Tony Sirico, actor who played Paulie ‘Walnuts’ on ‘The Sopranos,’ dies at 79

A man in a suit gestures with one hand toward the award statue he holds in the other hand
Tony Sirico was part of “The Sopranos” cast that won the Screen Actors Guild’s outstanding ensemble award in 2008.
(Kevork Djansezian / Associated Press)

Tony Sirico, the actor best known as loyal gangster Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri in the HBO drama “The Sopranos,” has died. He was 79.

Sirico died Friday morning in an assisted living facility in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., his manager Bob McGowan confirmed to The Times. No cause of death was revealed, but the actor had dementia.

“He was a very loyal client of 25 years and he’s an ex-Army vet and always gave to charities,” McGowan said of his client, who was born Gennaro Anthony Sirico Jr. “He’s a big contributor to the Wounded Warriors.”

Michael Imperioli, the actor’s “Sopranos” co-star, honored Sirico in an Instagram post shared Friday.


“It pains me to say that my dear friend, colleague and partner in crime, the great TONY SIRICO has passed away today,” wrote Imperioli, who played Christopher Moltisanti on the lauded series. “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 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.”

Three men chat together in a scene from the HBO show "The Sopranos"
Michael Imperioli, left, James Gandolfini and Tony Sirico in a scene from Season 2 of “The Sopranos.”

“Sopranos” stars Lorraine Bracco, Jamie Lynn Sigler and Steven Van Zandt also paid tribute to Sirico.

“You were SUCH a phenomenal actor. Stealing every scene you were in,” Sigler wrote. “ You were tough, and strong, yet sweet and a real artist.”

While Sirico was most known for his time on the HBO drama starring the late James Gandolfini, he had more than 80 acting credits including “White Hot,” “Goodfellas” and “Family Guy.”

According to a Facebook post by his brother Father Robert Sirico, he is survived by his two children, Joanne Sirico Bello and Richard Sirico, plus “grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews and many other relatives.”


“The Sopranos” stars Michael Imperioli (a.k.a. Christopher Moltisanti) and Steve Schirripa (Bobby “Baccalà” Baccalieri) are quarantined on opposite coasts, but they launched a podcast anyway. Oh, the stories they tell.

April 9, 2020

A New York native, Sirico was born on July 29, 1942, and raised in Brooklyn. Before beginning his acting career, Sirico earned a reputation as a stick-up artist in his East Flatbush neighborhood. He racked up a total of 28 arrests for a variety of offenses including armed robbery and disorderly conduct. He was first arrested at the age 7 for stealing nickels from a newsstand.

“After all the times I was pinched, I knew every judge in town,” Sirico told The Times in 1990. “I was a tough kid. I always had that itch in my britches to find out who I was. I tested my [courage] every night.”

The ways of his rebellious youth proved too good to leave behind, as Sirico, inspired by a performance by ex-con actors during his last prison stay, kicked off his acting career in the 1970s. He went all in on the troublemaker persona for Hollywood, becoming a mobster-movie staple.

Vincent Pastore of HBO’s ‘The Sopranos’ and the new movie ‘Mickey Blue Eyes’ is enjoying being a career gangster on both the small and big screens.

Aug. 20, 1999

Sirico eventually racked up roles in Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas,” James Toback’s “Fingers” and Woody Allen’s “Mighty Aphrodite” and “Bullets Over Broadway.”

“I feel good about what I’ve accomplished,” he said in 1990. “I came from another world — and now I’m an actor. Not a big-shot star, but a legitimate actor.”