Doctors in Italy battled for 40 minutes to save the life of James Gandolfini, the burly actor best known for his Emmy-winning role as a mob boss in the TV series “The Sopranos,” before pronouncing him dead on Wednesday at age 51.
Gandolfini, whose performance as Tony Soprano made him a household name and ushered in a new era of American television drama, was vacationing in Rome and had been scheduled to attend the closing of the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily on Saturday.
He was taken from his Rome hotel to the city’s Umberto I hospital late on Wednesday, according to a hospital spokesperson.
“The resuscitation maneuvers, including heart massage, etc., continued for 40 minutes and then, seeing no electric activity from the heart, this was interrupted and we declared James dead,” Claudio Modini, the emergency room chief, told Reuters.
“The patient was considered dead on arrival, and for that reason an autopsy has been requested to be carried out by a pathologist, as is normal procedure in our country.”
The autopsy has been scheduled for Friday morning.
Michael Kobold, a friend of the family, told reporters the actor was found by a relative at his hotel in central Rome after suffering an apparent heart attack.
Since “The Sopranos” ended its six-season run in June 2007, Gandolfini appeared in a number of big-screen roles, including “Zero Dark Thirty,” a film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and the crime drama “Killing Them Softly.”
At the time of his death, he had been working on an upcoming HBO series, “Criminal Justice,” and had two motion pictures due out next year.
Actress Edie Falco, who played Gandolfini’s wife, Carmela, in “The Sopranos,” said she was devastated by his 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,” she said in a statement.
Gandolfini began his career as a stage actor in New York and went on to earn a Tony nomination for his role in the original 2009 Broadway cast of the dark comedy “God of Carnage.”
While he shared Tony Soprano’s Italian-American heritage and New Jersey roots, the actor was known for his reserved demeanor off-camera and generally shied away from publicity.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie described the actor’s sudden death as a shock.
“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,” he said in a statement.