Sopranos star James Gandolfini dead

James Gandolfini, the Emmy-award-winning actor who played Tony Soprano on the hit television show The Sopranos, has died in Italy.

The 51-year-old is believed to have suffered a heart attack.

HBO confirmed that Gandolfini was holidaying in Rome at the time of his death.

The Hollywood icon was in Italy to attend the 59th Taormina Film Festival when he died, according to TMZ.

Steven Van Zandt as Silvio Dante, Steven R. Schirripa as Bobby ‘Bacala’ Baccalieri, James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, Michael Imperioli as Chistopher Moltisanti and Tony Sirico as Paulie Walnuts.

James Gandolfini accepts the award for best actor in a drama series for “The Sopranos” at the 14th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles January 27, 2008. Photo: REUTERS

Mimi Kennedy as Karen and James Gandolfini as General Miller in the film The Loop.

Peter Capaldi as Malcolm and James Gandolfini as General Miller in the film The Loop.

Actor Max Records as Max (L) looks at James Gandolfini in character as Carol on the set of the film “Where the Wild Things Are”. Photo: REUTERS

He was scheduled to participate on Saturday in a festival event with Italian director Gabriele Muccino.

Gandolfini’s managers, Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders, released a statement confirming his death.

“It is with immense sorrow that we report our client James Gandolfini passed away today while on holiday in Rome, Italy,” they said.

“Our hearts are shattered and we will miss him deeply. He and his family were part of our family for many years and we are all grieving.”

In a statement released to Variety magazine, HBO said: “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.’’

Gandolfini rose to fame playing a hitman in the 1993 film True Romance, but his big break came in 1999 when he was cast as conflicted mafia boss Tony Soprano in the hit show about the New Jersey mob.

The Sopranos was recently named as the best-written TV series ever screened in the US in a list compiled by the Writers Guild of America.

Joseph R. Gannascoli, who played Vito on The Sopranos, told TMZ that Gandolfini was a great man and he forever would be indebted to him.

‘‘James is one guy who never turned his back on me. He was the most humble and gifted actor and person I have ever worked with,” Gannascoli said.

Gandolfini appeared recently in Zero Dark Thirty and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.

He is survived by his wife Deborah Lin, a son and young daughter.

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