The Sopranos star James Gandolfini has died at the age of 51.
The actor was on holiday in Rome and suffered a suspected heart attack last night (June 19), The Sopranos‘ US network HBO told the BBC.
Gandolfini played Italian-American mobster Tony Soprano in 86 episodes of the acclaimed TV series between 1999 and 2007, winning a Golden Globe and three Emmys for his performance. Responding to news of his death, the show’s creator David Chase labelled Gandolfini a “genius”.
“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,” Chase said in a statement. “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.'”
Gandolfini was born in Westwood, New Jersey in 1961 and began his acting career in the late ’80s. Over the years, he racked up appearances in more than 40 movies, including Get Shorty, Crimson Tide and this year’s Zero Dark Thirty and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. His final film appearance will come in Animal Rescue, a crime drama co-starring Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace due for release next year (2014).
Gandolfini is survived by his second wife, former model Deborah Lin, whom he married in 2008, and their eight-month-old daughter Liliana. He also leaves a teenage son, Michael, from his first marriage which ended in 2002.
Press ‘play’ below to watch a classic clip of James Gandolfini in The Sopranos.