James Gandolfini, star of the HBO drama The Sopranos and a character actor in films a diverse as The Man Who Wasn’t There and Where the Wild Things Are, died June 19, reportedly of a heart attack, in Italy. He was 51.
Gandolfini played mob boss Tony Soprano with a mix of charm, vulnerability, and menace that won The Sopranos a devoted following and earned the actor a plethora of awards, including three Emmys, five Screen Actors Guild Awards, and a Golden Globe. With a thick Jersey accent, corpulent body, and expressive face, Gandolfini cut an imposing, expressive figure as a character actor in a number of feature films.
Born in Westwood, NJ, in 1961, Gandolfini graduated from Rutgers University and worked as a bouncer and a bartender before pursing an acting career. After landing a role in the 1992 Broadway revival of On the Waterfront, he was cast as a hitman in Tony Scott’s True Romance. Gandolfini had small parts in a number of prominent films before The Sopranos debuted in 1999; subsequently, he received prominent billing in the Coen Brothers’ noir thriller The Man Who Wasn’t There and Spike Jonze’s fantastical adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are. He won rave reviews playing a general in the military farce In the Loop.
Recently, Gandolfini had played CIA director Leon Panetta in Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar nominated Zero Dark Thirty. He co-produced and starred in Not Fade Away, a drama about a teenage garage band directed by Sopranos creator David Chase. He also played a casino owner in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.
According to reports, Gandolfini was in Sicily for the Taormina Film Festival when he was stricken with a heart attack. He is survived by his wife, Deborah Lin, a daughter, and a son from a previous marriage.
For James Gandolfini’s complete filmography, click here.