James Gandolfini, the Emmy Award-winning actor who shot to fame on the HBO drama “The Sopranos” as Tony Soprano, a tough-talking, hard-living crime boss with a stolid exterior but a rich interior life, died on Wednesday. He was 51.
Mr. Gandolfini’s death was confirmed by HBO. He was traveling in Rome, where he was on vacation and was scheduled to attend the Taormina Film Fest. The cause was not immediately announced; an HBO press representative said that Mr. Gandolfini may have had a heart attack.
Mr. Gandolfini, who grew up in Park Ridge, in Bergen County, N.J., came to embody the resilience of the Garden State on “The Sopranos,” which made its debut in 1999 and ran for six seasons on HBO.
In its pilot episode viewers were introduced to the complicated life of Tony Soprano, a New Jersey mob kingpin who suffers panic attacks and begins seeing a psychiatrist. Over 86 episodes, audiences followed Mr. Gandolfini in the role as he was tormented by his mother (played by Nancy Marchand), his wife (Edie Falco), rival mobsters, the occasional surreal dream sequence and, in 2007, an ambiguous series finale that left millions of viewers wondering whether Tony Soprano had met his fate at a restaurant table.
The success of “The Sopranos” helped make HBO a dominant player in the competitive field of scripted television programming and transformed Mr. Gandolfini from a character actor into a star. The series, created by David Chase, won two Emmys for outstanding drama series, and Mr. Gandolfini won three Emmys for outstanding lead actor in a drama. He was nominated six times for the award.
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