“James Gandolfini dead at 51. Actor, best known for his groundbreaking role as the patriarch of “The Sopranos,” has died in Italy”


James Gandolfini, whose portrayal of a brutal, emotionally delicate mob boss in HBO’sThe Sopranos” helped create one of TV’s greatest drama series and turned the mobster stereotype on its head, died Wednesday in Italy. He was 51.

In a statement, the cable channel, and Gandolfini’s managers Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders, said he died Wednesday while on holiday in Rome. No cause of death was given.

“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,” said Armstrong and Sanders.

HBO called the actor 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.” The channel expressed sympathy for his wife and children.

Gandolfini won three Emmys for his portrayal of the conflicted New Jersey mobster, a groundbreaking role in television that paved the way for the “anti-hero” in other dramas. “The Sopranos” aired from 1999 to 2007, ushering HBO into popularity and establishing it as a respected competitor among other TV networks.

David Chase, creator of the critically-acclaimed series, remembered Gandolfini as a “genius”