Sopranos star James Gandolfini dies
James Gandolfini, the actor famous for his lead role in mob drama The Sopranos, has died in Italy, according to his managers.
The 51-year-old died on Wednesday while on holiday in Rome, according to HBO and the actor's managers Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders.
It is understood Gandolfini was in Italy to attend the 59th Taormina Film Festival.
In a statement, HBO called the actor a great talent and a gentle and loving person.
Gandolfini played conflicted mob boss Tony Soprano in the groundbreaking HBO series that aired from 1999 to 2007. His film credits included Zero Dark Thirty and Killing Them Softly, and he appeared in the Broadway production God Of Carnage.
"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," Gandolfini's managers said.
Gandolfini's performance as Tony Soprano was indelible and career-making, but he refused to be stereotyped as the bulky mobster who was a therapy patient, family man and cold-blooded killer.
After the series concluded with an ending that left viewers guessing, Gandolfini's varied film work also took in comedy, with Armando Ianucci's political satire In the Loop, and voiceover as the Wild Thing Carol in Where the Wild Things Are. Gandolfini also shared a Broadway stage in 2009 with Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis and Marcia Gay Harden in the celebrated production of God Of Carnage, for which he earned a Tony Award nomination for best actor. He also was in On the Waterfront with David Morse.
In a December interview, Gandolfini said he gravitated to acting as a release, a way to get rid of anger. "I don't know what exactly I was angry about," he said. "I try to avoid certain things and certain kinds of violence at this point," he said. "I'm getting older, too. I don't want to be beating people up as much. I don't want to be beating women up and those kinds of things that much any more."
Sopranos creater David Chase said: "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." And Lorraine Bracco, who played Tony's psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi in The Sopranos, said: "I had the greatest sparring partner in the world, I had Muhammad Ali. He cares what he does, and does it extremely well."