James Gandolfini on Seasme Street

Hollywood pays tribute to late TV mob boss James Gandolfini

UPDATE: TRIBUTES have flooded in for the late James Gandolfini.

The 'Sopranos' actor unexpectedly passed away from a suspected heart attack while on holiday in Italy with his teenage son, Michael.

Many Hollywood actors have since offered their condolences to the family of the star, who died at the age of just 51.

Writing on Twitter, Samuel L. Jackson said : "Massive blow to the acting community today ... the passing of James Gandolfini. So talented. My heart goes out to his family."

Michael J Fox tweeted: "Shocked and saddened by James Gandolfini's passing. My deepest sympathies to his family and friends."

Meanwhile, Russell Crowe posted on the social media site: "Sad to hear about James Gandolfini. First met Jimmy back in '94. He was roommates in NY with Lenny Loftin. Lovely man. RIP Jimmy (sic)"

Rose McGowan tweeted a picture of her and James in front of a US flag, adding: "I am heartbroken about James Gandolfini. He was a gentle giant and great man. I love this picture, I loved him."

Susan Sarandon, who co-starred with James in 2005's 'Romance & Cigarettes', said: "So sad to lose James Gandolfini.

"One of the sweetest, funniest, most generous actors I've ever worked with. Sending prayers to his family."

Some of the most poignant tributes have come from James' co-stars in 'The Sopranos' - in which he played lead character Tony Soprano from 1999 to 2007 - and was the role which made him.

Joe Gannascoli, who played Vito Spatafore in the series said his co-star was "way too young".

He added to TMZ.com: "James is one guy who never turned his back on me. He was the most humble and gifted actor and person I have ever worked with ... and I will forever be indebted to him."

Lorraine Bracco, who played Tony's psychiatrist Dr Melfi, said: "We lost a giant today. I am utterly heartbroken."

 

Sopranos star James Gandolfini's son, 13, found him dead

A FRIEND of Sopranos star James Gandolfini said the actor was discovered by a family member in his hotel room in Rome before he was pronounced dead of cardiac arrest at a hospital.

Michael Kobold, who described himself as a close family friend, read a short statement to reporters, but said little more about the circumstances of Gandolfini's death on Wednesday night.

He did not say who discovered Gandolfini, 51, but NBC quoted Antonio D'Amore, manager of the Boscolo Excedra hotel, as saying it was the actor's 13-year-old son, Michael.

Gandolfini had appeared in advertisements for Kobold's company, Kobold Watches.

Gandolfini was pronounced dead at 11pm Wednesday in Rome after being taken by ambulance to the Policlinic Umberto I hospital.

Dr Claudio Modini, head of the hospital emergency room, said Gandolfini arrived at the hospital at 10.40pm and was pronounced dead after resuscitation efforts in the ambulance and hospital failed.

An autopsy would be performed starting 24 hours after the death, as required by law, Modini said.

The actor, known for his portrayal of the tortured Italian-American mob boss Tony Soprano, was to have received an award and taken part in the closing ceremony Saturday of the Taormina Film Festival, which takes place against the backdrop of Taormina's spectacular Roman amphitheater.

He also was to have given a special class Saturday morning at the festival, as was done by actor Jeremy Irons earlier in the week.

Festival organisers Mario Sesti and Tiziana Rocca said instead they would organize a tribute "to celebrate his great achievement and talent." They said they had heard from Gandolfini a few hours before he died, and "he was very happy to receive this award and be able to travel to Italy."

More on this story at the New Zealand Herald

Beloved star of The Sopranos described himself as a '260lb Woody Allen'

JAMES Gandolfini took his large frame and sad eyes to television as the ruthless New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano and made The Sopranos (1999-2007) not only a global success, but also one of television's most influential programmes and a staple of popular culture. He once described himself as "a 260lb Woody Allen".

The strength of Gandolfini's portrayal lay in his Italian-American character's conflicting emotions as he juggled his criminal career with family life.

The first episode featured Tony suffering a panic attack, collapsing and starting therapy with Dr Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco).

The story of his father's influence on his gangster career spills out, along with his manipulative mother's personality disorder and the difficult relationship he has with his wife, Carmela (Edie Falco), who endures his marital infidelities but finds it difficult to reconcile her comfortable lifestyle with the means used to fund it.

His teenage son and daughter, who have troubles of their own, gradually learn of their father's Mafia activities.

Like the 1960s British series The Prisoner, The Sopranos' title sequence features its star driving his car on a route that firmly establishes the programme's identity.

