James Gandolfini Dies: Top 10 Facts You Need to Know

RIP James GandolfiniTranscript James Gandolfini, who played Tony Soprano on HBO's The Sopranos, has died at age 51, reports Deadline.Gandolfini reportedly died of a heart attack or stroke, according the varying reports, earlier today in Italy, where he was attending the Taormina Film Festival. TMZ reports that Gandolfini had been due to participate in the festival in Sicily with Italian director Gabriele Muccino. He was also there attending a friend's wedding. He won three Emmys for his role as Tony Soprano and he is survived by his wife Deborah Lin and two children Liliana Ruth and his son Michael. He was a New Jersey native and his last major film role was as the CIA director in Zero Dark Thirty. James, you will be missed by your many fans. Rest in Peace and don't stop believin.2013-06-20T00:31:03.000Z

James Gandolfini, who played Tony Soprano on HBO’s The Sopranos, has died at age 51, reports Deadline.

His managers, Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders, said in a brief statement:

Our hearts are shattered and we will miss him deeply. He and his family were part of our family for many years and we are all grieving.

Here’s what you need to know about this legend and his passing …


1. Gandolfini Died in His Spiritual Home, Italy

Gandolfini reportedly died earlier today in Italy. The Daily News reports that Gandolfini suffered a “massive heart attack.”

He was scheduled to attend the Taormina Film Festival. TMZ reports that Gandolfini had been due to participate in the festival in Sicily with Italian director Gabriele Muccino. Also due to appear at the festival were Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe.

James Gandolfini Dead at 51 From Heart Attack Sopranos Star Tony Soprano Dies In Italy – 6/19/13June 19, 2013 – James Gandolfini, Sopranos Actor Known as Tony Soprano Dead from Heart Attack, FULL REPORT: James Gandolfini, the New Jersey-bred actor who delighted audiences as mob boss Tony Soprano in "The Sopranos" has died following a massive heart attack in Italy, a source told the Daily News. "Everyone is in tears," the source close to the 51-year-old TV tough guy said. A press-shy celeb who got his start as a character actor and became famous relatively late in his career — thanks to his breakout role on "The Sopranos," Gandolfini has largely avoided the spotlight since the last season of the beloved show aired in 2007. The burly Westwood, N.J. native has appeared in several supporting roles since then, playing the director of the CIA in "Zero Dark Thirty" and the gruff blue-collar father of a wannabe rock star in "Not Fade Away" last year. Gandolfini hit Broadway in 2009 with the Tony Award-winning comedy "God of Carnage." "I seek out good stories, basically — that's it," he told The Star-Ledger last December. "The older I get, the funnier-looking I get, the more comedies I'm offered. I'm starting to look like a toad, so I'll probably be getting even more soon." Gandolfini's wife, former model Deborah Lin, gave birth to a baby girl last October. The couple married in Hawaii in 2008. Gandolfini — who spent part of his early career supporting himself as a bartender and nightclub manager — also has a son with his ex-wife, Marcy Wudarski. His first break came in 1992 when he landed a role in a Broadway version of "A Streetcar Named Desire" that starred Alec Baldwin and Jessica Lange. Smallish parts in major films followed — Gandolfini played a submarine crew member in "Crimson Tide" in 1995 and a gangland bodyguard in "Get Shorty" the same year. Fame came for the Italian-American actor after 1999, as "The Sopranos" garnered critical acclaim and cult popularity on its way to becoming a TV classic. Gandolfini won three Emmy Awards for his sparkling depiction of protagonist Tony Soprano, a mobster trying to balance the mundane stresses of family life and his unusual occupation: organized crime.2013-06-19T23:53:02.000Z

Variety reports that Gandolfini died in Rome, where he was attending a friend’s wedding, and he was due to arrive in Sicily on Thursday.

The Sopranos creator David Chase released the following statement on Gandolfini’s passing:

Gandolfini with David Chase. Photo via Getty Images.

Gandolfini with David Chase. (Getty Images)

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 [his wife Deborah Lin] and [children] 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.

VideoVideo related to james gandolfini dies: top 10 facts you need to know2013-06-19T19:36:02-04:00


2. The Doctor Who Attempted to Revive Him Called His Death ‘Natural’

According to TMZ, there are no signs that Gandolfini was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of his death, nor did any substance play any part in his death. The doctor who pronounced Gandolfini dead, Professor Claudio Modini, said:

…probably a natural cause of death, myocardial infarction.

