There were few immediate details surrounding his death at 51, although he was on vacation in Rome, his managers said.
Gandolfini, a New Jersey native, appeared in films and on the stage before his breakthrough part in 1999 as Mafia boss Tony Soprano in the HBO series, which brought him three Emmys during its six-year run.
“We're all in shock and feeling immeasurable sadness at the loss of a beloved member of our family,” said a statement from HBO. “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. “
His managers Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders said, “It is with immense sorrow that we report our client James Gandolfini passed away today while on holiday in Rome, Italy. 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.”
Gandolfini, easily recognized with his bear-like frame, turned Tony Soprano into a multi-faceted character who merged mob boss and family man. In addition to his Emmys, the part brought him a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award.
His film credits included "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Killing Them Softly," and he appeared in the Broadway production "God of Carnage" in 2009 with Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis and Marcia Gay Harden, earning a Tony nomination for best actor.
Gandolfini's performance in "The Sopranos" was indelible and career-making, but he refused to be stereotyped as the bulky mobster who was a therapy patient, family man and cold-blooded killer.
After the series concluded with its breathtaking blackout ending, Gandolfini's varied film work included comedies such as "In the Loop," a political satire, and the heartwarming drama "Welcome to the Rileys," which costarred Kristen Stewart. He voiced the Wild Thing Carol in "Where the Wild Things Are."
In a December 2012 interview with The Associated Press, Gandolfini said he gravitated to acting as a release, a way to get rid of anger. "I don't know what exactly I was angry about," he said.
"I try to avoid certain things and certain kinds of violence at this point," he said last year. "I'm getting older, too. I don't want to be beating people up as much. I don't want to be beating women up and those kinds of things that much anymore."
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2013/06/19/actor-james-gandolfini-sopranos-dies-at-51/#ixzz2WiPxQ42w