The cigar-puffing Gandolfini is seen emerging from the Lincoln Tunnel, entering the New Jersey Turnpike, then passing various state landmarks before turning into the drive of his suburban home.

Created by David Chase and made by HBO, The Sopranos was the most successful made-for-cable television series in American history and achieved overwhelming critical acclaim.

This year, the American publication TV Guide ranked it No 2 in its all-time list of dramas and earlier this month it was voted the best-written TV series of all time by the Writers Guild of America.

Gandolfini  - whose portrayal of the intense but vulnerable Tony Soprano won him three Emmy Awards as best actor in a drama series - landed the role after a casting director spotted him as a hit-man in the 1993 feature film True Romance.

Taking the lead role on screen for the first time in The Sopranos was daunting for Gandolfini, but he reflected: "I have small amounts of Mr Soprano in me. I was 35, a lunatic, a madman." He also shared Tony's appetite for eating and drinking, and experience of psychoanalysis.

Gandolfini  revelled in the complexity of the character. "Here's this guy with all this power, and his wife and his mother can cut him down to size in about three seconds," he said.

The Sopranos ended with the supposed murder of Tony in a diner by a hit-man - as his assassin approached, the screen went blank.

When Gandolfini himself died of a suspected heart attack, that scene's real-life location - an ice cream parlour and restaurant - announced that it would temporarily be leaving the table empty, with a "reserved" sign, as a mark of respect.

Gandolfini was born in New Jersey, where his Italian-born father was a bricklayer and his mother, American-born of Italian origin, managed a high school's meals service.

As a child, he was a keen cinema-goer. Seeing Robert De Niro's performance as a small-time crook in the 1973 film Mean Streets was a significant influence on his life, as were Robert Redford's movies.

At Park Ridge High School, he acted in plays, before graduating with a BA in communication studies from Rutgers University, New Brunswick, then managing a New York nightclub. In his mid-20s, he took a two-year acting course after being encouraged to do so by a friend of a friend.

Gandolfini was soon appearing in plays at West Bank Café, on West 42nd Street. He made his Broadway début as Steve Hubbell in a revival of A Streetcar Named Desire (Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 1992), alongside Jessica Lange and Alec Baldwin.

Although his first film role was a bit part as an orderly in the 1987 horror comedy Shock! Shock! Shock!, it was True Romance, written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Tony Scott, that gave him his big break.

In one of the most violent scenes ever written by Tarantino, Virgil - Gandolfini's "nice guy" henchman working for Christopher Walken's gangster - beats up a prostitute (Patricia Arquette) in a motel room. She gains her revenge by stabbing him to death with a corkscrew.

Gandolfini continued this talent for getting in the minds of complex characters in The Juror (1996), as a Mafia godfather's sidekick, and Night Falls on Manhattan (1996, directed by Sidney Lumet), as a corrupt police officer. In Get Shorty (1995), his screen stuntman character is beaten up by the film's star, John Travolta, playing a mobster.

Between series of The Sopranos, Gandolfini lost more than 40lb to act a homosexual hit-man who kidnaps Julia Roberts's character in the film comedy The Mexican (2001). Television fame brought him a string of other big-screen roles, including Big Dave Brewster, a victim of blackmail, in the Coen brothers' crime drama The Man Who Wasn't There (2001).

Gandolfini said his admiration for his hard-working mother and father always led him to take blue-collar roles. "I like to play people like my parents," he explained. "Lawyers and stockbrokers don't interest me."

When The Sopranos ended, supporting film roles kept coming. One of his most recent was as the director of the CIA in Zero Dark Thirty (2012), about the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Gandolfini was given the opportunity to highlight his support for war veterans by producing two documentaries, Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq (2007) and Wartorn: 1861-2010 (2010).

The shy actor also appeared on Broadway as Charley Malloy in On the Waterfront (Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 1995), a disastrous, short-lived adaptation of the 1954 film.

Later, he won plaudits - and a Tony Award nomination - for his leading role as Michael, one of four parents coming to blows over their children's playground brawl, in the comedy God of Carnage (Bernard B Jacobs Theatre, 2009), which transferred to the Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles (2011).

James Joseph Gandolfini, actor: born Westwood, New Jersey 18 September 1961; married 1999 Marcella Wudarski (marriage dissolved 2002; one son), 2008 Deborah Lin (one daughter); died Rome 19 June 2013.

Tribute from Anthony Hawyard at The Independent



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