Sopranos Star James Gandolfini Dead at 51, Hailed as 'One of the Greatest Actors of Any Time'

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James Gandolfini DeadSopranos star James Gandolfini has passed away at the age of 51.

Per Deadline, the actor died on Wednesday of a suspected heart attack while in Italy. He was 51.

During his estimable run as The Sopranos‘ paterfamilias Tony, Gandolfini earned three Emmys in five tries, as well as a Golden Globe award. He also stands as the only three-time winner for the Television Critics Association Award for Individual Achievement in Drama.

In an email to Deadline, former HBO Chairman Chris Albrecht, who in 1997 greenlit the crime family saga, declared himself “absolutely stunned. I got the word from Lorraine Bracco [who played Dr. Melfi] and just got off with [producer] Brad Grey who had just heard from [Sopranos creator] David Chase. We had all become a family. This is a tremendous loss.”

HBO also issued a formal statement on their onetime front man’s passing:

“We’re all in shock and feeling immeasurable sadness at the loss of a beloved member of our family. He was 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. He touched so many of us over the years with his humor, his warmth and his humility. Our hearts go out to his wife and children during this terrible time. He will be deeply missed by all of us.”


Sopranos creator David Chase echoed those sentiments in his statement:

“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. 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. For [Gandolfini's family] this is crushing. And it’s bad for the rest of the world. He wasn’t easy sometimes. But he was my partner, he was my brother in ways I can’t explain and never will be able to explain.”


Gandolfini’s film career kicked off in 1993 with True Romance, followed by Crimson Tide and Get Shorty. His more recent credits include last year’s acclaimed Zero Dark Thirty (where he played the CIA director) and the indie Not Fade Away.

His post-Sopranos small-screen appearances included HBO’s Cinema Verite and Nickelodeon’s recently premiered Nicky Deuce TV-movie. He was next to star in HBO’s adaptation of the BBC series Criminal Justice, which last month was greenlit for a seven-episode run.

Also, screenwriter Rod Lurie, in the wake of Gandolfini’s passing, shared on Twitter that the actor was to star in his HBO project Sacco and Vanzetti, about the controversially executed 1920s anarchists.

On the stage, he made his Broadway debut in the 1992 revival of A Streetcar Named Desire (with Jessica Lange and Alec Baldwin), and he earned a Tony Award nomination in 2009 for God of Carnage.

The actor is survived by his wife Deborah Lin and their 8-month-old daughter Liliana, and his 14-year-old son Michael (from a previous marriage).

Watch Gandolfini accept his first Emmy, in 2000:



Comments (77)

  • So sad. RIP

    Comment by Lana – June 19, 2013 04:49 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • So sad. So young. Loved The Sopranos.

    Comment by Tori Melching (@lizjaxe) – June 19, 2013 04:49 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Reblogged this on karensunhumbleopinion and commented:
    This sux!

    Comment by karensunhumbleopinion – June 19, 2013 04:49 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • SAD SAD NEWS….GOD BLESS YOU TONY

    Comment by Lorena – June 19, 2013 04:50 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Devastated!

    Comment by Wayne T – June 19, 2013 04:51 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Wow. So sad.

    Comment by Matthew Swanson – June 19, 2013 04:51 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • :( my dad is so bummed. he was always hoping they would go back and explain the series ending.

    Comment by Elyse – June 19, 2013 04:53 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Yeah I was always hoping there would be a movie or something sometime down the road

      Comment by Martina – June 19, 2013 05:05 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • Well if Tony actually died at the end of the series they could still do the movie since he would have only been in it in a limited capacity…

        Comment by Billy – June 19, 2013 05:17 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • So sad , my grandson just started watching the Sopranos and we were also hoping for a reunion shop

      Comment by Kim Brewington – June 19, 2013 07:12 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Why are there reports of this being a hoax? Really confused

    Comment by Scarlett Sharron – June 19, 2013 04:54 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Maybe it’s because it was so sudden?

      Comment by VL – June 19, 2013 05:06 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I believe there was a hoax of him dying last week. Kinda eerie and creepy.

      Comment by Chris Engelke – June 19, 2013 05:45 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I think it’s disrespectful for the headline to say ‘DEAD AT 51.’ What would it hurt to say ‘passed away’ instead?

    Comment by James – June 19, 2013 04:54 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I too feel that its a little harsh, but its the way most news outlets report these types of things.

      Comment by Christie – June 19, 2013 05:02 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Saying “passed away”, while it is the more polite term, buries the lead here. The story is that a famous actor died at a tragically young age. If a star is old enough where death isn’t a huge shock, the headline would be more likely to include the words “passed away”.

