The Sopranos Actor Tony Sirico Is Dead At 79

Tony Sirico playing Paulie Walnuts in The Sopranos.
(Image credit: HBO)

The Sopranos amassed a talented cast of actors who kept the show running for six seasons, but now another member of that former cast passed away. Tony Sirico, who played Peter Paul Gualtieri (better known as Paulie Walnuts), has died. He was 79 at the time of his death. 

Tony Sirico was just three weeks shy of turning 80 on July 29 when he died on July 8. Although no cause of death has been revealed at the time of writing, Deadline reports that the actor's health has been declining for several years, which resulted in him not reprising his role as Paulie Walnuts for the 2021 prequel movie The Many Saints of Newark. He was in an assisted living facility in Fort Lauderdale, Florida when he died. His family confirmed the sad news in a statement, saying: 

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.

The actor had a long career in showbusiness, going back to the 1970s, but later gained a reputation for playing gangsters and criminals. He had a role in Goodfellas in 1990, which of course also starred Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and the late Ray Liotta, who died earlier this year. 

He accumulated many other acting credits over the next decade, but it was with The Sopranos starting in 1999 that he experienced his big break and became an unforgettable part of pop culture for fans of the show. 

As Paulie Walnuts, Tony Sirico was a fan-favorite as a henchman, and managed to survive all six seasons of the HBO drama. The character was fiercely loyal to Tony Soprano (played James Gandolfini, who died almost exactly nine years ago at the age of 51). Paulie wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty and had a fairly long list of victims by the end of the show. 

He became an essential part of the series, and fans who returned to the Soprano family with The Many Saints of Newark undoubtedly would have loved to see Sirico in his best-known role again. (Paul Magnussen played the younger version of Paulie Walnuts for the 2021 film.) 

Along with the rest of the cast of The Sopranos, he was nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series seven times (as the sixth and final season was split in two halves), winning twice. 

He would go on to contribute to episodes of other shows, including two episodes of Lilyhammer in 2013 and 2014, two episodes of American Dad in 2017 and 2019, and memorably five episodes of Family Guy between 2013 and 2016. In addition to voicing the character of Vinny for the animated series, he appeared in a rare live-action interlude as himself.

Tony Sirico was an important part of the cast of a show that changed the landscape of pop culture and helped launch the era of prestige TV, and he'll undoubtedly be missed. Our thoughts here at CinemaBlend are with the family, friends, and loved ones of the actor. If you want to revisit his work as Paulie Walnuts, you can do so with The Sopranos streaming on HBO Max

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).