U.S. actor James Gandolfini, who portrayed an emotionally vulnerable crime boss on the television drama, The Sopranos, has died at the age of 51 while vacationing in Italy.
Doctors at a Rome hospital say he died of an apparent heart attack after resuscitation efforts failed. He was was to attend a film festival in Italy.
Gandolfini won three Emmy Awards for playing Tony Soprano, a violent mobster undergoing psychiatric care in secret.
Sopranos creator David Chase called Gandolfini a genius and one of the greatest actors of our time. His Sopranos co-star Edie Falco said, unlike Tony Soprano, Gandolfini was kind and generous beyond words.
The New Jersey native starred in such movies as The Last Castle with Robert Redford and All the King's Men with Sean Penn. Last year, Gandolfini played CIA Director Leon Panetta in the Osama Bin Laden manhunt movie Zero Dark Thirty.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie mourned Gandolfini's death, calling the actor "a true Jersey guy."
U.S. Senator John McCain said Gandolfini was "one of the nicest guys I've ever met."
This HBO publicity photo shows actor James Gandolfini in his role as Tony Soprano.
Actors Tony Sirico, who plays Paulie Walnuts and James Gandolfini, who plays Tony Soprano, shoot a scene from the mafia drama, "The Sopranos," outside the fictional Satriale's pork store in Kearny, New Jersey, March 21, 2007.
Cast members from "The Sopranos" from left, James Gandolfini, Edie Falco, Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Robert Iler applaud at the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards, Sept. 16, 2007.
James Gandolfini and Edie Falco display awards they received for their respective outstanding performances by lead actors in the drama series "The Sopranos" at the 9th annual Screen Actors Guild awards in Los Angeles, California, March 9, 2003.
The New Jersey native's acting career began in 1992 when he starred in a Broadway revival of the classic Tennessee Williams play "A Streetcar Named Desire." His breakthrough role came as a hit man in the 1993 movie "True Romance."
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters