James Gandolfini, ‘Sopranos’ star, dead at 51

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James Gandolfini, star of HBO’s “The Sopranos,” has died of a possible heart attack in Rome. He was 51.

A spokeswoman for the cable network said that Gandolfini was on holiday in Italy. They were preparing a more complete statement.

Gandolfini, a burly man with a booming voice, had recently filmed “Criminal Justice” for HBO, which had received a limited series order.

Gandolfini won three Emmys for playing Tony Soprano, a beleaguered mob boss with mom issues. The actor specialized in playing brusque, intimidating guys whose big frames concealed generous hearts.

As Tony Soprano, he anchored a show that ushered in what many consider a new golden era of television. The series invited viewers to sympathize with the bad guy, and only Gandolfini’s charm made it possible to root for Tony even as he cheated on his wife and betrayed his loved ones.

Gandolfini walked a tough line, asking us to understand Tony without necessarily liking him. But in spite of ourselves, we usually did.

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James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano in “The Sopranos” (HBO)


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