James Gandolfini, Star Of The Sopranos, Dies Aged 51

The actor, who portrayed one of TV's most iconic characters, passed away whilst on holiday in Italy

James Gandolfini, who played mafia boss Tony Soprano on the smash hit TV series The Sopranos, has died of a suspected heart attack whilst on holiday in Italy. He was 51.

The actor, who scooped numerous awards for his portrayal of one of the most iconic on-screen characters in history, had been due to appear at a film festival in Sicily this weekend but died on Wednesday in Rome. Although no official cause of death has been released, unconfirmed reports suggest it was either a heart attack or stroke.

Colleagues from the HBO show were quick to express their shock after news of the star’s death broke. Sopranos creator David Chase called James, who also starred in films such as True Romance, In The Loop, Zero Dark Thirty and the Kristen Stewart movie Welcome To The Rileys, ‘one of the greatest actors of this or any time’.

He told TMZ.com: ‘[James] 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.’

Tony Sirico, who played Paulie in the gangster show, said: ‘He was there whenever I needed him. Not only did he help me with my career, but also in life, God bless him.’ While Joseph Gannascoli, who played Vito, added: ‘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.’

The New Jersey-born actor’s iconic and titanic performance as mob boss Tony in the noughties show changed the face of TV for good and elevated it to the same status as film with its brilliant writing, plots and character development. His portrayal of the lovable thug is regularly voted the best character in the history of TV.

James is survived by his wife Deborah Lin, who gave birth to the couple’s daughter in October. He also has a teenage son from a previous marriage.

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