‘The Sopranos’: Tony Sirico Insisted on Spraying Binaca in Co-Stars’ Mouths for Paulie Walnuts Scenes
No matter which member of The Sopranos cast or crew you ask, everyone seems to have a story about Tony Sirico, the one-of-a-kind actor who played Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri on the classic HBO series. And every story they tell borders on hilarious.
For Robert Iler (A.J. Soprano), the story unfolded at his Catholic Confirmation around the turn of the century. Iler recalled Sirico attending in a pinstripe suit. After the ceremony, Sirico gave Iler an envelope full of cash and the promise that “Uncle Tony” would be there if Iler ever needed help.
But Sirico also had an intimidating side. When producer-writer Terence Winter started on the show, he had an encounter with Sirico on his first day. Sirico’s message was simple: If Paulie dies on the show, the writers would be next.
Needless to say, Sirico had about as many quirks in as Paulie Walnuts had on the screen. That included the habit of spraying Binaca into people’s mouths, just as Paulie did in the “Commendatori” episode.
Tony Sirico shared Paulie Walnuts’ passion for Binaca while working on ‘The Sopranos’
In “Commendatori” (season 2 episode 4), the crew goes to Italy, and it’s the first time Paulie’s made it to the old country (same for Sirico). Paulie feels enchanted right away. He can’t help chatting with everyone from random pedestrians to the prostitute who visits him in his room
But he doesn’t relax his standards for fresh breath while on vacation. After conducting their business, the prostitute freshens up in the bathroom and sits back on the bed. Then Paulie stops her. “Ah-ah,” he says. When she turns in his direction, he tells he to say “Ah” again and sprays Binaca in her mouth.
Sopranos cast members who worked with Sirico knew that move all too well. “If you’re doing a scene with him, he’d say, ‘Open your mouth. Open your mouth. Blow the stink off. Blow the stink off.’ And he sprays Binaca in your mouth,'” Schirripa said on the Talking Sopranos podcast.
Sirico didn’t stop there when it came to the aroma of fellow castmates. Schirripa and Talking Sopranos co-host Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti) recalled Sirico’s habit of dousing them with cologne on the set.
Sirico also hit ‘Sopranos’ co-stars with regular sprays of cologne
If your breath needed help, Sirico turned to Binaca. If he believed a fellow actor could use a little cologne, he went for a bottle of Calvin Klein’s Obsession he carried in his pocket. And soon enough his castmates smelled like he did.
“He had a tiny, travel-size cologne bottle,” Imperioli said. “And he’ll [spray it on his hands] and put it on you.” Schirripa knew the feeling well. “He smacks you in the face with [the cologne] and then you smell like Tony Sirico/Paulie Walnuts all day for two days,” he said.
When traveling together, Schirripa could sense whenever Sirico was about to appear. “In a hotel lobby, I’d smell it and, sure enough, here he comes. I could smell him 15 feet away.” And Sirico even considered cologne as a business opportunity.
“Didn’t Tony Sirico put out a cologne?” Imperioli asked. “Yes, Paolo [after Paulie],” Schirripa replied. “It wasn’t just a bottle he put a label on. He went up there and [tested the scents].”