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June 19, 2013

Remembering 'Sopranos' Star James Gandolfini

A heart attack has claimed the life of esteemed actor James Gandolfini at 51. The rugged star won three Primetime Emmy Awards for his work as mobster Tony Soprano on groundbreaking HBO drama The Sopranos.

  • James Gandolfini

    James Gandolfini

Sopranos Creator and Director
Remember James Gandolfini

While the Archive of
American Television
did not
have an opportunity to interview
James Gandolfini for his own
perspective on his extraordinary
works, the team did speak with
The Sopranos creator
David Chase and regular director
Timothy Van Patten.
See the tribute here.

Acclaimed actor James Gandolfini died on June 19 reportedly while traveling in Italy. He was 51.

Widely recognized for his three-time Primetime Emmy-winning portrayal of crime boss Tony Soprano on the iconic HBO drama The Sopranos, Gandolfini is believed to have suffered a heart attack while en route to the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily, according to news reports.

A mobster who turned to psychotherapy to cope with the stresses of his job and family, Tony Soprano was a character unlike any seen before on television, and Gandolfini’s performance brought him both fame and acclaim.

Like his best-known character, James Gandolfini was a native of New Jersey. He was born September 18, 1961, in the town of Westwood and grew up in Park Ridge. After graduating from Rutgers University, he worked as a bartender and club manager before pursuing a career as an actor in New York City.

He broke into movies in the late 1980s and first drew attention as Virgil, the hit man who torments Patricia Arquette in the 1993 release True Romance. He went on to appear in other films, including Crimson Tide, Get Shorty, The Juror and The Mexican.

The Sopranos, which premiered in 1999 and ran for six seasons, helped to establish HBO as a destination for high-quality original programming and made stars of Gandolfini and Edie Falco, who costarred as Tony’s wife, Carmela.

Gandolfini received Primetime Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in each of the show’s six seasons and won three times — in 2000, 2001 and 2003.

In a statement, HBO said, “We're all in shock and feeling immeasurable sadness at the loss of a beloved member of our family. He was 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. He touched so many of us over the years with his humor, his warmth and his humility. Our hearts go out to his wife and children during this terrible time. He will be deeply missed by all of us."

After The Sopranos ended, Gandolfini continued to act in films, including In the Loop, the HBO movie Cinema Vérité, Zero Dark Thirty, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and Not Fade Away, directed by Sopranos creator David Chase.

He also appeared on Broadway in a 2009 production of Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage.

In recent years, Gandolfini also became a respected producer with the documentaries Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq and Wartorn: 1861-2010 and the telefilm Hemingway & Gellhorn, all of which aired on HBO.

Both Alive Day Memories and Wartorn were recipients of the Television Academy Honors — in 2008 and 2011, respectively.

At the time of his passing, he was preparing to produce an adaptation of the Canadian comedy Taxi-22 for CBS and to star in an HBO series titled Criminal Justice.

Gandolfini is survived by his wife, Deborah Lin, their infant daughter and a son from his previous marriage to Marcy Wudarski.

Related Article:
"Inside... The Sopranos" Panel Discussion (2000)

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