James Gandolfini, the actor famous for his lead role in mob drama The Sopranos, has died in Italy after a cardiac arrest at the age of 51.
His lumbering, brutish mob boss with the tortured psyche will endure as one of TV's indelible characters. But his portrayal of criminal Tony Soprano in HBO's landmark drama series The Sopranos was just one facet of an actor who created a rich legacy of film and stage work in a life cut short.
Gandolfini, 51, who died while on holiday in Rome, refused to be bound by his star-making role in the series that brought him three Emmy Awards during its six-season run.
"He was a genius," said Sopranos creator David Chase. "Anyone who saw him even in the smallest of his performances knows that. He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time. A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes."
Dr Claudio Modini, head of the emergency room at the Policlinic Umberto I hospital in Rome, said Gandolfini suffered a cardiac arrest. Antonio D'Amore, manager of Rome's Boscolo Exedra hotel, was quoted by the US NBC network as saying Gandolfini was found by his 13-year-old son, Michael.
Organisers of the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily were scrambling to put together a tribute to Gandolfini, who had been expected to attend the festival's closing ceremony this weekend and receive an award. Organisers Mario Sesti and Tiziana Rocca said Gandolfini will instead be honoured with a tribute "remembering his career and talent."
Edie Falco, who played Tony Soprano's wife Carmela remembered him as a "man of tremendous depth and sensitivity". "I am shocked and devastated by Jim's passing," she said in a statement. "The love between Tony and Carmela was one of the greatest I've ever known."
Gandolfini and his wife, Deborah, who were married in 2008, have a daughter, Liliana, born last year, HBO said.
Gandolfini's performance in The Sopranos was his ticket to fame, but he evaded being stereotyped as a mobster after the drama's breathtaking blackout ending in 2007. He played Defence Secretary Leon Panetta in Kathryn Bigelow's Osama bin Laden hunt docudrama Zero Dark Thirty. On Broadway, he garnered a best-actor Tony Award nomination for 2009's God of Carnage.
He was mourned online in a flood of celebrity comments. "The great James Gandolfini passed away today. Only 51. I can't believe it," Bette Midler posted on her Twitter account. "An extraordinary actor. RIP, Mr Gandolfini," Robin Williams tweeted.