James Gandolfini, the award-wining star of the HBO drama “The Sopranos,” has died in Rome. He was 51 years old.
The Emmy Award-winning actor was famous for his role in the HBO drama “The Sopranos.” In it he played the role of Tony Soprano, a tough-talking, hard-living mobster.
HBO confirmed that Mr. Gandolfini died while vacationing in Rome. He was scheduled to attend the Taormina Film Fest in Sicily this week. The cause of his death has not been stated, but an HBO spokesman said he may have suffered a heart attack.
“It is with immense sorrow that we report our client, James Gandolfini, passed away today while on holiday in Rome, Italy,” his managers, Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders said in a joint statement. “Our hearts are shattered and we will miss him deeply. He and his family were part of our family for many years and we are all grieving.”
“The Sopranos,” in which Mr. Gandolfini played the role of an anxiety-ridden, tightly wound Tony Saprano became an instant hit on HBO. It also flourished the careers of television writers like Matthew Weiner, creator of the AMC drama “Mad Men,” and Terence Winter who made “Boardwalk Empire.”
Condolences were pouring in from the entertainment industry.
In a statement, HBO said Mr. Gandolfini “was a special man, a great talent, but more importantly, a gentle and loving person who treated everyone no matter their title or position with equal respect.”
David Chase, the creator of the HBO series, said Mr. Gandolfini was “one of the greatest actors of this or any time. A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes.” He went on to say that he remembered telling Mr. Gandolfini many times, “you don’t get it. You’re like Mozart.”
Steve Van Zandt, the actor who played Tony Soprano’s confidant Silvio Dante, expressed his loss. “I have lost a brother and a best friend,” he posted on Twitter. “The world has lost one of the greatest actors of all time.”
Matthew Warchus, who directed Mr. Gandolfini in the 2009 Broadway play “God of Carnage,” told reporters that Mr. Gandolfini was just so good at emotion. “A very passionate man and a very, very tender man. I really loved him and admired him a great deal.”
Larry King, a former talk show host, said Mr. Gandolfini stamped himself in ‘The Sopranos’ so much that “people have overlooked his many diversified roles he’s performed. He was a very diverse character actor, who became a star.”
Mr. Gandolfini was born as James Joseph Gandolfini Jr., in Westwood, N.J., on Sept. 18, 1961. He grew up in Park Ridge, in Bergen County, N.J. His father, an Italian immigrant, worked at several jobs, including that of janitor, bricklayer and mason. His mother worked as a high school cafeteria chef.
Mr. Gandolfini attended Park Ridge High School and Rutgers University, also an alma mater of singer, actor and civil rights activist Paul Leroy Robeson.
Mr. Gandolfini graduated in 1983 with a degree in communications. According to reports in his early life, Mr. Gandolfini drove a delivery truck, and worked at bars and night clubs in Manhattan before turning to acting.
Mr. Gandolfini was initially cast in tough but appealing gangster roles, in films like “True Romance” (1993) and “The Juror” (1996).
He was largely unknown until cast in “The Sopranos” in 1999.
Reports say Mr. Gandolfini body will lie in a hospital morgue in Rome, until the U.S. Embassy issues a death certificate. The “Sopranos” actor’s remains will then be returned to the United States.
By Perviz Walji