James Gandolfini on died Wednesday, June 19, 2013, in Italy. He was 51.
James Gandolfini on died Wednesday, June 19, 2013, in Italy. He was 51. Bang Showbiz

Sopranos mob boss James Gandolfini has died

SOPRANOS star James Gandolfini has died suddenly in Italy.

Gandolfini, 51, is best known for his portrayal of Italian American mob boss Tony Soprano in the hit HBO award-winning drama series The Sopranos.

Deadline Hollywood and TMZ reports he died in Italy of a suspected heart attack today.

The actor's managers Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders confirmed Gandolfini died while on holiday in Rome.

He reportedly had planned a "guys' trip" to spend time with his son Michael before attending the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily.

In a statement, HBO called the actor a great talent and a gentle and loving person.

"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 humour, 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," it said.

'The Sopranos' creator and writer David Chase added: "He was a genius. Anyone who saw him even in the smallest of his performances knows that.

"He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time. A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes.

"I remember telling him many times, 'You don't get it. You're like Mozart.' There would be silence at the other end of the phone.

"For Deborah and Michael and Liliana this is crushing. And it's bad for the rest of the world.

"He wasn't easy sometimes. But he was my partner, he was my brother in ways I can't explain and never will be able to explain."

Gandolfini won three Emmy Awards for best actor and three Screen Actors Guild awards and a Golden Globe for his portrayal of the atypical mobster.

The Sopranos was voted the best written TV series of all time by the Writers' Guild of America earlier this month.

His film credits include a breakthrough part in Quentin Tarantino's True Romance and roles Zero Dark Thirty and Where the Wild Things Are.

Gandolfini had recently completed work on the film Animal Rescue with Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Noomi Rapace (Prometheus).

The crime film, due for release next year, tells the story a murder involving a lost pit bull and a wannabe scam artist.

Gandolfini, who was born in New Jersey, is survived by his wife Deborah Lin, their seven month-old daughter Liliana and his teenage son Michael.