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"The Sopranos" Star James Gandolfini Dead at 51

Vera Anderson/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- James Gandolfini, best known for his role as mobster Tony Soprano in the 1999-2007 HBO series The Sopranos, has died.  He was 51.

ABC News confirms that Gandolfini suffered cardiac arrest in his room at Rome's Hotel Exedra.  He was on vacation there with his teenage son, Michael, who called reception around 10:00 p.m. local time Wednesday (4:00 p.m. ET). 

When hotel staff arrived they immediately called an ambulance.  Gandolfini was still alive but unconscious when he was transferred to the city's Policlinico Umberto I hospital as paramedics attempted to revive him.  He arrived at the hospital at 10:40 p.m., where resuscitation attempts continued for another 40 minutes, after which time Gandolfini was declared dead. 

Though Gandolfini suffered cardiac arrest, his cause of death has not been officially confirmed.  His remains were taken to the city morgue Wednesday night, where they will undergo an autopsy on Friday.  Italian law requires a minimum 24-hour wait between death and autopsy.

After the autopsy, the U.S. Embassy will work with the morgue to bring Gandolfini's body back to the United States.

A statement from HBO reads:

We're all in shock and feeling immeasurable sadness at the loss of a beloved member of our family.  He was [a] 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. 

Gandolfini's managers, Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders, also released a statement:

"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."

Actress Edie Falco, who played Gandolfini's long-suffering wife Carmela Soprano, says of her former co-star:

"I am shocked and devastated by Jim's passing.  He was a man of tremendous depth and sensitivity, with a kindness and generosity beyond words.  I consider myself very lucky to have spent 10 years as his close colleague. My heart goes out to his family.  As those of us in his pretend one hold on to the memories of our intense and beautiful time together.  The love between Tony and Carmela was one of the greatest I've ever known."

Fellow Sopranos cast member Michael Imperioli, who played Tony Soprano protege Christopher Moltisanti, declared in a statement:

"Jimmy treated us all like family with a generosity, loyalty and compassion that is rare in this world.  Working with him was a pleasure and a privilege. I will be forever grateful having had a friend the likes of Jimmy."

Jamie-Lynn Sigler played Tony Soprano's daughter, Meadow.  She issued a statement late Thursday morning that read, in part:

"This news has left me heartbroken. I can only imagine the pain his family feels at this time... I spent 10 years of my life studying and admiring one of the most brilliant actors, yes, but more importantly one of the greatest men. Jim had the ability, unbeknownst to him, to make you feel like everything would be alright if he was around. I treasure my memories with him and feel so honored that I was an up close witness to his greatness."

Gandolfini won three Emmy Awards for his performance on The Sopranos. Last month, HBO ordered a seven-part drama series, Criminal Justice, with Gandolfini attached.

Gandolfini had numerous movies to his credit as well, most recently Zero Dark Thirty and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. He had been working on a drama titled Animal Rescue, which is scheduled for release next year.

His film resume also includes Crimson Tide, Get Shorty, The Mexican, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, and Killing Them Softly.

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