LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — “The Sopranos” star James Gandolfini died Wednesday.

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The three-time Emmy winning actor died of a heart attack while vacationing in Rome, Italy. Gandolfini was 51.

Less than two weeks ago, CBS announced it had given a script commitment to “Taxi-22,” a comedy based on a French series that Gandolfini was set to executive produce.

Gandolfini’s wife, former model Deborah Lin, gave birth to a baby girl last October. The couple married in Hawaii five years ago. Gandolfini also has a teenage son with his ex-wife, Marcy Wudarski.

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His first break came in 1992 after he landed a role in a Broadway revival of “A Streetcar Named Desire” that starred Alec Baldwin and Jessica Lange.

The popular and acclaimed actor was in Italy to attend the Taormina Film Festival this weekend. He also told friend Gilles Marini that he was excited to go to the festival with his son for a “boys weekend.”

“The hotel notified the emergency crews who responded and first aid was administered before Mr. Galdonfini was taken to the hospital where he died of an apparent heart attack,” family friend Michael Kolbold told KNX1070’s Pete Demetriou.

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Gandolfini was well-known to the Hollywood community after turns in “Get Shorty” and “Crimson Tide”, but the role of Tony Soprano — the mobster who could whack a rival one minute and take his daughter on a tour of colleges the next — made him an immediate star in 1999.

“The Sopranos” ran on HBO until 2007.

The actor created one of TV’s all-time most iconic characters and those who knew him would marvel that as Tony Soprano he was believable as a brutish killer. Off-camera, friends described him as soft-spoken, a teddy bear and a pacifist.

“There was such an authenticity to the character and taking it and putting it in the form of James Galdonfini who’s nobody’s idea of a leading man, so completely unglamorous and unpretentious and un-star like when you come right down to it,” Matt Roush, TV Guide’s senior critic, told KNX1070. “It redefined the hero of television in how it humanized the anti-hero and created this trend that continues up to today.”

Gandolfini would often say he was “nothing” like Tony Soprano, preferring to see himself as “a 260-pound Woody Allen.”

Gandolfini’s managers Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders said in 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.”

HBO released the following statement:

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“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.”