      Comment by Caroline – June 19, 2013 05:05 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • No offense but that is completely asinine. Dead is not an offensive word. People die. Passed away is not the proper term to use in a story about death. The PC US is getting completely ridiculous in how people are offending by everything including the word dead. SMH!

        Comment by GS – June 20, 2013 05:52 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • “Dead” has always been standard for news reporting.

      Comment by Will – June 19, 2013 06:07 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • How is it disrespectful or harsh? The fact is, he’s dead. Disrespectful would be saying he “kicked the bucket” or something like that. There’s nothing wrong with the word dead. Why don’t you expend your righteous indignation on something that actually matters?

      Comment by Chris – June 19, 2013 08:52 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I keep expecting to read that this is just a internet hoax because it just does not seem real

    Comment by Amanda – June 19, 2013 04:54 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • it’s been confirmed by his management and HBO. Very sad.

      Comment by Ronnie – June 19, 2013 05:09 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • No! But he was so young! And so darn talented! So sad… RIP James.

    Comment by Liz – June 19, 2013 04:56 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • RIP 51 is way too young to die, he made Tony Soprano such an iconic character, and his daughter is not even 1 yet :(

    Comment by Martina – June 19, 2013 05:04 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Very sad news and also an avid Sopranos fan. RIP Tony Soprano :-(

    Comment by Jack Bauer 2.0 – June 19, 2013 05:09 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • That is really sad…I hope everyone keeps their comments respectful.

    Comment by Molly – June 19, 2013 05:12 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Total complete shock cannot believe it

    Comment by joe – June 19, 2013 05:13 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • He gave one of the most iconic performances that television will ever see. RIP.

    Comment by Superhero – June 19, 2013 05:15 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Prayers for his family.

    Comment by Babybop – June 19, 2013 05:18 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Horrible news!! RIP James!! :(

    Comment by Katrina – June 19, 2013 05:19 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • heartbreaking. RIP to a powerhouse of a talent.

    Comment by marge – June 19, 2013 05:32 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Damn. :(

    Comment by Midori – June 19, 2013 05:37 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • This is so shocking. He just had a baby last year… so sad! What a horrible shame. Condolences to his family and friends. Just awful.

    Comment by Erin – June 19, 2013 05:40 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Really SAD

    Comment by Lulu – June 19, 2013 05:42 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I am deeply saddened by this news what a loss for the world as he was an amazing actor loved his work god bless you

    Comment by Misty – June 19, 2013 05:48 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • God, so sad. Much too young, and with young children. Prayers for the family.

    Comment by lariet50 – June 19, 2013 05:49 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • We just lost one of the great ones

    Comment by David nicolosi – June 19, 2013 05:53 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • He was quoted as saying he could not in good conscience continue playing Tony Soprano and was the one who insisted Tony go out in death. What a good, good man with a great, great heart. A superb actor. You will be missed. Rest in peace.

    Comment by april-ann – June 19, 2013 05:53 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • So sad he was a great actor in all that he did
    He will greatly be missed. Heart goes out to his wife and children and all his HBO family

    Comment by Debbie – June 19, 2013 05:58 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Proof that even being a star doesn’t preclude you from the repercussions of obesity.

    Comment by Jase – June 19, 2013 06:00 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Let this be a lesson to all on the dangers of overweight and obesity. It puts a massive strain on the heart.

    Comment by Caitlin P – June 19, 2013 06:06 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • So does running!

      Comment by JBC – June 19, 2013 06:34 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • We’re not saying we’re glad he’s gone or that he deserved to die (nobody does). But it’s a FACT that he was overweight and since he died from a (likely) heart attack, yeah that has something to do with it.

        Comment by Jase – June 19, 2013 06:56 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
        • This isn’t the time for that Jase. People are grieving. Show some respect.

          Comment by april-ann – June 19, 2013 07:00 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
        • Troll – go back under your bridge please. Many, many things can contribute to heart disease and myocardial infarctions. Obesity can play a role, but so can genetics, arrythmias, undetected valve irregularities, and one of the biggest and most undiagnosed – sleep apnea which has a high morbidity/mortality rate (especially in women). To assume that if one has a high BMI that they are a magnet for an MI is ignorant.

          Comment by Dee – June 20, 2013 03:43 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
          • I’m an MD and you’re an idiot. Even if he didn’t die as a direct result of his obesity, it is intellectually dishonest to assert that his obesity left him in a healthy state that was otherwise interrupted by arrhythmia, irregularities etc.

            Comment by Jase – June 20, 2013 09:31 AM PDT  
        • Look at TMZ’s pictures from a few days ago. He was not overweight enough to cause a heart attack. People who have heart attacks at 51 usually have more severe health problems.

          Comment by Lulu – June 20, 2013 06:02 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • …sorry JBC that was a mistake by me..the others weren’t though…my apologies.

