(CNN) – James Gandolfini, best known for his role as an anxiety-ridden mob boss on HBO’s “The Sopranos,” died in Italy, possibly of a heart attack, an HBO spokeswoman and the actor’s managers said Wednesday. He was 51.
Gandolfini was on holiday in Rome, said Mara Mikialian, HBO’s vice president for program publicity.
The actor was expected to make an appearance at the Taormina Film Fest in Sicily this week, according to the festival.
Notoriously press shy, Gandolfini found fame late in his career with the television role of Tony Soprano.
He won three Emmy Awards for his portrayal of the angst-ridden mob boss who visited a therapist and took Prozac while knocking off people in “The Sopranos,” which aired from 1999 to 2007.
In recent years, he had starred in several movies, including the Oscar-nominated “Zero Dark Thirty,” “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” and “Killing Them Softly.”
“He was just so good at the emotion. A very passionate man and a very, very tender man,” Matthew Warchus, who directed Gandolfini in the Broadway play “God of Carnage,” told CNN.
“I really loved him and admired him a great deal.”
News of the actor’s death spread quickly, drawing shock and sadness from those who had worked with him.
“James Gandolfini was a kind, funny, wonderful guy. I’m so lucky to have worked with him. Sending love to his family. Such a sad, sad day,” Olivia Wilde, who starred with the actor in “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” said in a post on Twitter.
Actor Steve Carrell, who also appeared in the movie, simply said on Twitter: “James Gandolfini. What a great loss.”
Gandolfini is survived by his wife, Deborah, and their daughter. He is also survived by a son from another marriage.