U.S. film and television actor James Gandolfini, who portrayed an emotionally vulnerable crime boss on the groundbreaking television drama "The Sopranos," has died at the age of 51.
Statements issued by the actor's managers and U.S. cable television network HBO, which aired the series from 1999 through 2007, said Gandolfini died while on vacation in Italy from a possible heart attack.
Gandolfini won three Emmy Awards for playing Tony Soprano, the violent mobster undergoing psychiatric care in secret.
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." He went to star 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."
Tributes to Gandolfini have been pouring in over Twitter.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie mourned Gandolfini's death, calling the actor "a true Jersey guy."
Actress Olivia Wilde, who starred with Gandolfini the recent movie "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,"paid tribute to her co-star as a "kind, funny and wonderful guy."
Actor Steve Carell, who also appeared in the movie, said "What a great loss."
U.S. Senator John McCain said Gandolfini was "one of the nicest guys I've ever met."