Actor Tony Sirico — best known for his role as mobster Paulie Walnuts on “The Sopranos” — is dead, his brother, Robert, announced on Facebook on Friday. He was 79.
”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,” wrote Robert, who is a priest.
“Tony is survived by his two beloved children, Joanne Sirico Bello and Richard Sirico, grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews and many other relatives.
“The family is deeply grateful for the many expressions of love, prayer and condolences and requests that the public respect its privacy in this time of bereavement.”
His “Sopranos” co-star Michael Imperioli — who played Christopher Moltisanti, protégé to Tony Soprano, portrayed by the late James Gandolfini — also posted a remembrance on Instagram, saying in part: “Tony was like no one else: he was as tough, as loyal and as big hearted as anyone i’ve ever known.”
Another co-star, Steven Van Zandt, who played tough guy Silvio Dante, tweeted his condolences to the actor’s family.
“A larger-than-life character on and off-screen. Gonna miss you a lot my friend,” he wrote.
Their “heartbroken” co-star Jamie Lynn Sigler also posted to social media about the special bond she felt for her colleague and friend.
“I loved you so much. I have never been able to walk into a room that you were in without you giving me an enormous hug, drenching me in your cologne, and making sure I knew any man that came near me would have to answer to you first,” she wrote, sharing a photo of them together.
Sources told TMZ that he had been living in an assisted living home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for a few years due his declining health.
The Post has reached out to Sirico’s representatives for confirmation.
When he was 55, Sirico was sleeping on a cot in his mother’s living room in Brooklyn when he was cast as Walnuts. He originally auditioned for the role of Uncle Junior — who would be played by Dominic Chianese.
Sirico and Walnuts’ lives had many parallels. Born in Brooklyn, New York, on July 29, 1942, the late actor was just 7 years old the first time he got arrested for stealing nickels from a newspaper stand. He would be arrested 28 more times and would and two trips to the slammer.
In 1971, he even spent 20 months at the notorious Sing Sing prison for felony weapons possession.
“The first time I went away to prison, they searched me to see if I had a gun — and I had three of ’em on me,” he told the LA Times in 1990.
“In our neighborhood, if you weren’t carrying a gun, it was like you were the rabbit during rabbit-hunting season.”
The hit HBO crime drama ran from 1999 to 2007. He won two Screen Actors Guild Awards for his ensemble role: one in 2000 and another in 2008.
In a 2020 interview, Sirico praised his former “Sopranos” co-star Gandolfini, who died in 2013 at age 51, calling the actor his “right f–king arm” and saying he was “so f–king happy to be as close” as the two were.
In his decades-long career, Sirico appeared in numerous guest roles on other shows including “Kojak,” “Miami Vice,” “Chuck,” “Medium,” “Lilyhammer” and “American Dad.”
Sirico played gangsters in over a dozen movies, including “Goodfellas,” “Mob Queen,” “Mighty Aphrodite” and “Gotti.”
“I make a pretty good living because I die well. I get hired to get killed,” he once told the LA Times, estimating that he died in 13 of his then-27 films.
Additionally, he temporarily lent his voice to “Family Guy” character Vinny Griffin — who was the family’s dog for three episodes in 2013.
Sirico and former “Sopranos” actors Federico Castelluccio and Vincent Pastore reunited in the 2018 film “Sarah Q.”
His brother’s posting asked that memorial donations be made in his honor to Wounded Warriors, St. Jude’s Hospital and the Acton Institute.
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