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Tributes paid as Sopranos star Tony Sirico dies aged 79

Sirico, who was best known for his role as Paulie Walnuts in the Sopranos, passed away on Friday.

Tony Sirico has died aged 79.
Tony Sirico has died aged 79.
Image: AJM

TRIBUTES HAVE BEEN paid to the US actor Tony Sirico, best known for portraying Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri in The Sopranos, who passed away yesterday.

Sirico played minor mobster roles in television and film for decades before being cast in his fifties as the eccentric and sometimes brutal Paulie on HBO’s hit show — becoming one of the series’ most memorable characters.

“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,” his family said in a statement on Facebook.

His Sopranos co-star Michael Imperioli paid tribute to Sirico: “It pains me to say that my dear friend, colleague and partner in crime, the great Tony Sirico has passed away today.”

“Tony was like no one else: he was as tough, as loyal and as big hearted as anyone I’ve ever known,” Imperioli — who played Christopher Moltisanti — wrote on Instagram.

“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.

“I will miss him forever. He is truly irreplaceable… Heartbroken today”

Lorraine Bracco, who played Dr Jennifer Melfi on the Sopranos, said she had “a lifetime of memories” with Sirico.

“I adore Tony Sirico,” she wrote on Instagram.

“I have a lifetime of memories with Tony— starting with Goodfellas to The Sopranos and way beyond— but my God, did we have fun doing the Bensonhurst Spelling Bee—I’m still laughing.

“I hope he’s in heaven cracking everybody up now. Love you, my Pal…rest in peace.”

Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who played Meadow Soprano, said Sirico was “tough and strong, yet sweet and a real artist” and that she was “lucky to have known” him.

“Oh Tony. I’m so heartbroken. I loved you so much,” she wrote.

“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.

“You were tough, and strong, yet sweet and a real artist. There will never ever be anyone like you.

“I feel so lucky to have known you and been loved by you.”

Steven Van Zandt, who played Sirico’s partner in crime Silvio Dante, described him as a “larger than life character”.

“RIP Tony Sirico. Legendary,” he wrote on Twitter.

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“A larger than life character on and off screen. Gonna miss you a lot my friend.”

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1942, Sirico was frequently arrested as a youth, but caught the acting bug in prison after seeing a troupe of ex-convicts perform.

He took multiple small parts as thugs and wise guys from the late 1970s onward, appearing in TV shows such as “Kojak” and “Miami Vice,” and mob-themed films including “Goodfellas” and “Mickey Blue Eyes.”

Sirico was in his fifties when he was cast for his best-known part in “Sopranos,” the ground-breaking HBO series which explored the private lives of a New Jersey crime group.

His character Paulie delivered many of the show’s most memorable lines, displaying both a playful humour and a vicious loyalty to boss Tony Soprano.

© AFP 2022

Additional reporting by Press Association

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