James Gandolfini, the child of a devout Roman Catholic family in New Jersey who rose to prominance as modster Tony Soprano in the HBO series The Sopranos, died Wednesday while vacationing in Italy according to several news reports.
News reports says the actor reportedly suffered a massive heart attack in the presence of his son.
His sudden death shocked his former cast mates. Lorraine Bracco, who played a psychiatrist on The Sopranos announced, "We lost a giant today. I am utterly heartbroken."
Michael Imperioli, who played Tony Soprano's protégé, noted "Jimmy treated us all like family with a generosity, loyalty and compassion that is rare in this world. ... Working with him was a pleasure and a privilege. I will be forever grateful having had a friend the likes of Jimmy."
Sopranos creator David Chase said in a statement, "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."
Though the burly Gandolifini often played gangsters in films such as Killing Them Softly and Get Shorty, he was reportedly shy.
He is survived by his second wife Deborah Lin, their daughter Liliana Ruth and son Michael from his previous marriage to Marcy Wudarski.