Paulie Walnuts from ‘The Sopranos’ was one of the funniest characters in the show. His weird way of laughing and cheap jokes made him stand out from the rest of the crew. Being a part of ‘The Sopranos’ made him a household name, thanks to the show’s insane popularity. But, what if we told you that he was an actual mob boss? Yes, you heard that right. Tony Sirico, who played Paulie, was an actual mob boss, and he had a very violent past that he left behind!
Tony Sirico – The man behind Paulie “Walnuts”
Before playing Paulie’s role in the show, Tony Sirico led a very colorful life. He was born in 1942 and spent his childhood in Brooklyn. However, there is a lot more about his early life than that.
He was arrested for a total of 28 times throughout his life. Surprisingly, the first time was when he was 7 years old for stealing nickels from a newsstand. Meanwhile, it helped him build a formidable reputation in his neighborhood. And build it, Tony Sirico did. He told the Los Angeles Times about it:
After all the times I was pinched, I knew every judge in town. I was a tough kid. I always had that itch in my britches to find out who I was.
And not just that. He had quite a fierce reputation too. He left his wife and kids for a girl in his neighborhood. Once, there was a sailor at a bay checking that girl out, and Tony just lost his mind. He gave him quite a heavy beating and ran away with the girl in a taxi. Moreover, he never sounded like someone who was scared of the police either. He further told the LA times that:
I was a pistol-packing guy. The first time I went away to prison, they searched me to see if I had a gun–and I had three of ‘em on me.
This interview of Tony Sirico gives us an interesting insight into the kind of person he was before Hollywood.
What brought him into acting?
It’s really amazing to think how could a person who was knee-deep into the mafia world end up in Hollywood as dear old Paulie? So, A group of ex-convict actors had actually inspired him. He thought he already had quote a decent acting record before he even started. He got away in a lot of police lineups and chatted up with a lot of police precinct captains. Moreover, being convicted only twice after being arrested 28 times helped his confidence too. He said:
I watched ‘em and I thought, ‘I can do that.’ I knew I wasn’t bad looking. And I knew I had the (guts) to stand up and (bull) people. You get a lot of practice in prison. I used to stand up in front of these cold-blooded murderers and kidnapers–and make ‘em laugh.
After that, he started off as a model through a photographer friend in New York. After doing some small acting gigs, he got a minor role in ‘Godfather II’. Later on, he starred in Martin Scorcese’s ‘The Goodfellas’, which paved the way for his role as Paulie in ‘The Sopranos’. This is because David Chase hired a lot of characters for his iconic TV show from ‘Goodfellas’, like P***y Bompensiero, Christopher Moltisanti, Dr. Melfi and many others. And the rest, as they say, is history.
After seeing his interview, one can easily say he was more gangster than his own character. Changing your way of life completely is a commendable task. For that, the entire Sopranos fan base has massive respect for Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri.