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Ex-Sopranos Star

RELEASED FROM PRISON

After Burglary Conviction

12/31/2013 7:48 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
breaking news

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Lillo Brancato Jr. -- who starred in "The Sopranos" and "A Bronx Tale" -- has been released from prison on parole ... 8 years after he was involved in the killing of an off-duty NYPD officer.

Brancato was sentenced to 10 years in prison back in 2009 after he was convicted of attempted burglary in a 2005 incident that resulted in the death of Officer Daniel Enchautegui.

Brancato was acquitted of murder, but his co-defendant was found guilty of shooting and killing the officer and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Brancato was considered a rising star in Hollywood before the incident ... playing Calogero Anello in 1993's "A Bronx Tale" and Christopher Moltisanti's mob lackey Matthew Bevilaqua in "The Sopranos." 

The 37-year-old actor was released on parole early this morning. So far, he has yet to comment.

Cops are FURIOUS with his release ... in fact, the NYC Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (a police labor union) released a scathing statement saying:

"It is our firm belief that Lillo Brancato is guilty of the murder of police officer Daniel Enchautegui even though he was only convicted of attempted burglary."

"The entire law enforcement community will be watching and the minute he steps out of line, we’ll be sure that he is returned to prison to finish out the rest of his sentence."

'Family Guy' Death

Strong Evidence ...

Brian's DEAD FOR GOOD

11/25/2013 2:15 PM PST BY TMZ STAFF
EXCLUSIVE

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Brian Griffin is dead and he's not coming back ... at least that's the way it appears ... because TMZ has learned, the dog that's replacing him on "Family Guy" has already been booked for several upcoming episodes.

As we reported, former "Sopranos" star Tony Sirico will be voicing Vinnie -- pictured above -- after Brian was killed off in Sunday night's episode.

There's been a lot of hopeful speculation that Brian's death was a one-episode gimmick -- and that the dog will inevitably come back -- but that doesn't seem likely. A rep for Sirico tells us, Vinnie the Dog has already been voiced for another 6 or so episodes.

We're told there's probably even more to come after that, too. Translation: Brian's not coming back ... at least for a very long time ... and probably never.

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Sirico doesn't exactly have a clear conscience about all of it though -- his rep says the actor feels horrible that Brian was killed off because the death of any character is sad ... especially a fan favorite ... but c'est la vie.

As for why Brian got the chop, a producer for the show said they just wanted to shake things up.

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James Gandolfini

'Sopranos' Stars

Flock to Funeral

6/27/2013 9:20 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

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Family is forever ... "The Sopranos" cast has just arrived in full force for James Gandolfini's funeral today at a church in New York.

Among the stars ... Vincent Pastore (Big Pussy), Lorraine Bracco (Dr. Melfi), Jamie-Lynn Sigler (Meadow), Joe Pantoliano (Ralph Cifaretto), Steve Buscemi (Tony Blundetto), Edie Falco (Carmela), Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti), and show creator David Chase.

Other celebs in attendance include Alec Baldwin, John Turturro and New Jersey guv Chris Christie.

As we reported, Gandolfini passed away last week from an apparent heart attack. He was 51.

Viva la famiglia.

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James Gandolfini's Widow

First Photos Out ...

Running Errands

6/21/2013 4:15 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
EXCLUSIVE

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James Gandolfini's widow was spotted out in public for the first time since his death, and her distraction of choice was shopping.

Deborah Lin, Gandolfini's wife of nearly 5 years, took a solo trip to a mall near their L.A. home on Friday, and went shopping at several stores ... including Bloomingdales. She also went to the bank.

According to a family spokesman ... they're working with the Italian government to get James' body back to the U.S. by next week -- and his funeral would be in New York no later than June 29.

James Gandolfini

One Last Tribute Dance

... from 'Sopranos' Stripper

6/21/2013 11:01 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
EXCLUSIVE

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It's a tribute worthy of Tony Soprano -- a Bada Bing stripper from the HBO show has paid her respects to James Gandolfini the only way she knows how ... by spinning around a pole in a g-string to the "Sopranos" theme song ... and it's all on video.

The clip was shot last night at the real-life Bada Bing -- a place called Satin Dolls in Lodi, NJ -- and it features longtime Bada Bing veteran Diana Lynn, who first appeared on the "The Sopranos" pilot episode back in 1999.

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Diana -- who worked as a background dancer in several "Sopranos" episodes thereafter -- has been dancing at Satin Dolls for 15 years.

Diana says she's heartbroken by the loss of the great actor -- telling us she formed a bond with Gandolfini during his "Sopranos" days. She says the actor often hung around Satin Dolls after filming just to squeeze in some quality stripper time.

And based on the video, it really meant a lot to her. Bada bing, bada boom.

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James Gandolfini

Reportedly Guzzled 8

Drinks Before Death

6/21/2013 4:50 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
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James Gandolfini reportedly gorged himself on fried food, foie gras and booze just before he died of a heart attack.

