Tony Sirico, the actor best known for his role as Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri in the Sopranos, has passed away at the age of 79.
Sirico’s HBO co-star Michael Imperioli announced his passing on Instagram, giving a tribute to his friend as a “big hearted” and “truly irreplaceable” colleague.
“Tony was like no one else: he was as tough, as loyal and as big hearted as anyone i’ve ever known,” he wrote. “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.”
Sirico, who was a native of Brooklyn, made his acting career in films such as “Goodfellas” and “Mickey Blue Eyes,” along with his iconic role in the Sopranos.
He came into acting after a life of crime, which saw him arrested 28 times with connections to the real-life mafia, which made his experience as a “Sopranos” actor even more believable.
The son of the late actor James Gandolfini, who played the lead as Tony Soprano in the hit series, Michael, paid tribute to Sirico on social media, remembering his “infectious laugh” and “fierce loyalty.”
“Tony Sirico was one of the kindest, fiercely loyal, and heartfelt men that I’ve ever known,” he said. “He was always Uncle Tony to me, and Tony always showed up for me and my family. I’ll deeply miss his pinches on my cheek, and his infectious laugh. He was a phenomenal actor and an even better man.”
Michael Gandolfini took on the role of his father’s character in the spin-off of the original series, entitled “The Many Saints of Newark.”
Sirico died at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on July 8.