Sopranos star dies aged 51
Star of hit television show The Sopranos, James Gandolfini, died on Wednesday while on holiday in Rome.
The 51-year-old actor, who is best known for his award-winning portrayal of New Jersey mafia boss Tony Soprano, is believed to have suffered a heart attack.
The news of Gandolfini’s death was announced by his managers, Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders. They said in a statement: “It is with immense sorrow that we report our client James Gandolfini passed away today while on holiday in Rome, Italy. Our hearts are shattered and we will miss him deeply.”
David Chase, creator of The Sopranos, heralded the star as “a genius” and “one of the greatest actors of this or any time.”
“A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes,” Chase said. “I remember telling him many times, ‘You don’t get it. You’re like Mozart.’ There would be silence at the other end of the phone.”
Gandolfini won three Emmy awards for his role in The Sopranos while the series itself received a number of accolades and has been voted the best television show of all time.
Previously working as a truck driver, bouncer and nightclub manager, the working-class New Jersey native only began acting after attending an acting class with one of his friends.
Gandolfini’s Broadway debut came in 1992 when he starred in a revival of Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire alongside Alec Baldwin and Jessica Lange.
The star was currently working on a number of projects for American broadcaster HBO, including a new series, Criminal Justice.
A spokesman from HBO said: “We’re all in shock and feeling immeasurable sadness at the loss of a beloved member of our family. 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.”
Galdonfini leaves a son, Michael, from his first marriage to Marcy Wudarski, and a one-year-old daughter, Liliana, from his current marriage to Deborah Lin, whom he married in 2008.