Photo Credit: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic
A great acting career has ended far too soon. Former Sopranos star James Gandolfini, 51, died on Wednesday while vacationing with his family in Rome, Italy. The cause, according to the New York Daily News, was a "massive heart attack."
"Everyone is in tears," a friend told the paper.
Gandolfini had a reputation as a wonderful guy: softspoken, hardworking, and passionate about giving back to his community. (He was a strong supporter of the Octoberwoman Foundation for Breast Cancer Research, located in his New Jersey hometown, and of the troops overseas.) Of course, most of us know him as Tony Soprano, the suburban mafia boss at the heart of HBO's groundbreaking drama. It's considered by many to be the greatest television performance of all time; Gandolfini managed to be lovable and repulsive, hilarious and dangerous, thoughtful and oblivious, all at once. Gandolfini garnered three Emmy awards for playing Tony, and managed to create an entirely new kind of television character: the sympathetic anti-hero. There would be no Don Draper, Walter White or Nucky Thompson without Tony Soprano.
Ever since the controversial Sopranos series finale in 2007, Gandolfini has shied away from the spotlight. Mostly, he made small films, some of which (Zero Dark Thirty, In the Loop) became big. At the time of his death, he had several new projects in the works, including an HBO series called Criminal Justice. Though it would have been tough to top Tony Soprano, we'll never know if his best work was ahead of him.
The actor leaves behind an eight-month-old daughter with wife Deborah Lin, and a teenage son from his first marriage. He also leaves behind many grieving friends, who are paying tribute to his life and work online. Below, some of the Twitter messages posted in homage to a TV legend.
I have lost a brother and a best friend. The world has lost one of the greatest actors of all time.— Steven Van Zandt (@StevieVanZandt) June 20, 2013
Damn. RIP James Gandofini. An amazing actor that made arguably the greatest drama of all time, & a funny, sweet, gentle giant off screen.— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) June 20, 2013
I met Gandolfini once after he saw me in a play and his describing a gesture I did on stage is one of my most cherished compliments ever.— James Urbaniak (@JamesUrbaniak) June 19, 2013
I am heartbroken about James Gandolfini. He was a gentle giant and great man. I love this picture, I loved him. pic.twitter.com/Y1wdbeUDfK— rose mcgowan (@rosemcgowan) June 19, 2013
So sad to hear about James Gandolfini. He was such an amazing actor and by all accounts a wonderful person. RIP.— Busy Philipps (@Busyphilipps25) June 19, 2013
James Gandolfini was one of the sweetest, loveliest men. He loved theater. I saw him @ Xmas & we laughed so hard. A great, great loss.— kristen johnston (@kjothesmartass) June 20, 2013
RIP James Gandolfini. A great friend.— Jeff Daniels (@Jeff_Daniels) June 19, 2013
James Gandolfini was a kind, funny, wonderful guy. I'm so lucky to have worked with him. Sending love to his family. Such a sad, sad day.— olivia wilde (@oliviawilde) June 19, 2013
I'm truly heartbroken to hear that James Gandolfini has passed away. He is one of my all time favorite actors. Tragic loss.— Jonah Hill (@JonahHill) June 19, 2013
RIP James Gandolfini, one of the nicest guys I've ever met— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) June 20, 2013
James Gandolfini. Unbelievably sad news. A fine man.— Steve Carell (@SteveCarell) June 20, 2013
R.I.P. James Gandolfini. So awful. What a fantastic actor...so much to say but I can't even process. My condolences to his family.— patrick wilson (@patrickwilson73) June 19, 2013
Death needs to be driven out into the woods by Silvio Dante. #RIPGandolfini— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) June 19, 2013