James Gandolfini, the New Jersey-bred actor who delighted audiences as mob boss Tony Soprano in “The Sopranos” has died following a massive heart attack in Italy, a source told the Daily News.
“Everyone is in tears,” the source close to the 51-year-old TV tough guy said.
A press-shy celeb who got his start as a character actor and became famous relatively late in his career — thanks to his breakout role on “The Sopranos,” Gandolfini has largely avoided the spotlight since the last season of the beloved show aired in 2007.
The burly Westwood, N.J. native has appeared in several supporting roles since then, playing the director of the CIA in “Zero Dark Thirty” and the gruff blue-collar father of a wannabe rock star in “Not Fade Away” last year.
Gandolfini hit Broadway in 2009 with the Tony Award-winning comedy “God of Carnage.”
“I seek out good stories, basically — that’s it,” he told The Star-Ledger last December.
“The older I get, the funnier-looking I get, the more comedies I’m offered. I’m starting to look like a toad, so I’ll probably be getting even more soon.”
Gandolfini’s wife, former model Deborah Lin, gave birth to a baby girl last October. The couple married in Hawaii in 2008.
Gandolfini — who spent part of his early career supporting himself as a bartender and nightclub manager — also has a son with his ex-wife, Marcy Wudarski.
His first break came in 1992 when he landed a role in a Broadway version of “A Streetcar Named Desire” that starred Alec Baldwin and Jessica Lange.
Smallish parts in major films followed — Gandolfini played a submarine crew member in “Crimson Tide” in 1995 and a gangland bodyguard in “Get Shorty” the same year.
Fame came for the Italian-American actor after 1999, as “The Sopranos” garnered critical acclaim and cult popularity on its way to becoming a TV classic.
Gandolfini won three Emmy Awards for his sparkling depiction of protagonist Tony Soprano, a mobster trying to balance the mundane stresses of family life and his unusual occupation: organized crime.
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