Eccentric ‘Sopranos’ gangster Tony Sirico dies, age 79

Jul 11, 2022
Source: Twitter @themafialegacy

The entertainment industry is mourning yet another one of its own after The Sopranos actor Tony Sirico passed away on Friday, July 8, at 79 years old.

His death, in an assisted living facility in Fort Lauderdale, was confirmed by his manager, Bob McGowan.

While McGowan had not provided information on Sirico’s cause of death, he did call the actor a “very loyal and long-term client” and someone who “always gave to charity.”

Taking to Facebook, his brother Rober Sirico posted: “It is with great sadness, but with incredible pride, love and a whole lot of fond memories, that the family of Gennaro Anthony ‘Tony’ Sirico wishes to inform you of his death on the morning of July 8, 2022.”

While some may recognise him from his smaller roles in Woody Allen films from 1994 to 2016,  Sirico was especially known for his breakout role as the lovable but murderous gangster, Paulie Walnuts in the 1999 hit HBO series The Sopranos. 

At the time of his audition, Sirico recalled in one interview, he was 55 and sleeping on his mother’s couch. He had initially auditioned for a different role, but creator David Chase offered him a different character, ultimately turning out to be iconic in its own right.

“When I first read David Chase’s script, I knew this was special,” Sirico had said at the time.

“This is what I’d been looking for all my life. … I knew right away this was a role to kill for.”

Since the news of the actor’s death was announced, Sirico’s co-stars and fans have flooded social media with tributes and expressions of their heartache.

“A larger than life character on and off screen. Gonna miss you a lot my friend,” Sopranos co-star Steven Van Zandt said on Twitter.

“Tony was like no one else: he was as tough, as loyal and as big hearted as anyone i’ve ever known,” Sirico’s Sopranos co-star Michael Imperioli wrote on Instagram. “I was at his side through so much: through good times and bad. But mostly good. And we had a lot of laughs.”

 

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Sirico also often portrayed Italian-American mobsters, playing a small role in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 hit Goodfellas and even took a comic turn voicing the talking dog named Vinny on the animated series Family Guy.

Prior to becoming an influential hit early in the era of television, Sirico served 20 months in prison back in the 1970s for gun charges. His first movie role came in 1974’s Crazy Joe a film on Mafia figure Joey Gallo, but his defining role was in the HBO series.

In addition to his brother Robert, Sirico is survived by two children, Joanne Sirico Bello and Richard Sirico; a sister, Carol Pannunzio; another brother, Carmine; and several grandchildren.

Were you a 'Sopranos' fan? Do you remember watching Tony Sirico on TV?

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