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'Sopranos' star James Gandolfini dies in Italy at age 51

Thursday - 6/20/2013, 12:30am  ET

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The creator of HBO series "The Sopranos" is remembering its star, James Gandolfini, as a "genius" of an actor.

HBO and Gandolfini's managers say the 51-year-old died Wednesday while on vacation in Italy. No cause of death was given.

Gandolfini's portrayal of the brutal but emotionally delicate crime boss Tony Soprano was the center of one of TV's greatest drama series and turned the mobster stereotype on its head. Sopranos' creator David Chase calls Gandolfini "one of the greatest actors of this or any time," adding that much of his genius "resided in those sad eyes."

Gandolfini grew up in New Jersey, and the state's governor calls the actor's death "an awful shock." Saying he was a "huge fan," Gov. Chris Christie says Gandolfini was "a fine actor, a Rutgers alum and a true Jersey guy."

Gandolfini won three Emmy Awards for his role as Tony Soprano and worked steadily in film and on stage after the series ended. He earned a 2009 Tony Award nomination for his role in "God of Carnage," and his film roles included playing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in "Zero Dark Thirty."

%@AP Links

315-w-36-(Jamie Friar, AP correspondent and archive audio of James Gandolfini)--Actor James Gandolfini has died. The AP's Jamie Friar reports on the man who created one of TV's iconic characters, Tony Soprano. ((opens with sound)) (19 Jun 2013)

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