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. TVDIVA says:

    Whereas other actors were always “look at me, I can act!”, Gandolfini was always about the character he was portraying. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and many colleagues. Thanks for the memories – you will be missed something awful.

  2. fourforfore says:

    @Alan Adams And people will yawn when you go too. In the meantime, while you are here, why not check out some of the genius of James Gandolfini? His work was widely admired, and he was truly adored by millions for many reasons. Why not check him out instead of writing bad comments? It might change your miserable little life.

  3. james says:

    That is sad james was a great person and a great actor he will be missed from everyone here in houston texas our prayers go out to his family and friends and may god be with his family in this time of need. Love texas….

  4. It is still hard to believe James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano) died at such a young age, My favorite movie with him was “The Taking of Pelham 123″. R.I.P. James!

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