Courtesy of The Associated Press
James Gandolfini’s lumbering, brutish mob boss with the tortured psyche will endure as one of TV’s indelible characters.
But his portrayal of criminal Tony Soprano in HBO’s landmark drama series “The Sopranos” was just one facet of an actor who created a rich legacy of film and stage work in a life cut short.
Gandolfini, 51, who died Wednesday while vacationing in Rome, refused to be bound by his star-making role in the HBO series that brought him three Emmy Awards during its six-season run.
“He was a genius,” said “Sopranos” creator David Chase. “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.”
Dr. Claudio Modini, head of the emergency room at the Policlinic Umberto I hospital in Rome, said Gandolfini suffered a cardiac arrest. He arrived at the hospital at 10:40 p.m. (2040 GMT, 4:40 p.m. EDT) Wednesday and was pronounced dead at 11 p.m. after resuscitation efforts in the ambulance and hospital failed, Modini said.
Modini told The Associated Press that an autopsy would be performed starting 24 hours after the death, as required by law.
The U.S. Embassy in Rome, which said it had learned about the death from the media, said it would be available to provide a death certificate and help prepare the body for return to the United States. The Embassy said it can often take between four and seven days to arrange shipment outside of Italy.
The Embassy spokesman declined further comment, directing inquiries to the family.
Organizers of the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily were scrambling to put together a tribute to Gandolfini, who had been expected to attend the festival’s closing ceremony this weekend and receive an award. Organizers Mario Sesti and Tiziana Rocca said Gandolfini will instead be honored with a tribute “remembering his career and talent.”