Several Sopranos cast members mourned the death of fellow star Tony Sirico, who played Peter Paul “Paulie Walnuts” Gualtieri on the beloved HBO mobster show, after his death was announced on Friday. He was 79.
David Chase, the creator of The Sopranos, remembered Sirico as “so funny” and “so talented.”
“Tony was a jewel. The way Buddhists refer to a jewel – supernatural and a master. But certainly not a Zen master. He was so uproarious, so funny, so talented,” Chase said in a statement to MovieMaker.
“I’m very happy for him that in his mid-fifties and sixties he finally learned how talented and loved he was. I was just thinking about him yesterday, strangely enough, and was reminded that he was a main reason for the success of The Sopranos. I will miss him greatly, Gennaro. As will the world.”
Michael Imperioli, who played Tony Soprano’s (James Gandolfini) cousin Christopher Moltisanti, wrote on Instagram: “It pains me to say that my dear friend, colleague and partner in crime, the great Tony Sirico has passed away today.”
He continued: “Tony was like no one else: he was as tough, as loyal and as big-hearted as anyone I’ve ever known. 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. I will miss him forever. He is truly irreplaceable. I send love to his family, friends and his many many fans. He was beloved and will never be forgotten. Heartbroken today.”
Sirico also played a gangster and criminal in other movies and television shows besides The Sopranos, having also appeared in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway, Sopranos spinoff Lilyhammer, and in his first film, Crazy Joe opposite Henry Winkler in 1974. His other, non-mobster credits include Allen’s Café Society and Family Guy.
Sirico’s death also comes a day after news broke that fellow on-screen mobster James Caan, who played Sonny in The Godfather, died at age 82.
Steven Van Zandt, another main Sopranos player who played Silvio Dante, remembered Sirico fondly, calling him “legendary.”
“RIP Tony Sirico. Legendary. Silvio’s best buddy ‘Paulie Walnuts’ in The Sopranos, Frankie ‘The Fixer’s’ older brother Antonino ‘Father Tony’ Tagliano in Lilyhammer. A larger than life character on and off screen. Gonna miss you a lot my friend. Deepest condolences to the family,” Van Zandt tweeted.
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Lorraine Bracco, who played Dr. Jennifer Melfi, Tony Soprano’s therapist on The Sopranos, also remembered Sirico on Friday.
“I adore Tony Sirico. A stand up guy who always had my back and who loved my children and my parents. 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),” she wrote. “I hope he’s in heaven cracking everybody up now. Love you, my Pal… rest in peace.”
Jamie Lynn Sigler, who played Meadow Soprano, wrote that she was “heartbroken” in an Instagram post.
“Oh Tony. I’m so heartbroken. 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. You were SUCH a phenomenal actor,” she said. “Stealing every scene you were in. 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.”
See the tweets below.
RIP Tony Sirico. Legendary. Silvio’s best buddy “Paulie Walnuts” in The Sopranos, Frankie “The Fixer’s” older brother Antonino “Father Tony” Tagliano in Lilyhammer. A larger than life character on and off screen. Gonna miss you a lot my friend. Deepest condolences to the family. pic.twitter.com/pAkDnqfLEs
— 🕉🇺🇦Stevie Van Zandt☮️💙 (@StevieVanZandt) July 8, 2022
Tony Sirico! We salute you! pic.twitter.com/Yo8tQxa0xn
— 🕉🇺🇦Stevie Van Zandt☮️💙 (@StevieVanZandt) July 9, 2022
Main Image: Tony Sirico as Paulie Gualtieri in The Sopranos courtesy of HBO.