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

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:

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77 Comments
  1. Lana says:

    So sad. RIP

  2. So sad. So young. Loved The Sopranos.

  3. Reblogged this on karensunhumbleopinion and commented:
    This sux!

  4. Lorena says:

    SAD SAD NEWS….GOD BLESS YOU TONY

  5. Wayne T says:

    Devastated!

  6. Matthew Swanson says:

    Wow. So sad.

  7. Elyse says:

    :( my dad is so bummed. he was always hoping they would go back and explain the series ending.

    • Martina says:

      Yeah I was always hoping there would be a movie or something sometime down the road

      • Billy says:

        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…

    • Kim Brewington says:

      So sad , my grandson just started watching the Sopranos and we were also hoping for a reunion shop

  8. Scarlett Sharron says:

    Why are there reports of this being a hoax? Really confused

  9. James says:

    I think it’s disrespectful for the headline to say ‘DEAD AT 51.’ What would it hurt to say ‘passed away’ instead?

    • Christie says:

      I too feel that its a little harsh, but its the way most news outlets report these types of things.

    • Caroline says:

      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”.

      • GS says:

        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!

    • Will says:

      “Dead” has always been standard for news reporting.

    • Chris says:

      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?

  10. Amanda says:

    I keep expecting to read that this is just a internet hoax because it just does not seem real

  11. Liz says:

    No! But he was so young! And so darn talented! So sad… RIP James.

  12. Martina says:

    RIP 51 is way too young to die, he made Tony Soprano such an iconic character, and his daughter is not even 1 yet :(

  13. Very sad news and also an avid Sopranos fan. RIP Tony Soprano :-(

  14. Molly says:

    That is really sad…I hope everyone keeps their comments respectful.

  15. joe says:

    Total complete shock cannot believe it

  16. Superhero says:

    He gave one of the most iconic performances that television will ever see. RIP.

  17. Babybop says:

    Prayers for his family.

  18. Katrina says:

    Horrible news!! RIP James!! :(

  19. marge says:

    heartbreaking. RIP to a powerhouse of a talent.

  20. Midori says:

    Damn. :(

  21. Erin says:

    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.

  22. Lulu says:

    Really SAD

  23. Misty says:

    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

  24. lariet50 says:

    God, so sad. Much too young, and with young children. Prayers for the family.

  25. David nicolosi says:

    We just lost one of the great ones

  26. april-ann says:

    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.

  27. Debbie says:

    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

  28. Jase says:

    Proof that even being a star doesn’t preclude you from the repercussions of obesity.

  29. Caitlin P says:

    Let this be a lesson to all on the dangers of overweight and obesity. It puts a massive strain on the heart.

    • JBC says:

      So does running!

      • Jase says:

        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.

        • april-ann says:

          This isn’t the time for that Jase. People are grieving. Show some respect.

        • Dee says:

          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.

          • Jase says:

            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.

        • Lulu says:

          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.

      • april-ann says:

        …sorry JBC that was a mistake by me..the others weren’t though…my apologies.

      • Carla says:

        Anorexia and bulimia are hard on the heart too.

    • MelindaB says:

      So does sleep apnea/snoring. Thin people have heart attacks, too.

  30. Jon Snow says:

    Very sad… He was a great actor! I’m a fan of the Sopranos too, currently watching the last episodes. :/

  31. K. says:

    Very sad news, passing away at such a young age. Prayers to his family…

  32. CJ says:

    This is so sad. My thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones.

  33. Kevin says:

    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

  34. James says:

    well that sucks. what a terrible loss. my heart goes out to his family and friends. RIP you will be sorely missed.

  35. Betsy says:

    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.

  36. Eliza says:

    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.

  37. JBC says:

    Prayers for deep comfort and strength to James Gandolfini’s family at this heart wrenching and sad time.

  38. Jase says:

    Let this be a warning for 2016. Don’t vote for Chris Christie.

  39. TVPeong says:

    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.

  40. DanielleZ says:

    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.

  41. Tara says:

    RIP James. You were Tony S personified and so deserving of the awards. I am so sorry for your family.

  42. borihan says:

    Bye to James but Tony Soprano for the eternity. RIP.

    • Ashley says:

      James Gandolfini ONE of the BEST ACTORS in the world
      TONY SAPRANO GREATEST MOBSTER ON TV………HANDS DOWN………R.I.P!!!!!

  43. tahina says:

    Sorry for his little girl and family..gone too soon. RIP.

  44. MelindaB says:

    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.

  45. Susan - Canada says:

    This made me so sad….

  46. John says:

    He was brilliant in Welcome to the Rileys and Zero Dark Thirty (only two things I’ve seen him in). RIP.

  47. Gioconda D'alberi says:

    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.

  48. Polly says:

    Great actor. RIP.

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  50. GS says:

    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.

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