Tony Sirico, Paulie in ‘The Sopranos,’ dies at 79

Actor Tony Sirico, known for his role as Peter Paul Gualtieri, most popular as paulie, in the series The Sopranos, He has died this Friday at the age of 79, as reported by his brother and his representative of the interpreter in two publications on social networks. “With great sadness, but with great pride, love and fond memories, the family of Genaro Anthony Tony Sirico wishes to inform you of his death on the morning of July 8, 2022,” Robert Sirico wrote on his Facebook. In addition, the one who was a representative of Sirico for 25 years, Bob McGowan, confirmed his death and defined him as “a very loyal customer” who “always helped those who needed it.” The cause of his death has not been made public, which took place in Fort Lauderdale (Florida), where he lived in a residence after being diagnosed with dementia a few years ago. He will be buried in the Regina Pacis Basilica (Brooklyn, New York) next Wednesday, July 13.

Sirico was born in 1942 and grew up in Bensonhurst (Brooklyn), in a family of Italian immigrants. In his childhood adventures, he once met Allan Stewart Konigsberg, a boy who liked sports. Years later, Sirico, after various problems with the law, would become an actor, and Konigsberg would achieve fame under the name of Woody Allen. That is why Sirico has been one of the actors who has worked the most with the filmmaker: in up to seven of his films his unmistakable face appears. The collaboration began in 1994 with Bullets over Broadway and continued with Mighty Aphrodite, Everybody Says I Love You, Dismounting Harry (here he was especially hilarious), Celebrity, Cafe Society and ended in Wonder Wheel.

However, his first steps did not promise anything good. His neighborhood was in the zone of influence of the Colombo familyunder the command of Carmine Junior Persian (in The Sopranos, his character refers directly to it and talks about the Colombos in one episode). For this reason, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he was arrested 28 times. In 1967, he was sent to prison for robbing a Brooklyn nightclub, and released after serving 13 months. In 1971, he was found guilty of criminal weapons possession and drugs after being arrested at a club he ran in Manhattan, and sentenced to four years in prison. Sirico ended up serving 20 months in prison at Sing Sing.

Tony Sirico and James Gandolfini, with the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Ensemble Won by ‘The Sopranos’ in 2008. Chris Pizzello (AP)

Sing Sing changed his life. In various interviews and reports, she recounts that there she met a theater group made up of ex-convicts, and decided to give acting a chance. The physicist both helped him and conditioned him: “I have made about 45 films. In 40 of them I have played a gangster and in the other five, a corrupt policeman, ”he joked a few years ago in an interview. His first opportunity came in crazy joe (1974), with which he obtained the Actors Union card and the possibility of doing professional work. And yes, in her 80 appearances on film and television there are many low-quality films. However, he also worked in series like Miami Vice, Cosby, Lilyhammer (with his partner the sopranos Steve Van Zandt) and in Family Guy, where he voiced the dog Vinny. In the cinema, in addition to his seven jobs with Allen, he played Tony Stacks in One of ours (1990), Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece. Interestingly, his Tony was under the command of a capo named Paulie, the opposite of what would happen almost a decade later in The Sopranos.

Sirico will always be Paulie, the dapper psycho mobster from The Sopranos. The actor auditioned to play Uncle Junior, and David Chase He called him later to give him the bad news and the good news: it wouldn’t be Uncle Junior, but it would be Paulie Gualtieri. “Since I read the script, I knew it would be special and that it was what I had been waiting for all my life,” he recalled in an interview. Sirico said that the actors interacted a lot with the writers, and that they listened to each other. An example: the interpreter took care of his mother for the last 16 years of his mother’s life, who even lived with him, and that was repeated on the small screen with Paulie.

To Paulie, who at the age of 17 became Johnny’s bodyguard boy Soprano, Tony’s father, was nicknamed Walnuts for a robbery in the early nineties of a truck that was supposed to be carrying televisions. When they opened it, they discovered that it had those nuts. Described as a callous and paranoid psychopath. That caused some doubts in Sirico, who, for example, was reluctant to kill a woman on screen in one episode. Chase told him that it was mandatory, and the actor asked him to use at least one revolver, to which the creator of the series refused: he had to do it with his own hands. In the end they agreed to do it using a pillow. According to the actor, “I was worried about what they would say to me in my neighborhood, and when the episode aired, no one commented on it. They were such fans of the series that they didn’t care what we did.”

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Tony Sirico, Paulie in ‘The Sopranos,’ dies at 79