But toxicology tests on Gandolfini’s body are still pending.

Earlier it was reported that Gandolfini’s body was discovered by his 14-year-old son, Michael, who has just graduated the eighth grade.

Gandolfini and his son had been staying at the Boscolo Hotel Exedra (above) in Rome.


3. Most of the World Will Remember Him as Tony Soprano

Tony Soprano compilation Part1Compilatie van Tony Soprano, T. Soprano, Tony S,waarin hij zijn woede, rage, outrage tot uiting brengt. met Agressie, agression and anger uit de sopranos.PART 12008-11-17T17:37:23.000Z

Gandolfini will forever be synonymous with Tony Soprano, the character he played from 1998 to 2007. As the anti-hero, with mother issues, who regularly visits a psychiatrist, and also happened to be the boss of the mafia in New Jersey, Gandolfini was awarded three Emmys, while being nominated for six in total.

Emmys 2000 James Gandolfini Best Actor2000 James Gandolfini Best Actor2011-11-27T02:51:44.000Z

Entertainment Weekly named him the 42nd-greatest TV icon in 2007, they wrote at the time:

In the span of a single episode, the hulking actor could take menacing Mob boss Tony Soprano through rage, self-pity, love, and depression: He was a weekly how-to manual on Greek tragedy. Early on in The Sopranos’ revolutionary first season, Tony took a brief recess from his daughter’s college tour to hunt down and kill one of his enemies. This brutally revealed to the audience exactly who they were rooting for — a family man, yes, but also a cold-blooded killer.

VideoVideo related to james gandolfini dies: top 10 facts you need to know2013-06-19T19:36:02-04:00

His Sopranos co-star, Joseph R. Gannascoli, who played Vito on the show, told TMZ tonight:

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. He was a great man and I will forever be indebted to him.

When asked by the New York Times in 2010 if he was worried about being typecast due to his time in The Sopranos, he said:

Mostly it’s not a lot of that stuff anymore with shooting and killing and dying and blood, I’m getting a little older, you know. The running and the jumping and killing, it’s a little past me.

R.I.P., James

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In addition to the three Emmys Gandolfini won, the show captured 21 Emmys in total during its nine year run. By the time the show finished its run he was earning $1 million per episode. The show’s producers, HBO, released the following statement:

We’re all in shock and feeling immeasurable sadness at the loss of a beloved member of our family,” HBO said in a statement. “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 humor, 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.

Gandolfini has said spoken about the difficulties he had with the fame the show generated for him:

It’s just a little odd for me, to get that slightly different treatment sometimes. And I’m uncomfortable with it. … I want nothing to do with privilege.

This is the scene tonight at Holstens in New Jersey, the restaurant that played host to the now famous final scene of the show.

And of course, here is the famous scene:

VideoVideo related to james gandolfini dies: top 10 facts you need to know2013-06-19T19:36:02-04:00


4. His Wife Just Gave Birth to a Daughter in October 2012

James Gandolfini Dead Dies Heart Attack Sopranos Star Dead

James Gandolfini (L) and wife Deborah Lin arrive at the Keep Memory Alive foundation’s ‘Power of Love Gala’ celebrating Muhammad Ali’s 70th birthday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena February 18, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event benefits the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and the Muhammad Ali Center. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Keep Memory Alive)

Gandolfini’s wife Deborah Lin, had just given birth to their daughter, Liliana Ruth Gandolfini, in October 2012.

His manager Mark Armstrong announced the news, saying:

I am happy to confirm that James and Deborah Gandolfini are the proud parents of a happy and healthy baby girl,” Armstrong says in a statement. “Liliana Ruth Gandolfini was born in Los Angeles on Wednesday, October 10th, and weighed 7 lbs., 9 oz. … James and Deborah are thrilled and all are doing well.


5. Gandolfini is Survived by His Wife and Two Children

Deborah Lin, actor James Gandolfini and son attend IRIS, A Journey Through the World of Cinema by Cirque du Soleil premiere Sunday, September 25, 2011 exclusively at Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Cirque du Soleil)

Deborah Lin, James Gandolfini and son attend IRIS, A Journey Through the World of Cinema by Cirque du Soleil premiere Sunday, September 25, 2011, at Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. (Getty Images)

He had one daughter with Deborah and a son, Michael, from a previous marriage with Marcy Wudarski. Gandolfini filed for divorce from Wudarski in March 2002 after three years of marriage.

Was The Sopranos the Greatest TV Show of All Time?

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6. His Big Break Didn’t Come Till He Was 37

True romance- Patrcia Arquette beating up GandofiniGirls Wll Be Girls2007-02-25T23:08:03.000Z

Gandolfini was a renowned character actor before his big break in the The Sopranos at age 37. He was known for movies such as True Romance, Get Shorty, In the Loop, Crimson Tide, A Civil Action, 8mm, Zero Dark Thirty and Killing Them Softly.

Prior to breaking into movies, Gandolfini performed for six months on Broadway as the good-hearted Mitch in an adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire alongside heavyweights like Alec Baldwin and Jessica Lange, who assumed the leading roles in that production. In that show, his wife was played by Aida Turturro, who went on to play Tony Soprano’s brilliantly antagonistic sister, Janice, on The Sopranos.

Just prior to that he earned his Broadway stripes playing Terry Malloy in a production of On The Waterfront. It ended prematurely: “I got a call telling me I was fired for being too mouthy.”

In 2009, he made his long-awaited return to the stage in God of Carnage, for which he won a Tony Award.

In the Loop – Don't Call Me EnglishJames Gandolfini vs. Peter Capaldi. The best verbal sparring in a long time.2011-12-17T06:51:53.000Z

True Romance director Tony Scott said about Gandolfini:

You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to spot someone who’s got that much talent. He’s such a unique combination of charming and dangerous, and it’s inherent in who he is.

 Actor James Gandolfini speaks onstage at the 2012 New York Film Critics Circle Awards at Crimson on January 7, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

Actor James Gandolfini speaks onstage at the 2012 New York Film Critics Circle Awards at Crimson on January 7, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

Gandolfini didn’t begin acting until he was in his 20s. He was a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in communications. While at Rutgers his girlfriend of two years was killed in a car accident, something Gandolfini drew on for inspiration. He mentioned her during his 2003 Emmy acceptance speech, and the star told GQ in an interview:

I might not have done what I’ve done without her death.

He began attending Meisner acting classes with his friend, Roger Bart, in the 1980s in New York. About the classes he said:

I was scared to death, I couldn’t do it. I was so angry and so nervous at the same time.

He spoke about his early movie influences on Inside the Actor’s Studio:

The first movie I remember seeing and registering was West Side Story; when I saw that, I went, ‘Wow!’

While trying to make it as an actor in New York, he worked a bunch of different gigs, he told Vanity Fair in a 2009 interview:

Waiter, bartender, bouncer, nightclub manager, street bookseller — all kinds of stuff. I planted trees. I delivered seltzer for a business that was owned by a Hasidic Jew I loved.


7. His Ex-Wife Claimed Gandolfini Performed ‘Kinky Sex With Multiple Mistresses’

James Gandolfini Dead Dies Heart Attack Sopranos Star Dead

Gandolfini endured a bitter divorce in which Wudarski was quoted in court papers saying that “Jim”, as his friends call him, performed “kinky sex with multiple mistresses.”

Another claim said Wudarksi compiled a list of:

more than two dozen names of those she believes James did drugs with, including a number of Sopranos buddies.

When these allegations became public, Gandolfini himself came forward about his own substance abuse problems. E! reported in 2002:

A statement from the star’s spokesman terms Gandolfini’s substance abuse as “a problem that existed in the past.”

“It’s something from years ago…that he’s taken care of,” rep Dan Klores said.

Earlier this week, in the New York Daily News, another Gandolfini flack said the actor, “to [the rep’s] knowledge,” had never been to rehab. The National Enquirer, citing court papers, said Gandolfini began, but did not complete, a 28-day rehab stint in 2000.

“To bring [up the drug problem] now, as an attempt to gain leverage and a better settlement during the divorce, is just reprehensible,” Klores said in the statement.

Goodbye and Thank You, James.

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8. He Was About to Start Filming on a New Series for HBO

His new series, Criminal Justice, a remake of the BBC series of the same name, was just green-lighted by HBO in May. Screenrant reported:

Gandolfini will play Jack Stone, a less than scrupulous attorney dressed in cheap suits and sandals, who trolls New York City police precincts for desperate clients. Stone stumbles upon an American-born Pakistani man named Naz (Rizwan Ahmed) in a holding cell and appoints himself Naz’s attorney.


