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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

No more mob roles for Tony Sirico as he plays cop in new movie


Tony (Paulie Walnuts) Sirico on the set of the film ‘Zarra's Law,’ which is shooting on  Staten Island.  
Tony "Paulie Walnuts" Sirico on the set of the film ‘Zarra's Law,’ which is shooting on Staten Island.

Tony "Paulie Walnuts" Sirico is doing a new “piece of work.”
This time he's on the other side of the law, playing NYPD Detective Tony Zarra investigating the murder of his hoodlum brother in a classic family vengeance story called “Zarra's Law.” The indie feature film is shooting in Brooklyn and Staten Island.
It ain't a chick flick.
“But it's not just another mob movie," Sirico says. "It's a family story about the importance of avenging blood. It was written by a dear friend named Joe Scarpinito and Charlie Kipps so it was tailor-made for me, and I gave my notes and opinions on the various drafts. My character lives in Brooklyn, like me, with his ma, as I did almost till she passed away. And Zarra has his own old-fashioned way of approaching the world. Like me."
Scarpinito, an actor and successful builder, is also financing and producing the low budget film that is being helmed by noted Finnish director Juha “Christmas Story” Wuolijoki.
“The one thing I told Tony he had to do was get rid of the silver wings in his hair," says Scarpinito. “We wanted no hint of Paulie Walnuts or his Sopranos past in 'Zarra's Law.’”
And so here was Sirico on set in Staten Island last week in the third act of his life, hair completely dark now, face still lethally handsome, sitting between takes on a feature film five years after the amazing 10-year run of “The Sopranos” gave him unending celebrity, financial stability and a proud body of work.
“Me and the guys from ‘The Sopranos’ are still like family," Sirico says. "We get together a lot for dinner or charity functions for the Wounded Warriors, St. Jude's, Autism Foundation, Heart Share. I used to be a struggling actor charity-case myself. Now I raise millions for charity. Funny how life goes."
A few weeks ago, the mother of “Sopranos” co-star and E-Street band member Steve Van Zandt passed away. "Me, Jimmy Gandolfini, Stevie Van Zandt, Vinny Pastore and David Chase all went to the wake in Jersey," says Sirico. “It was sad but beautiful because in walked Bruce Springsteen, and he sang a love song over Stevie's mom's coffin. Touching. Yeah, we're like family. David Chase changed my life putting me in that show. He gave me a second family."
“The Sopranos” also helped reunite Sirico with his own adult son and daughter, whom he hadn't seen in years. “We're all very close now," he says. "It's a beautiful thing. I have gorgeous grandkids. I pay for their schooling. I take care of my wonderful sister Carol down in Florida. I have two brothers I'm very close with. All of that family stuff plays into the emotional character of Tony Zarra.”
Does it feel funny playing a cop instead of a hood?
“I played a cop twice before," he says. "Once in ‘Dead Presidents’ and in Woody Allen's ‘Deconstructing Harry,' one of five movies I did for my Brooklyn pal Woody. He says he can't afford me now, but for Woody I'd work for scale. So, yeah, playing a cop is different. But remember I can't walk down the street where a cop car doesn't honk hello. I sit with 500 FBI agents at a charity Christmas party every year. The first year I thought the invitation was a setup for a pinch.”
He says “Zarra's Law” has a lot of action packed into 28 days of shooting.
“It's a terrific old-fashioned crime drama,” he says. “Everything I do is inspired by one actor — James Cagney.”
Would he consider another TV series?
“Too much work,” he says. “Did that. Can't top it. I'd rather do guest TV spots, movies, one-shot things. I just did 'Jersey Shore Shark Attack,’ a spoof on the SyFy Channel, and have another movie in the can called ‘Scientific Athlete,’ about a high school football coach who gets divine intervention."
Is he still living in Brooklyn?
"I was born and raised in Brooklyn," says Tony Sirico. "And I still live and I'll die in Brooklyn."
Some piece of work.


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