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

Actor Tony Sirico, known for his role as Peter Paul Gualtieri, most popular as Pauly, in the series The Sopranos, He 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 good memories, the family of Genaro Anthony Tony Sirico wishes to inform you of his death on the morning of July 8, 2022″, wrote Robert Sirico 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 client” who “always helped those who needed it”. The cause of his death, which took place in Fort Lauderdale (Florida), where he lived in a residence after being diagnosed with dementia a few years ago, has not been made public. He will be buried in the Basilica of Regina Pacis (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 escapades he once coincided with 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: up to seven films of his films his unmistakable face appears. The collaboration started in 1994 with Bullets on Broadway and continued with Mighty Aphrodite, Everybody Says I Love You, Taking Harry Apart (here 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 area of ​​influence of the Colombo familyunder the command of Carmine Junior Persian (in The Sopranos, his character directly refers 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 holding up a Brooklyn nightclub, and released after serving 13 months. In 1971, he was convicted of criminal weapons possession and drug possession after being arrested at a club he ran in Manhattan, and sentenced to four years in prison. Sirico ended up serving 20 months in seclusion at Sing Sing.

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

At Sing Sing, his life changed. In several interviews and reports he tells that there she met a theater group made up of ex-convicts, and decided to give herself an opportunity in acting. The physicist at the same time helped him and conditioned him: “I have made about 45 films. In 40 of them I have played a mobster 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 card of the Union of actors and the possibility of doing professional work. And yes, in her 80 appearances in film and television there are many low-quality films. However, he also worked on series like Miami Vice, Cosby, Lilyhammer (with his partner) The Sopranos Steve Van Zandt) and in Family Guy, where he gave voice to the dog Vinny. In the movies, 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 almost a decade later would happen 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 called him later to give him the bad news and the good news: it wouldn’t be Uncle Junior, but Paulie Gualtieri would. “Since I read the script, I knew that 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 father’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, they nicknamed him Walnuts for a robbery in the early nineties of a truck that was supposedly transporting 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 in one episode to murder a woman on screen. 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 they aired the episode, no one commented. They were such fans of the series that they didn’t care what we did.”

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