9. Gandolfini Was a Real Jersey Boy

James Gandolfini — The Abe Lincoln vs. George Washington SHOWDOWN! | TMZ"Sopranos" star James Gandolfini was asked the one question that has divided American historians for years… Who would win in an all-out brawl: Abe Lincoln or George Washington? SUBSCRIBE: http://po.st/TMZSubscribe About TMZ: TMZ has consistently been credited for breaking the biggest stories dominating the entertainment news landscape and changed the way the public gets their news. Regularly referenced by the media, TMZ is one of the most cited entertainment news sources in the world. Subscribe to TMZ on YouTube for breaking celebrity news/ gossip and insight from the newsroom staff (TMZ Chatter & TMZ News), the best clips from TMZ on TV, Raw & Uncut TMZ paparazzi video (from TMZ.com) and the latest video from TMZ Sports and TMZ Live! Keeping Up with Our YouTube Exclusive Content: TMZ Chatter: TMZ newsroom staff insight and commentary from stories/ photos/ videos on TMZ.com TMZ News: The latest news you need to know from TMZ.com Raq Rants: Raquel Harper talks to a celebrity guest with ties to the hip hop and R&B communities. Behind The Bar Podcast: TMZ's lawyers Jason Beckerman and Derek Kaufman loiter at the intersection of law and entertainment, where they look closely at the personalities, events and trends driving the world of celebrity — and how the law affects it all. We love Hollywood, we just have a funny way of showing it. Need More TMZ? TMZ Website: http://po.st/TMZWebsite LIKE TMZ on Facebook! http://po.st/TMZLike FOLLOW TMZ on Twitter! http://po.st/TMZFollow FOLLOW TMZ on Instagram! http://po.st/TMZInsta TMZ on TV & TMZ Sports on FS1 Tune In Info: http://po.st/TMZOnAir TMZ is on iOS! http://po.st/TMZiOS TMZ is on Android! http://po.st/TMZonAndroid Got a Tip? Contact TMZ: http://po.st/TMZTip Check out TMZ Live, TMZ Sports and toofab! TMZ Live: http://po.st/TMZLiveWebsite Subscribe! TMZ Live: http://po.st/TMZLiveSubscribe TMZ Sports: http://po.st/TMZSportsWebsite Subscribe! TMZ Sports: http://po.st/TMZSportsSubscribe Toofab: http://po.st/toofabWebsite Subscribe! toofab: http://po.st/toofabSubscribe James Gandolfini — The Abe Lincoln vs. George Washington SHOWDOWN! | TMZ https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCK7IIV6Q2junGSdYK3BmZMg2012-08-21T20:00:09.000Z

Just like Tony Soprano, Gandolfini was a New Jersey native, growing up in Park Ridge, Bergen County. His family were proud Italians and regularly made trips back to the old country, around the Naples region, where his character, Tony Sopranos’s ancestors were also from. According to Gandolfini, his parents would speak Italian only:

when they didn’t want us to know what they were talking about, so they didn’t it teach to my sisters or to myself.

His father worked as a bricklayer, laying the first bricks for Shea Stadium, according to Gandolfini, and later became a custodian at a Catholic High School in New Jersey. His mother was the head lunch lady at the same school.

His father was a World War II veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart for his services.

He once said: My father always said a million times, `We’re peasants.’


10. He Once Referred to Himself as a ‘260 Pound Woody Allen’

James Gandolfini Dead Dies Heart Attack Sopranos Star Dead

Gandolfini once said about the role of Tony Soprano:

I’m playing an Italian lunatic from New Jersey, and that’s basically what I am.

He later said in another interview:

And now I’m a 285-pound Woody Allen, I find it hard to relax. I live in New York.

Around the time that The Sopranos began its run, a neighbor banged on Gandolfini’s apartment door because the actor was making too much noise. Gandolfini answered and the man appeared shocked, he told the Associated Press:

So I opened the door and the guy just turns white, all of a sudden I realize, `Oh … he thinks I’m Tony.

Even after all of his career success he said:

All the fuss during The Sopranos really was pretty ridiculous. None of us expected it to last, and it lasted almost 10 years. Honestly? I don’t think I’m that different. I’ve lived in the same apartment for years. I’ve kept a lot of the same friends. I’m still grumpy and miserable.

Sopranos creator David Chase told GQ what he thought Gandolfini brought to the role of Tony Soprano:

Some of the turmoil that’s inside of Jim, that pain and sadness, is what he uses to bring that guy to the screen.