LOS ANGELES: James Gandolfini, the burly actor best known for his Emmy-winning portrayal of a conflicted New Jersey mob boss in the groundbreaking TV series “The Sopranos,” died on Wednesday while vacationing in Rome, HBO said.Gandolfini, 51, died of a possible heart attack,
Gandolfini, whose role as Tony Soprano made him a household name while transforming the HBO network and ushering in a new era of drama on American television, had been scheduled to attend the closing of the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily on Saturday.
Since “The Sopranos” ended its six-season run in June 2007, Gandolfini appeared in a number of big-screen roles, including “Zero Dark Thirty,” a film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and the comedy “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.”
At the time of his death, he had been working on an upcoming HBO series “Criminal Justice.” HBO declined to elaborate on the series other than to say that it was in development and that Gandolfini was a part of it.
He had two motion pictures due in theaters next year.
“We’re all in shock and feeling immeasurable sadness at the loss of a beloved member of our family,” the network said in a statement. “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.”
Born in Westwood, New Jersey, Gandolfini was raised in a working-class, Italian-American family by a father who was a bricklayer and high school custodian and a mother who worked in a school cafeteria.
In an interview on the television programme “Inside the Actors Studio,” he said his parents spoke Italian in the home when they did not want the children to understand them.
“So they didn’t teach it to my sisters or myself,” he said.
Gandolfini had a son, Michael, with his first wife, Marcy Wudarski, whom he divorced in 2002. In 2008, he married model Deborah Lin, who gave birth to a daughter, Liliana, in 2012