This is very sad. What a great actor! "The Sopranos" was — must I add perhaps? — the greatest television show of all time, largely because of him.
ADDED: Here's the NYT obituary.
James Joseph Gandolfini Jr. was born in Westwood, N.J., on Sept. 18, 1961. His father was an Italian immigrant who held a number of jobs, including janitor, bricklayer and cement mason. His mother, Santa, was a high school lunch lady....AND: The show's creator, David Chase, said: "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. I remember telling him many times, 'You don’t get it. You’re like Mozart.' There would be silence at the other end of the phone."
He had an impressive list of character-acting credits but he was largely unknown to the general public when David Chase cast him in “The Sopranos” in 1999.
“I thought it was a wonderful script,” Mr. Gandolfini told Newsweek in 2001, recalling his audition. “I thought, ‘I can do this.’ But I thought they would hire someone a little more debonair, shall we say. A little more appealing to the eye.”
(I just watched the first episode again. So brilliant!)