James Gandolfini dies suddenly aged 51

The Man who was undoubtedly loved more than any other Mafia boss in history, James Gandolfini, died this week at the age of 51. The actor’s wife and two children will, to some extent anyway, be sharing their grief with a multitude of friends, fans and co-workers who remember him as a very special fellow.

As the complex character of Tony Soprano, New Jersey mobster and family man with kids, Gandolfini was, in the opinion of most observers, the engine that powered HBO’s immensely successful series “The Sopranos” into its place as one of the most respected TV shows ever aired.

The cause of death is believed to be a massive heart attack suffered in the hotel room he was sharing with his 13-year-old son Michael during a holiday in Rome. They had planned to attend the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily, and apparently there was was no warning prior to his collapse.

Close friends and associates have flooded the pages of social media with expressions of genuine sorrow and loss; Count Gilles Marini went to Facebook to reveal that he had spent time with Gandolfini the previous weekend. “Last Saturday he told me at our kids’ graduation [that] he was so happy to go with his son to Italy.” Marini wrote that he was heartbroken; he said, “I am so so sad. RIP Brother, you’ll be missed.”

Organisers of the Taormina Film Festival Mario Sesti and Tiziana Rocca said the actor was due to receive the Taormina City Prize, and to teach a masterclass in Taormina on Saturday. They are now organising a tribute to a man they praised as “. . . the American actor that better than anyone else has been able to interpret the Italian-American with his personality full of contrasts, ambition, pain, humour. He was the face of the golden age of television, but also a memorable film actor.”