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‘More arrests than acting credits’: How The Sopranos Star Tony Sirico Turned Around His Life From Real Life Gangster to Legendary Actor


The Sopranos star who played the role of Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri in the show, Tony Sirico passed away at the age of 79. In the show, Paulie was presented as a hilarious, bombastic, quirky kind of mobster having one-liners like no one else. Although originally he auditioned for the role of Uncle Junior, he lost that role to Dominic Chianese and was later contacted by the showrunner to proceed with the role of Paulie.

The Sopranos star passes away at 79
The Sopranos

Not only was Paulie a show-stealer from the beginning but also his reel-life character has much resemblance with his real one. A great deal of Tony Sirico’s life found their ways to the show as it inspired his character a lot.

Also Read: 8 Famous Actors And The Tiny Roles That Made Them Famous

How Tony Sirico’s Real Life Inspired Paulie Gualtieri?

Tony Sirico dies at 79
Tony Sirico played the role of Paulie Walnuts

Tony Sirico didn’t have a good time in his life with the court of law. Numerous times, he was caught in legal tussles and was even convicted twice. Tony Sirico mainly credited his environment around where he stayed for his troublesome past:

“I watched them all the time, watched the way they walked, the cars they drove, the way they approached each other. There was an air about them that was very intriguing, especially to a kid.”

Tony Sirico went on to describe the place as where either you had to have a tattoo or a bullet hole to prove yourself. Having been arrested 28 times, he had more arrests than acting creds till he worked with Martin Scorsese in Goodfellas. 

Tony Sirico was also reportedly associated with the real Colombo family which also helped him in playing the character with sheer excellence and sincerity. Once in an interview, the late actor explained that while his criminal past helped him to resemble Paulie, many of his day-to-day life incidents also went into the show and the character. To this he remarked:

“when I look in the mirror in the morning, I don’t know if I’m lookin’ at Tony or Paulie. We got cross-pollinated.”

The actor’s past, as well as the present life, provided the on-screen character with a certain amount of authenticity and depth.

Something interesting: The Godfather III: Coppola’s Masterpiece To Release With A Different Ending

Rest in Peace Tony Sirico:

Tony Sirico dies at 79

While he was serving a sentence of 20 years in Sing Sing, he came around a troupe of ex-cons who came to entertain the inmates. He immediately had a liking for them and said to himself that he could also do that.

Extras: 5 Anime That Gave Us A Better Look At Organized Crime Just Like The Godfather Movies

That was the very first stepping stone in Tony Sirico’s life. After he got his release, he went for help from his friend Richard Castellano who helped him to get a role as an extra in Crazy Joe. And following this, he never had to look back and went to become the iconic Paulie Walnuts and made a mark in the industry.

Rest in Peace Tony Sirico, you will always be remembered.


Written by Subham Mandal

Subham Mandal is currently working as a writer for FandomWire with an ardent interest in the world of pop culture. Subham has written more than 400 articles on different spheres of modern pop culture and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in English based in Kolkata. He’s also an experienced student journalist having demonstrated work experience with the Times of India. He aspires to be a column writer in the future.