Gandolfini downed at least 8 drinks at the restaurant in the hotel where he died -- 4 shots of rum, 2 pina coladas and 2 beers -- this according to the New York Post.

The "Sopranos" star also feasted on fried prawns covered in mayo and chili sauce and foie gras, according to the paper.

On Tuesday -- the night before he died -- we're told Gandolfini dined at another restaurant and downed at least one glass of wine (Photo above).

Gandolfini struggled with alcohol and drug addiction. 

Interestingly ... the doctor who runs the ER put out a statement Thursday that there was no evidence of alcohol in his system, but based on the report something is clearly off.

James Gandolfini

Family Blindsided

No Health Issues Suspected

6/21/2013 4:00 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
EXCLUSIVE

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Aside from his weight, James Gandolfini didn't have ANY underlying health problems before his death ... at least that his family was aware of, TMZ has learned.

Sources extremely close to Gandolfini's family tell us, the "Sopranos" actor never once mentioned that he was suffering from heart or other health issues -- and by all appearances, he was in near-perfect condition.

Gandolfini has admitted to having problems with cocaine and alcohol in the past -- and obviously struggled with his weight -- but we're told the family was utterly blindsided by his sudden death.

As we reported, Gandolfini passed away Wednesday from an apparent heart attack while vacationing in Italy. He was 51.

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James Gandolfini

Thanks Boss ...

For the Good Times

6/21/2013 2:02 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
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James Gandolfini wasn't just a great actor, he was an awesome guy ... often when our cameras were rolling. So, we put together our coolest moments with "The Sopranos" star -- topped off with a kickass eulogy from Michelle Rodriguez.

Bada bing, boss ... Bada bing.

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James Gandolfini

Possible Last Photo Before Death

6/20/2013 11:01 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
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James Gandolfini dined at an Italian restaurant and was photographed during his meal shortly before he died.

We've been getting unconfirmed reports Gandolfini was at Vitti restaurant in Rome -- where the pic was taken -- hours before his death.  Although we know he was there, the restaurant can't confirm if it turned out to be his last meal.

And now we know ... doctors tried in vain for 40 minutes to resuscitate the actor.  They tried everything -- heart massage and other methods but there was no electric activity from the heart, meaning he was probably dead before he even got to the hospital.  The hospital confirms that.

There will be an autopsy, which will probably include a toxicology report that will reveal if drugs or alcohol were in Gandolfini's system.

The chief doc at the ER says it looks like the "Sopranos" star died of natural causes -- a heart attack.

James Gandolfini

No Evidence of

Drugs, Alcohol ... So Far

6/20/2013 6:25 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
breaking news

0619-tmz-james-gandolfiniA doctor who runs the ER where James Gandolfini was taken before he was pronounced dead says there are no suspicious factors, such as alcohol, but the statement appears premature -- especially with respect to any drugs that might have been in the actor's system.

Professor Claudio Modini, the chief ER doc, says it looks like a heart attack, adding it was "probably a natural cause of death, myocardial infarction."

Gandolfini had acknowledged he had been addicted to cocaine and booze, and substance abuse played a part in his 2002 divorce.

As for the professor's tentative conclusion, it's premature to know if drugs or alcohol were a factor.  It's also unclear what -- if any -- toxicology tests will be performed on Gandolfini's body.

As we previously reported, Gandolfini died Wednesday in Italy while on vacation with his son. He had been staying at the Boscolo Hotel Exedra in Rome (pictured below).

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James Gandolfini

Tragedy Struck During

Father-Son Trip

6/20/2013 6:15 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
EXCLUSIVE

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James Gandolfini's shocking death happened in the middle of a "guy's trip" for the actor and his teenage son, Michael ... TMZ has learned.

Multiple sources tell us James' trip was for pleasure and business -- first getting to spend some QT in Italy with Michael, who just recently graduated from the 8th grade ... and then attending the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily.

We're told Michael's mom -- James' first wife Marcy Wudarski -- immediately flew to Italy on Wednesday to be with her son ... after she was told James had died.

James and his son were very tight -- Michael is a big hockey fan, and he and his father were regulars at L.A. Kings home games.

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James Gandolfini

Tattoo Shopping

Before Death

6/20/2013 5:45 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
EXCLUSIVE

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James Gandolfini was in the market for a mysterious new ink job before his death -- dropping by an L.A. tattoo parlor earlier this month ... and promising to return with a special order.

TMZ has learned Gandolfini visited T-Man Tattoo in Studio City on June 1st -- and the owner (pictured above) tells us, the actor was extremely excited about a new tattoo he was planning.

Gandolfini didn't tell the owner what he wanted to get done -- but said he just moved to the neighborhood, and promised to return later this month for a full tat session.

The owner says Gandolfini was in great spirits during the visit.

As we reported, Gandolfini passed away Wednesday in Italy from an apparent heart attack. He was 51.

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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