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He was perfect for the role of a mobster – James Gandolfini. Known as the mafia boss in the television series “The Sopranos”, James Gandolfini died of a heart attack at the age of 51, while traveling in Italy.
His most famous role was probably that of Tony Soprano. The mafia boss who is plagued by anxiety attacks and treated by a psychotherapist, made the series “The Sopranos” a blockbuster for the TV-Channel “HBO” from 1999 to 2007.
Gandolfini, tall, strong, with a bald-head looked like a relic from ancient times – an overburdened criminal, somehow pathetic and almost sympathetic. The role earned numerous prizes. Audiences and critics loved Gandolfini and the series “The Sopranos”. The series ran for six seasons on American television.
Gandolfini married his wife, model Deborah Lin, in 2008. He is survived by a daughter, Liliana, who was born last year. From his first marriage, he has a teenage son, Michael. His son, who was on vacation in Italy with him, found him collapsing in a Hotel room.
The great fame came quite late for the actor: Gandolfini was born in 1961 in New Jersey, his parents both had their roots in Italy, and the family spoke Italian at home. He began his career as a stage actor in New York. He made his Broadway debut in 1992 next to Jessica Lange and Alec Baldwin in “A Streetcar Named Desire”.
However, the actor, amateur trumpeter and saxophonist turned quickly to the movies. He had his first leading role in the 1993 thriller “True Romance”, a screenplay by Quentin Tarantino.
In movies, he mostly played minor roles: Little tough guys and criminals, until he became the most famous mobster of American television. After the end of the series, “The Sopranos” Gandolfini was far less in spotlight. Amongst other things, he produced a documentary about U.S. soldiers who were injured in the Iraq war. Last year, he starred as CIA chief in “Zero Dark Thirty”, Kathryn Bigelow’s film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
A spokesperson of “HBO” channel said, Gandolfini had suffered a heart attack. The actor collapsed in his hotel room, where he stayed during his vacation in Italy.
Hollywood colleagues reacted with consternation to the sudden death of the actor. “Incredibly sad news,” actor Steve Carell wrote on Twitter. Gandolfini was a “good man”. Bette Midler wrote on Twitter: “The great James Gandolfini passed away today. Only 51. I can’t believe it.”