli's characters were almost always at odds in The Sopranos, often dueling about how they could one-up each other in an effort to reach higher status in Tony Soprano's view.

In a 2001 cover story for Rolling Stone, Sirico described himself as a "rough-and-tumble kid" who grew up in Brooklyn, and explained why he was drawn to the gangsters in his neighborhood.

"They're all dressed, slicked back, they got cars, they got girls, very enticing," he admitted. "I got close to making a huge mistake ... I almost got too close to becoming one of those guys I portray."

Sirico played such a superb job of portraying mobsters, he shared with Rolling Stone how the real-life gangsters perceived him following his role in The Sopranos.

"They love me for being in this show," he said. "I'm still part of their family in their hearts. They know I'm a stand-up kid, whether I'm a tough guy or not."

Sirico's death comes just over nine years after The Sopranos' main star, Gandolfini, died in Italy in June 2013. Sirico's death also comes one day after The Godfather star James Caan died. He was 82.


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