        Comment by april-ann – June 19, 2013 06:56 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • Anorexia and bulimia are hard on the heart too.

        Comment by Carla – June 19, 2013 08:33 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • So does sleep apnea/snoring. Thin people have heart attacks, too.

      Comment by MelindaB – June 19, 2013 09:13 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Very sad… He was a great actor! I’m a fan of the Sopranos too, currently watching the last episodes. :/

    Comment by Jon Snow – June 19, 2013 06:06 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Very sad news, passing away at such a young age. Prayers to his family…

    Comment by K. – June 19, 2013 06:12 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • This is so sad. My thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones.

    Comment by CJ – June 19, 2013 06:18 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I am in shock I have admired his work for years. He was always at the top of his game. It is a deep loss to his family his friends and his fans. Peace James. Your work will always be remembered

    Comment by Kevin – June 19, 2013 06:18 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • well that sucks. what a terrible loss. my heart goes out to his family and friends. RIP you will be sorely missed.

    Comment by James – June 19, 2013 06:23 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I’m appalled, but not particularly surprised, by the number of people already leaping to wield gandolfini’s death as a weapon in their anti-obesity campaign. the news only broke a few hours ago, and the internet has turned into a flash mob.

    RIP, james. my condolences to your family and loved ones.

    Comment by Betsy – June 19, 2013 06:29 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • After the initial shock of this news I realized just how sad I am about James Gandolfini’s death :( He and The Sopranos set the bar for cable programming.
    RIP James.

    Comment by Eliza – June 19, 2013 06:34 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Prayers for deep comfort and strength to James Gandolfini’s family at this heart wrenching and sad time.

    Comment by JBC – June 19, 2013 06:40 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Let this be a warning for 2016. Don’t vote for Chris Christie.

    Comment by Jase – June 19, 2013 06:57 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.

    Comment by TVPeong – June 19, 2013 07:13 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • The Sopranos is one of my all time favorite shows. I rewatch it every couple of years. Never tire of it. James Gandolfini was superb as Tony Soprano and I was a fan of his acting roles in films. He will be deeply missed. Still in shock. Rest in Peace James Gandolfini.

    Comment by DanielleZ – June 19, 2013 07:20 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • RIP James. You were Tony S personified and so deserving of the awards. I am so sorry for your family.

    Comment by Tara – June 19, 2013 07:35 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Bye to James but Tony Soprano for the eternity. RIP.

    Comment by borihan – June 19, 2013 08:46 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • James Gandolfini ONE of the BEST ACTORS in the world
      TONY SAPRANO GREATEST MOBSTER ON TV………HANDS DOWN………R.I.P!!!!!

      Comment by Ashley – June 20, 2013 08:02 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Sorry for his little girl and family..gone too soon. RIP.

    Comment by tahina – June 19, 2013 08:50 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • How very sad. I never watched the Sopranos, but I did enjoy his work in other projects. My sympathies to his wife, son, and daughter, and his other family and friends who feel the loss of one gone too soon.

    Comment by MelindaB – June 19, 2013 09:05 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • This made me so sad….

    Comment by Susan - Canada – June 19, 2013 09:10 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • He was brilliant in Welcome to the Rileys and Zero Dark Thirty (only two things I’ve seen him in). RIP.

    Comment by John – June 19, 2013 09:23 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • This is a big one. JimmyG was a major force in popular culture whether he knew it or not. This is a huge blow, but thanks to the higher forces that he met the right people at the right time and the writers, actors, directors and everyone else converged to create such a fantastic contribution to our lives. If you didn’t get into “The Sopranos” you missed a lot of fun, fantastic acting, brilliant storytelling and a slice of American life that could never have been described or shown better than it was on HBO. It all started with Tony, and James Gandolfini was born to play that role. May he rest and peace. Thanks so much for the years, and years of joy you gave me, Mr. Gandolfini. Blessed are your son & daughter that at least they have many hours of you they can watch on film. You will be missed forever.

    Comment by Gioconda D'alberi – June 19, 2013 09:47 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Great actor. RIP.

    Comment by Polly – June 19, 2013 10:45 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Magnificent site. A lot of helpful information here. I’m sending it to a few pals ans additionally sharing in delicious. And certainly, thanks to your effort!

    Comment by photo – June 20, 2013 12:38 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • While I didn’t watch The Sopranos, I’m still sad that he’s gone at such a young age (my definition of old continues to go up as my age does) and so sad for his family and young kids. I really hate people who hide behind their keyboards and push their agendas during a sad time. Anyone can have a heart attack so please stop with the obesity crap. A family just lost their husband and father. No one really cares to read about anti obesity campaigns right now.

    Comment by GS – June 20, 2013 05:58 AM PDT  Reply To This Post

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