The unforgettable James Gandolfini, whose tag line as Tony Soprano on The Sopranos (HBO) was “Forget about it,” has died of an apparent heart attack in Italy today at the age of 51, according to HBO spokeswoman Mara Mikialian.
Gandolfini was in Italy to attend the 59th Taormina Film Festival in Sicily. There, he was also scheduled to participate in a festival event this weekend with Italian director Gabriele Muccino.
He began his career in live theater, but then rose to fame by playing a hitman in the 1993 hit “True Romance,” and Gandolfini became a Hollywood legend when he was cast in 1999 in the role of Tony Soprano in The Sopranos. He won 3 Emmy awards for the role during the show’s 6 season run.
James Gandolfini also appeared in several blockbuster movies, like “Get Shorty,” “The Mexican,” the comedy “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” and the thriller, “Zero Dark Thirty.” There was some talk that a “sopranos” movie was in the works, as well, and that he would reprise his role as Tony Soprano.’
He stole the show as a gay hitman in “The Mexican.” This was soon followed by an appearance in the Coen Brothers’ flick “The Man Who Wasn’t There.” James Gandolfini also portrayed an unusually sympathetic villain in “The Last Castle.”
At the time of his death, Gandolfini had also been working on an upcoming new HBO series titled “Criminal Justice.”
“He 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. He touched so many of us over the years with his humor, his warmth and his humility,” an HBO spokesperson stated.
Celebrity expressions of condolences for James Gandolfini have already begun to roll in via social media. Joseph R. Annascoli, aka Vito on “The Sopranos,” said that:
“James is one guy who never turned his back on me. He was the most humble and gifted actor and person I have ever worked with.” Annascoli added: “He was a great man and I will forever be indebted to him. “
Some tweets by celebrities have also noted, with sadness, Gandolfini’s passing today. One from the Golden Globe Awards stated: “James Gandolfini has died in Italy. Rest in Peace to a wonderful man and actor. You’ll be missed.”
Senator John McCain tweeted: “RIP James Gandolfini, one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.”
Ewan McGregor also tweeted his feelings of sadness and loss at James Gandolfini’s death: “Jesus. The world just lost one of its great actors. James Gandolfini has passed away. Thoughts to his family. Such a talent. I’m saddened.”
He is survived by his wife, Deborah Lin, a son, and a daughter from a previous marriage.
The truly unforgettable James Gandolfini, dead at 51. He will be missed, though he will always live on in our memories and his fantastic performances on TV and in the movies.
Written by: Douglas Cobb