Gandolfini dies of heart attack at 51

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Award-winning US actor James Gandolfini, the burly star of classic TV mafia drama The Sopranos, died on Wednesday aged 51 in Italy, triggering a flood of tributes from the acting world and beyond.
The New Jersey-born actor, who won three Emmys and a Golden Globe for his portrayal of troubled mob boss Tony Soprano on the popular cable TV series, suffered a heart attack or a stroke, HBO network officials said.
“It is with immense sorrow that we report our client, James Gandolfini, passed away today while on holiday in Rome, Italy,” said a joint statement from his California-based managers, Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders.
Gandolfini was in Italy for the Taormina Film Fest in Sicily, where he was expected to participate in a roundtable discussion with Italian director Gabriele Muccino this weekend.
HBO, the cable TV channel on which The Sopranos aired, issued a statement saying: “We’re all in shock and feeling immeasurable sadness at the loss of a beloved member of our family.”
The actor had a long film and stage career before lending his heavy stature and big grin to play a depressed mafioso in The Sopranos, the celebrated series that ran from 1999 to 2007.
The series about the suburban mafia family was so popular it helped transform HBO into an powerhouse for quality original programs. This in turn led rival cable networks to produce their own edgy original series like The Shield on FX, and Mad Men on AMC.
Gandolfini was born on September 18, 1961. His parents were Italian immigrants — his father was a bricklayer, and later a high school custodian, while his mother worked in a cafeteria at the same school.
His parents insisted that he go to college, and after some initial resistance Gandolfini graduated with a degree in communications from Rutgers University in 1983.
The future Tony Soprano began acting in the New York theater, making his Broadway debut in the 1992 revival of A Streetcar Named Desire with Jessica Lange and Alec Baldwin.

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