‘Sopranos’ star James Gandolfini dies
Actor suffers suspected heart attack while on holiday in Rome
James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano in a scene from one of the last episodes of the HBO TV series The Sopranos.
A picture of actor James Gandolfini displayed in the window of a restaurant in the Little Italy neighborhood of New York after news of his death became known. Photograph: Eric Thayer/Reuters
Tony Soprano with his stooges, in a scene from The Sopranos.
Cast member James Gandolfini and his wife Deborah Lin pose at the premiere of HBO Films’ Cinema Verite at Paramount Pictures Studio in Los Angeles in April 2011. Photograph: Danny Moloshok/Reuters
James Gandolfini speaks during the Cinema Verite panel at the 2011 Winter TCA press tour at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena, California. Photograph: Frederick M Brown/Getty Images
James Gandolfini holds up his award for winning Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series in The Sopranos at the 14th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles in this January 27, 2008 file photo.Photograph: Danny Moloshok/Reuters
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 US television, had been scheduled to attend the closing of the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily this Saturday.
He died of a possible heart attack in Rome, said HBO spokeswoman Mara Mikialian.
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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 crime drama Killing Them Softly.
At the time of his death he had been working on an upcoming HBO series, Criminal Justice. He had two film s due in cinemas next year.
“We’re all in shock and feeling immeasurable sadness at the loss of a beloved member of our family,” HBO 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.”
Gandolfini began his career as a stage actor in New York and went on to earn a Tony nomination for his role in the original 2009 Broadway cast of the black comedy God of Carnage. But he gained fame and broke ground with his signature portrait of the title character in The Sopranos, playing the head of a fictional New Jersey mob family.
Although he shared the character’s Italian-American heritage and New Jersey roots, the actor was known for a reserved demeanour off-camera and generally shied away from publicity.
As Tony Soprano, Gandolfini created a gangster different from any previously seen in US television or film. He was capable of killing enemies with his own hands but was prone to panic attacks. He loved his wife, Carmela, played by Edie Falco, and was a doting father, but he carried on a string of extramarital affairs.
He regularly saw a therapist, portrayed by Lorraine Bracco, to work out his anxiety problems and issues with his mother.
By the start of the show’s final season, Gandolfini suggested he was ready to move on to more gentle roles once his TV mobster days were over. “I’m too tired to be a tough guy or any of that stuff anymore,” he said. “We pretty much used all that up in this show.”
The programme, which earned Gandolfini three Emmy Awards as best lead actor in a drama series, was considered by many critics at the time the finest drama to have aired on US television.
The series was a major factor in establishing HBO, a pay-cable network once focused on presentations of feature films, as a powerhouse of original dramatic television and in shifting the kind of sophisticated storytelling once reserved for the big screen to TV.