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James Gandolfini

DIES IN ITALY

6/19/2013 6:00 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
breaking news

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James Gandolfini -- who famously played Tony Soprano on "The Sopranos" -- died earlier today in Italy ... TMZ has learned.

Gandolfini is believed to have suffered a heart attack. He was 51.

Gandolfini was in Italy to attend the 59th Taormina Film Festival in Sicily -- and he was scheduled to participate in a festival event this weekend with Italian director Gabriele Muccino.

Gandolfini shot to fame playing a hitman in the 1993 hit "True Romance" ... and quickly became a Hollywood legend when he was cast as Tony Soprano in 1999.  He won 3 Emmy awards for the role during the show's 6 season run.

'Sopranos' creator David Chase tells TMZ ... "[James] was a genius. He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time.  A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes.  I remember telling him many times, 'You don't get it.  You're like Mozart.' There would be silence at the other end of the phone."

Chase added, "He was my partner, he was my brother in ways I can't explain and never will be able to explain.”

Gandolfini also appeared in a ton of huge movies including "Get Shorty," "The Mexican" and "Zero Dark Thirty."

We last spoke to Gandolfini in May in L.A. -- he was in great spirits, making funny faces and joking about a "Sopranos" movie.

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His 'Sopranos' co-star Joseph R. Gannascoli -- who played Vito -- tells us, "James is one guy who never turned his back on me. He was the most humble and gifted actor and person I have ever worked with ... and I will forever be indebted to him."

Gandolfini is survived by his wife Deborah Lin, who gave birth to the couple's daughter in October 2012. He also has a teenage son from a previous marriage. R.I.P.

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543 COMMENTS

No Avatar
136.

LOVELIFE    

RIP HE WAS A GREAT GUY VERY NICE PERSON! MY PRAYS GO OUT TO HIS FAMILY.

408 days ago
137.

zoolady    

I only met him once, but he was very likeable. RIP. :(

408 days ago
138.

Nikki    

Actor who played a mob boss dies in Sicily, Italy? This is either a hoax or ironic as ****.

408 days ago
139.

claudiamartelly    

Wow. sad story. R.I.P.

408 days ago
140.

Martie    

How sad.........too young to die!

408 days ago
141.

Flowers    

This is a very sad day for the movie industry. Gandolfini was a great actor and made the Soprano's the most loved TV series--couldn't wait for the next week's show. I am so very sorry for his family, both on and off the screen. He will be missed very much!

408 days ago
142.

JS    

Stunned!!! RIP to one of the best screen artists of all-time!!!

408 days ago
143.

lyn    

A very outstanding actor. He made Tony Soprano.

408 days ago
144.

snowboardchick    

He will be missed

408 days ago
145.

Squeeker    

This is such bad new's he played a good gangster roll and at the same time you couldn't help but love him, RIP dear J.G.

408 days ago
146.

Aldo Renato    

A sad untimely death...now he belongs to the ages!!! And please-no more "whacked" comments!!!

408 days ago
147.

Holly Hood    

I met him once in New York. Cool guy. RIP

408 days ago
148.

Gail    

oh my, that's terrible. His daughter is only 8 months old. He should have lost weight a long time ago.

408 days ago
149.

Linda    

My deepest sympathy to James's wife and children...

408 days ago
150.

Dylan    

OMG. I was shocked by this. Very sad to hear. He was a regular at the restaurant I used to work at in Manhattan. He was good friends w/ my boss and one of the nicest actors who came in. A really down to earth type of guy. My heart goes out to his family. May he R.I.P.

408 days ago
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