According to CNN, the actor, known to television audiences as mob boss Tony Soprano on "The Sopranos," was on holiday in Rome and was scheduled to make an appearance at the Taormina Film Fest in Sicily this week.
Mr. Gandolfini received a 2009 Tony Award nomination for his performance as Michael, a Brooklyn father who feels straight-jacketed by his wife's attempts to sand off his rough edges, in Yasmina Reza's biting social comedy God of Carnage.
"When I saw it in London and I walked out of the theatre, people were happy, but saying, 'I thought this couple ended up like this. I thought this couple ended up like that,'" Gandolfini told Playbill.com in 2010. "I just listened and thought, wow, the people really got involved in this. You don't hear a lot of that."
The New Jersey native made his Broadway debut in the small part of Steve Hubbell in the 1992 revival of A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Alec Baldwin and Jessica Lange. An understudy for the role of Mitch, he occasionally went on in the part. He was also seen as Charlie Malloy on Broadway in the short-lived 1995 stage version of the film On the Waterfront.
James Gandolfini was born Sept. 18, 1961, in Westwood, NJ, the son of Italian immigrants. He grew up in Park Ridge and graduated from Park Ridge High School in 1979. He took a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies from Rutgers University. He worked as a bouncer, a bartender and club manager before getting interested in acting in his mid-20s. Tagging along with actor Roger Bart, a friend, he began attending classes in the Meisner technique.
His feature film breakthrough was in the 1993 romantic thriller "True Romance," and his screen credits are numerous. They include "The Man Who Wasn't There," "8MM," "Killing Them Softly" and "Zero Dark Thirty," among many others.
Still, the balding, thickly built Mr. Gandolfini was little known until David Chase cast him as the protagonist in the HBO series "The Sopranos." The actor's Tony Soprano, the head of a New Jersey mob family, was violent and ruthless, but also a family man troubled by guilt, panic attacks and depression. The strains of his daily life cause him to visit a psychiatrist, played by Lorraine Bracco. He won three Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe for his work on "The Sopranos," which aired from 1999-2007. The success of the show arguably altered the landscape of cable drama, and paved the way for the creation of other cerebral, creative series.
Mr. Gandolfini is survived by his wife, Deborah, and their nine-month-old daughter, Liliana. He is also survived by his son, Michael, from another marriage.
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