James Gandolfini: Tributes paid to Sopranos actor

Lizo Mzimba takes a look back at James Gandolfini's career

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Tributes have been pouring in for Sopranos actor James Gandolfini, who has died in Italy at the age of 51.

"We lost a giant today. I am utterly heartbroken," his Sopranos co-star Lorraine Bracco said.

The actor, who became a household name playing conflicted mob boss Tony Soprano, suffered a suspected heart attack while on holiday in Rome.

He had been due to attend the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily where he was to receive a special prize on Saturday.

"Jimmy was one of the most talented, authentic and vulnerable actors of his time. He was unorthodox and truly special in so many ways. He had the sex appeal of Steve McQueen or Brando in his prime as well as the comedic genius of Jackie Gleason," said Hollywood executive and Sopranos producer Brad Grey.

His co-stars from The Sopranos, which ran for six series between 1999-2007, were among the many to pay their respects to the popular star, who began his career on Broadway.

Paying tribute on Twitter, Steven Van Zandt, who played Silvio Dante in the show, wrote: "I have lost a brother and a friend. The world has lost one of the greatest actors of all time."

Actress Edie Falco, who played his on-screen wife Carmela, said: "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."

James Gandolfini, Steven Van Zandt Steven Van Zandt (centre) said he had "lost a brother"

The Sopranos creator, David Chase, was also greatly saddened by the news.

"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. He was my partner. He was my brother in ways I can't explain and never will be able to explain."

Susan Sarandon, who co-starred with Gandolfini in 2005's Romance and Cigarettes, wrote: "So sad to lose James Gandolfini. One of the sweetest, funniest, most generous actors I've ever worked with. Sending prayers to his family."

Steve Carrell, who appeared alongside Gandolfini in the recent magic comedy film The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, said the death was "unbelievably sad news".

"If you watch his work in anything, he is so specific in his characterisations - I think he was a genius," he told the BBC.

"When I had a chance to work with him, everyone I know was jealous because this guy was the real deal - he was a consummate actor but apart from that, an incredibly generous good man."

In 2009, Gandolfini worked on the big screen version of TV sitcom The Thick of It. In the Loop saw him play the hard-nosed Lieutenant General George Miller.

Its creator, Armando Iannucci, tweeted: "People were surprised James Gandolfini was so different from Tony Soprano. That's because he was a great actor. Warm, gentle and funny."

Marcia Gay Harden Marcia Gay Harden starred with Gandolfini in God of Carnage on Broadway

And co-star Chris Addison called him "a colossus in all respects. He could do it all but I loved his gift for comedy."

In The Loop co-star Peter Capaldi added his own statement: "I was a huge fan of James Gandolfini's. To actually work with him was one of the highlights of my career. He lived up to my expectations in every way."

"But what I will remember most about him, was not just the incredible truth and power of his acting, but his kindness and grace as a man. He was revered by us as an actor, but set us an even greater example as a man."

Before his career-defining role as Tony Soprano, Gandolfini was a notable stage actor most recently winning acclaim for his turn in God of Carnage, in 2009.

US film historian and critic Leonard Maltin said: "I was lucky enough to see him on Broadway in God of Carnage, in which he commanded the stage....Watching him try to harness his volcanic temper and sense of resentment against some 'entitled' fellow parents was riveting.

"The news of his death is still shocking, but his presence will continue to resonate for many years."

Comic actor Robin Williams also offered condolences to the star's family, going on to call him "an extraordinary actor".

Gandolfini also worked on documentaries including 2007's Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq and Wartorn: 1861-2010, which dealt with post traumatic stress disorder in the military.

Documentary-maker Michael Moore wrote on Twitter: "One of the good guys, kind and generous and an active supporter of documentary filmmakers."

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