Farewell, Tony Soprano. James Gandolfini - the man who was utterly unforgettable as one of the great screen gangsters - has died suddenly, at the age of 51.
Variety reports that Gandolfini was on holiday in Italy, where he suffered a suspected heart attack. The actor's tragic and untimely death was confirmed by HBO, for whom he worked on The Sopranos and Criminal Justice, a limited series that had just been given the green light.
In a statement, the network said, "He was 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.
"He touched so many of us over the years with his humor, his warmth and his humility. "
In another statement, his managers said, "Our hearts are shattered and we will miss him deeply. He and his family were part of our family for many years and we are all grieving."
Gandolfini, who was born in New Jersey in 1961, will always be remembered as Tony Soprano, the ruthless and tortured mob boss who was head of the eponymous family at the heart of the legendary HBO series. His nuanced and complex turn turned him into a huge star, and Tony into a cult hero. He won three Emmy awards for the role.
But Gandolfini was also a film actor of rare range and class, equally at home as a politician, a soldier and a father as he was a gangster.
He gave indelible - and vastly different - turns for Tony Scott (with whom he worked on a number of occasions) in True Romance, Armando Iannucci in In The Loop, and Spike Jonze in Where The Wild Things Are, to name but three. 2012 also brought small, but memorable, roles in the likes of Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty and Andrew Dominik's Killing Them Softly, and a reunion with Sopranos creator David Chase on Not Fade Away.
Gandolfini was last seen on the big screen in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, while he had just completed work on Animal Rescue, which will be his final film.
He was seen, quite simply, as one of the best and most versatile actors working today, and his death has already been greeted with stunned disbelief by his peers. "A lovely man and a huge talent," said Donnie Darko director, Richard Kelly. Prometheus and Star Trek Into Darkness writer Damon Lindelof, echoing the last shot of the final episode of The Sopranos, said, "You created an icon. And you cut to black way too soon." And Ron Perlman said, "Sweet journey home, James Gandolfini. The brightest stars burn the fastest..."
He is survived by his wife, Deborah Lin, and two children - a son, and a baby daughter. Our thoughts are with them at this time.