Sopranos star James Gandolfini died Wednesday in Italy, celebrity website TMZ reported.
The actor, who played abrasive Mafia boss Tony Soprano in the hit TV series, was 51. His death was confirmed by cable network HBO, which produced the award-winning mafia drama.
Gandolfini was in Italy to attend the 59th Taormina Film Festival in Sicily, TMZ reported. The New York Daily News reported the cause of death as a heart attack.
News of his death prompted an outpouring of tributes on Twitter.
"James Gandolfini was a kind, funny, wonderful guy. I'm so lucky to have worked with him," said actress Olivia Wilde.
"The world just lost one of its great actors," tweeted actor Ewan McGregor, while Senator John McCain said "RIP James Gandolfini, one of the nicest guys I've ever met."
Born in September 1961 in New Jersey to an Italian-American family, Gandolfini was raised as a strict Roman-Catholic, and worked as a bouncer, bartender and nightclub manager before turning to acting.
He appeared in several Broadway shows before enjoying his first major movie success as a brutal mob-enforcer in the 1993 thriller True Romance.
A burly heavy-set man with a menacing smile, he played a Russian mobster in the 1994's Terminal Velocity and also had a prominent role in the crime caper Get Shorty (1995).
He had the greatest success as the hard-living and ruthless New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano in the cable TV drama The Sopranos, which debuted in 1999. and for which he won three Emmy Awards for best actor before the series closed in 2007.
Gandolfini married former model Deborah Lin in 2008 with whom he had a baby daughter in October. He is also survived by a son with his ex-wife, Marcy Wudarski.
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