James Gandolfini Dead at 51, Actor Won Three Emmys for The Sopranos

New Jersey-born star suffered a possible heart attack while in Italy for a movie festival, according to HBO

By Natalie Finn Jun 20, 2013 12:52 AMTags
James Gandolfini Evan Agostini/Getty Images

James Gandolfini has died.

The Emmy-winning star of The Sopranos suffered a possible heart attack while in Italy, HBO confirmed Wednesday. He was due to attend the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily later this week.

"We're all in shock and feeling immeasurable sadness at the loss of a beloved member of our family," the network said in a statement. "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."

"Our hearts are shattered and we will miss him deeply," his managers Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders also said Wednesday. "He and his family were part of our family for many years and we are all grieving."

A hospital employee tells E! News that Gandolfini was taken a few hours ago to the Policlinico Umberto I in Rome. No further details were available at this time.

Gandolfini most recently appeared on the big screen in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, and last year he had roles in Zero Dark ThirtyNot Fade Away and Killing Them Softly.

The New Jersey-born star, who became synonomous with the role of conflicted mob boss Tony Soprano on David Chase's iconic series, did not start acting until he was in his twenties. 

His first screen credit came in 1987 when he played an unnamed orderly in the horror flick Shock! Shock! Shock! 

He had his first credited role (playing a Tony, coincidentally) in the Sidney Lumet film A Stranger Among Us in 1992, the same year he broke out on Broadway playing the uncouth Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Eight years later, he accepted the first of three lead-actor Emmys for playing Tony Soprano. The role also earned him a Golden Globe.

Gandolfini admitted that there were similarities between himself and the character he so seamlessly inhabited for six spread-out seasons on HBO.

Watch: James Gandolfini in Good Spirits at Premiere

"I'm playing an Italian lunatic from New Jersey, and that's basically what I am," he once said. And he also wasn't necessarily one to enjoy the spotlight.

"My father always said a million times, 'We're peasants,"' Gandolfini told Rolling Stone in 2001. "It's just a little odd for me, to get that slightly different treatment sometimes. And I'm uncomfortable with it...I want nothing to do with privilege."

In fact, Gandolfini was set to return to the scene of the crime, having recently shot the pilot for the upcoming HBO drama Criminal Justice, playing a jailhouse lawyer who signs on to defend a Pakistani-American he feels was denied a fair deal. The actor was also serving as an executive producer on the series.

Other notable film credits include True RomanceCrimson TideGet ShortyNight Falls on ManhattanThe MexicanThe Man Who Wasn't ThereIn the LoopThe Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3, and Welcome to the Rileys

He also returned to Broadway in 2009 in God of Carnage, fittingly scoring a Tony Award nomination in the process.

Gandolfini is survived by his wifeDeborah Lin, their 8-month-old daughter, Liliana, and his son, Michael, from a previous marriage.

(Originally published June 19, 2013, at 4:31 p.m. PT)