Doctor describes attempt to revive ‘Sopranos’ actor Gandolfini

Actor had been scheduled to attend closing of Taormina Film Festival in Sicily on Saturday

Doctors in Italy battled for 40 minutes to save the life of James Gandolfini, the burly actor best known for his Emmy-winning role as a mob boss in the TV series The Sopranos, before pronouncing him dead yesterday at the age of 51.

Gandolfini, whose performance as Tony Soprano made him a household name and ushered in a new era of American television drama, was holidaying in Rome and had been scheduled to attend the closing of the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily on Saturday.

He was taken from his Rome hotel to the city’s Umberto I hospital late on Wednesday, according to a hospital spokesperson.

“The resuscitation manoeuvres, including heart massage etc, continued for 40 minutes and then, seeing no electric activity from the heart, this was interrupted and we declared James dead,” emergency room chief Claudio Modini said.

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“The patient was considered dead on arrival, and for that reason an autopsy has been requested to be carried out by a pathologist, as is normal procedure in our country.”

The autopsy has been scheduled for this morning.

Michael Kobold, a friend of the family, said the actor was found by a relative at his hotel in central Rome after apparently suffering a heart attack.

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, Gandolfini had been working on an upcoming HBO series, Criminal Justice, and had two motion pictures due out next year.

Actress Edie Falco, who played Gandolfini's wife, Carmela, in The Sopranos, said she was devastated by his passing.

“He was a man of tremendous depth and sensitivity, with a kindness and generosity beyond words. I consider myself very lucky to have spent 10 years as his close colleague,” she said in a statement.


Stage actor
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 dark comedy God of Carnage.

While he shared Tony Soprano’s Italian-American heritage and New Jersey roots, the actor was known for his reserved demeanour off-camera and generally shied away from publicity.

New Jersey governor Chris Christie described the actor's sudden death as a shock.

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 any more,” 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 the finest drama to have aired on US television.

David Chase, creator of The Sopranos, said he would remember Gandolfini as "a genius" and "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,” Chase said in a statement. – (Reuters)