Sopranos Star James Gandolfini Dies in Italy

James Gandolfini, who became super-popular after playing a mob boss, died after suffering a massive heart attack
Sopranos Star James Gandolfini Dies in Italy
James Gandolfini

James Gandolfini died suddenly in Italy on Wednesday (19 June).

The 51-year-old actor, best known for playing Tony Soprano on The Sopranos, reportedly suffered a massive heart attack.

The media-shy star, who has a nine-month-old daughter with his wife of almost five years Deborah Lin, as well as a teenage son, Michael, with his ex-wife, Marcy Wudarski, was in Italy to attend the 59th Taormina Film Festival in Sicily, which he was due to participate in this weekend with Italian director Gabriele Muccino.

It has now emerged that the actor was with son Michael in Italy as part of a "guys' trip" to spend time together before attending the Taormina Film Festival .

A source close to the actor told the New York Daily News: "Everyone is in tears."

A statement from executives at HBO - the network behind The Sopranos - read: "He was 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."

And former HBO boss Chris Albrecht, who brought The Sopranos to TV screens, added, "Jimmy was the spiritual core of our Sopranos family, and I am stunned at this devastating loss. He was a great talent, but an even better man."

David Chase, the show's creator, was one of the first to release a statement, which read, "He was a genius. Anyone who saw him even in the smallest of his performances knows that. He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time. A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes. 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. He wasn't easy sometimes. But he was my partner, he was my brother in ways I can't explain and never will be able to explain."

Lorraine Bracco, who played Tony Soprano's psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Melfi, simply said, "We lost a giant today. I am utterly heartbroken."

Rocker/actor Steven Van Zandt, who played Tony's partner Silvio Dante, posted on Facebook, "I have lost a brother and a best friend. The world has lost one of the greatest actors of all time. (My wife) Maureen and I send our deepest sympathy and love to (Gandolfini's wife) Deborah, (his kids) Michael, Lily, and all of Jimmy's family."

Co-star Joseph R. Gannascoli, who played Vito Spatafore, adds, "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. He was a great man and I will forever be indebted to him", while Steve Schirripa, The Sopranos' Bobby Baccalieri, says, "Jimmy was a dear friend and like a brother to me. He was a great actor and a great father. I will miss him terribly. I am very sad."

The Sopranos ran for six seasons between 1999 and 2007.

The three-time Emmy Award winner first found fame in 1992 when he landed a role in a Broadway version of A Streetcar Named Desire alongside Alec Baldwin and Jessica Lange.

Shortly afterwards he played a hitman in the 1993 movie True Romance and went on to enjoy a hugely successful career.

Some of his other credits include Zero Dark Thirty, The Mexican and Get Shorty.

James also starred in the hit Broadway comedy God of Carnage in 2009, which won a prestigious Tony Award.

He recently completed filming the crime movie Animal Rescue alongside Tom Hardy.