Funeral services for James Gandolfini are set for Thursday morning at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York City, reports the Associated Press.
The 51-year-old star of “The Sopranos” died Wednesday in Rome. Family spokesman Michael Kobold told the AP Gandolfini died of a heart attack. The actor had been headed to Sicily to appear at the Taormina Film Festival, which paid tribute to him Saturday.
Gandolfini was best known for playing Tony Soprano, the violent mob boss in therapy, in HBO’s landmark drama series “The Sopranos,” the role that won him three Emmy Awards during its six-season run and helped change the landscape of television drama.
“He was a genius,” said “Sopranos” creator David Chase, according to his AP obituary. “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.”
Edie Falco, who played Tony Soprano’s wife Carmela on “The Sopranos,” remembered him as a “man of tremendous depth and sensitivity,” according to his AP obituary.
“I am shocked and devastated by Jim’s passing,” she said in a statement, adding that her heart went out to his family “as those of us in his pretend one hold on to the memories of our intense and beautiful time together. The love between Tony and Carmela was one of the greatest I’ve ever known.”
Gandolfini played a variety of stage and screen roles after his breakout success on “The Sopranos.” He portrayed then-CIA director Leon Panetta in Kathryn Bigelow’s Osama bin Laden hunt docudrama “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Gandolfini worked with Chase for the ’60s period drama “Not Fade Away,” in which he played the old-school father of a wannabe rocker, and in Andrew Dominick’s crime flick “Killing Them Softly,” he played an aged, washed-up hit man.
Shawnee-born superstar Brad Pitt, his co-star in “Killing Them Softly,” called Gandolfini “a ferocious actor, a gentle soul and a genuinely funny man. I am fortunate to have sat across the table from him and am gutted by this loss. I wish his family strength and some semblance of peace.”
On Broadway, Gandolfini garnered a best-actor Tony Award nomination for 2009′s “God of Carnage.”
Deploying his unsought clout as a star, Gandolfini produced a pair of documentaries for HBO focused on a cause he held dear: veterans affairs.
His final projects included the film “Animal Rescue,” directed by Michael R. Roskam and written by Dennis Lehane, which has been shot and is expected to be released next year. He also had agreed to star in a seven-part limited series for HBO, “Criminal Justice,” based on a BBC show. He had shot a pilot for an early iteration of the project, according to the AP.
The New Jersey native’s first big break was a Broadway production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” where he played Steve, one of Stanley Kowalski’s poker buddies. His film debut was in Sidney Lumet’s “A Stranger Among Us” (1992), according to the AP.
Gandolfini played a tough guy in Tony Scott’s 1993 film “True Romance,” which was scripted by Quentin Tarantino. It was a prelude to “The Sopranos,” most notably in a scene in which his character beat Patricia Arquette’s character to a pulp while offering such flirtatious banter as, “You got a lot of heart, kid.”
In his early career, Gandolfini also had supporting roles in “Crimson Tide” (1995), “Get Shorty” (1995), “The Juror” (1996), Lumet’s “Night Falls on Manhattan” (1997), “She’s So Lovely” (1997), “Fallen” (1998), “A Civil Action” (1998), and the Coen Brothers’ “The Man Who Wasn’t There” (2001).
Joe Gannascoli, who played Vito Spatafore on “The Sopranos,” said he was shocked and heartbroken by Gandolfini’s sudden passing.
“Fifty-one and leaves a kid — he was newly married. His son is fatherless now. … It’s way too young,” Gannascoli said.
Gandolfini and his wife, Deborah, who were married in 2008, have a daughter, Liliana, born last year, HBO told the AP. Michael is the son of the actor and his former wife, Marcy.
Our thoughts are with his family, friends and fans.