James Gandolfini (aka Tony Soprano) dead at 51

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Entertainers and politicians mourned the loss of actor James Gandolfini, best known as Tony Soprano on HBO’s mafia series The Sopranos, who passed away suddenly at the age of 51 after a heart attack yesterday.

HBO confirmed Gandolfini’s passing with a statement:

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

The Sopranos creator, David Chase, added:

He was a genius. 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. I remember telling him many times, ‘You don’t get it. You’re like Mozart.’ There would be silence at the other end of the phone. For Deborah and Michael and Lilliana this is crushing. And it’s bad for the rest of the world. He wasn’t easy sometimes. But he was my partner, he was my brother in ways I can’t explain and never will be able to explain.

Other statements by celebrities:

“It’s an awful shock. James Gandolfini was a fine actor, a Rutgers alum and a true Jersey guy. I was a huge fan of his and the character he played so authentically, Tony Soprano. I have gotten to know Jimmy and many of the other actors in the Sopranos cast and I can say that each of them are an individual New Jersey treasure. Mary Pat and I express our deepest sympathies to Mr. Gandolfini’s wife and children, and our prayers are with them at this terrible time.” – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

“I met Gandolfini once after he saw me in a play and his describing a gesture I did on stage is one of my most cherished compliments ever.”- Actor James Urbaniak @JamesUrbaniak

“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.” – Actress Olivia Wilde ‏@oliviawilde

“RIP James Gandolfini. A great friend.” – Actor Jeff Daniels @Jeff_Daniels

“Damn. RIP James Gandofini. An amazing actor that made arguably the greatest drama of all time, & a funny, sweet, gentle giant off screen.” – Ricky Gervais

“The great James Gandolfini passed away today. Only 51. I can’t believe it.” – Bette Midler

“Not tony soprano! Damn. Such a good guy and a great actor. James, rest in peace…” – Russell Simmons

“So sad to lose James Gandolfini. One of the sweetest, funniest, most generous actors I’ve ever worked with. Sending prayers to his family.” – Susan Sarandon

“Sad to hear about James Gandolfini . First met Jimmy back in ’94.He was roommates in NY with Lenny Loftin. Lovely man. RIP Jimmy” – Russell Crowe

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