Sopranos star Gandolfini dies on holiday

James Gandolfini, whose portrayal of a brutal, emotionally delicate mob boss in HBO’s “The Sopranos” helped create one of TV’s greatest drama series and turned the mobster stereotype on its head, died on Wednesday in Italy, Associated Press reports from Los Angeles. He was 51.

The cable channel and Gandolfini’s managers Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders said he died on holiday in Rome. No cause of death was given.

HBO called the actor a “special man, a great talent, but more importantly a gentle and loving person who treated everyone, no matter their title or position, with equal respect”. The channel expressed sympathy for his wife and children.

Gandolfini played mob boss Tony Soprano in the groundbreaking series that aired from 1999 to 2007. His film credits included Zero Dark Thirty and Killing Them Softly, and he also amassed stage credits.

He shared a Broadway stage in 2009 with Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis and Marcia Gay Harden in a celebrated production of God of Carnage, where he earned a Tony Award nomination for best actor.

He had also been in On the Waterfront with David Morse and was an understudy in a revival of A Streetcar Named Desire in 1992 starring Alec Baldwin and Jessica Lange.

Gandolfini’s performance in The Sopranos was indelible and career-making, but he refused to be stereotyped as the bulky mobster who was a therapy patient, family man and cold-blooded killer.

After the David Chase series concluded with its breathtaking blackout ending, Gandolfini’s varied film work included comedies such as In the Loop, a political satire, and the heartwarming drama Welcome to the Rileys, which co-starred Kristen Stewart. He voiced the Wild Thing Carol in Where the Wild Things Are.

In a December 2012 interview with The Associated Press, Gandolfini said he gravitated to acting as a release, a way to get rid of anger. “I don’t know what exactly I was angry about,” he said.

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