Sopranos Fans Mourn Loss of James Gandolfini

Friends and colleagues of James Gandolfini say they're shocked and shattered by  news of the actor's passing.  HBO, home of Gandolfini's hit mob drama "The Sopranos," issued a statement saying its staff was "feeling immeasurable sadness at the loss of a beloved member" of the HBO family.  The network described Gandolfini as a "gentle and loving person who treated everyone no matter their title or position with equal respect."  Actor Joseph R. Gannascoli, who played Vito on "The Sopranos," also tells TMZ.com that Gandolfini was "the most humble and gifted actor and person" he had ever worked with.  The actor was reportedly in Italy to attend a film festival in Sicily when he died of a suspected heart attack Wednesday. 

Gandolfini was born in Westwood, New Jersey on September 18th, 1961. He went on to pursue acting on both stage and in film after earning a degree in Communication Studies from Rutgers University.  Gandolfini appeared in a 1992 production of "On The Waterfront" on Broadway.  His role as wife-beating mobster Virgil in the 1993 thriller "True Romance" is also among his most memorable roles.  He also played an ex-stuntman in 1995's "Get Shorty" and the Mayor of New York City in the 2009 remake of "The Taking of Pelham 123." 

Gandolfini recently appeared in the movies "Zero Dark Thirty" and "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone."  But it's for his role as troubled mob boss Tony Soprano for which he will always be remembered.  Gandolfini won three Emmys for his work on the controversial series, which ended in 2007 after six seasons.  The notoriety led "Entertainment Weekly" to list Gandolfini as one of the greatest TV icons of all time.  James Gandolfini was 51.