Tony Soprano sleeps with the fishes

STATE — James Gandolfini, the New Jersey-bred actor who delighted audiences as the neurotic mob boss Tony Soprano, died after a suspected heart attack while on vacation in Rome to attend the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily.

He was 51 and leaves behind his wife, former model Deborah Lin. The couple had a daughter, Liliana, last October. Gandolfini also had a son, Michael, from a previous marriage. His sister, Johanna Antonacci, is the manager of the Family Division of the New Jersey Superior Court in Hackensack

“It is with immense sorrow that we report our client James Gandolfini passed away today while on holiday in Rome, Italy,” said Gandolfini’s managers Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders. “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.”

“We are all in shock and feeling immeasurable sadness at the loss of a beloved member of our family,” HBO said in a statement. “He was a 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,” the statement continued. “Our hearts go out to his wife and children during this terrible time.”

Gandolfini and Tony Sirico visit with a member of the U.S. Air Force during a USO visit to Southwest Asia, March 31, 2010. (photo credit Max Mercy)

“Tony was one of my best friends in life, he was there whenever I needed him,” said Tony Sirico who played ‘Paulie’ on The Sopranos. “Not only did he help me with my career, but also in life, god bless him. He and I were always helping the troops, we even went to combat zones to visit the Marines. He will be missed.”

Steve Van Zandt, member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street band and Gandolfini’s co-star in The Sopranos, expressed his sadness at Gandolfini’s passing on Twitter: “I have lost a brother and a best friend. The world has lost one of the greatest actors of all time.”

Gandolfini’s most acclaimed role was that of Tony Soprano, but he also performed in at least 45 movies plus a variety of television and stage productions.

Gandolfini performed in a 1992 Broadway production of On the Waterfront for six weeks. One of his best-known film roles was that of Virgil, a brutal woman-beating mob enforcer, in the 1993 romantic thriller True Romance.

In the 1994 film Terminal Velocity, Gandolfini played Ben Pinkwater, a seemingly mild-mannered insurance man who turns out to be a violent Russian mobster.

In Get Shorty (1995), he appeared as a bearded ex-stuntman with a Southern accent, and in The Juror (1996), he played a mob enforcer with a conscience. He played the Mayor of New York in the 2009 remake of The Taking of Pelham 123.

Gandolfini returned to HBO in 2007 as the executive producer of the Emmy-nominated documentary special, Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq, his first project after The Sopranos and the first production for his company Attaboy Films, which was opened in 2006 with producing partner Alexandra Ryan.

He returned to the stage in 2009, appearing in Broadway’s God of Carnage with Marcia Gay Harden, Hope Davis and Jeff Daniels.

Gandolfini was executive producer of an HBO film about Ernest Hemingway’s relationship with Martha Gellhorn, titled Hemingway & Gellhorn and starring Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman.

He reunited with Sopranos creator David Chase for Not Fade Away (2012), a music-driven production set in 1960s New Jersey, and the latter’s feature film debut.

In 2007, Gandolfini produced Alive Day: Home from Iraq, an HBO documentary in which he interviewed ten injured Iraq War veterans who described the challenges they face integrating back into society and reflected on the memories of the day when they narrowly escaped death.

In 2010, Gandolfini produced another documentary with HBO, Wartorn: 1861–2010, which featured interviews with American military officials, soldiers affected by posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and their families, and examined letters from soldiers of the American Civil War and World War I.

A 1979 graduate of Park Ridge High School, where he played basketball and acted in school plays, Gandolfini earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies from Rutgers University.

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