James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano [screen capture from HBO's "Sopranos"]

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano [screen capture from HBO’s “Sopranos”]

KNOWN AS the first mob guy character to ever hit the psychiatrist’s couch, tough guy actor James Gandolfini was struck down in Italy after he suffered a massive heart attack.

What a talent. I just kept waiting for him to take a stretch in the next character he played, waiting for his next break out role.

James Gandolfini, the actor who most famously portrayed Tony Soprano on the series “The Sopranos,” has died in Italy at age 51, according to his managers and HBO, which broadcast “The Sopranos.”

“It is with immense sorrow that we report our client James Gandolfini passed away today while on holiday in Rome, Italy,” said his managers, Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders. “Our hearts are shattered and we will miss him deeply. He and his family were part of our family for many years and we are all grieving.”

HBO said in a prepared statement, “We’re all in shock and feeling immeasurable sadness at the loss of a beloved member of our family. He was special man, a great talent, but more importantly a gentle and loving person who treated everyone no matter their title or position with equal respect. He touched so many of us over the years with his humor, his warmth and his humility. Our hearts go out to his wife and children during this terrible time. He will be deeply missed by all of us.”

[ABC News]

Years ago, after I did a critical review of “The Sopranos” series finale, David Chase sent me the whole series, along with the nicest f-you letter I’ve ever received. Watching that show gave me immense pleasure. We’ll have to watch it again soon.

RIP, and thanks for the work.

Mr. Gandolfini, who had studied the Meisner technique of acting for two years, said that he used it to focus his anger and incorporate it into his performances. In an interview for the television series “Inside the Actors Studio,” Mr. Gandolfini said he would deliberately hit himself on the head or stay up all night to evoke the desired reaction.

If you are tired, every single thing that somebody does makes you mad, Mr. Gandolfini said in the interview. “Drink six cups of coffee. Or just walk around with a rock in your shoe. It’s silly, but it works.”

[…] He went on to play a series of tough guys and heavies, including an angry Brooklyn parent in the Broadway drama “God of Carnage,” for which he was nominated for a Tony Award in 2009; the director of the C.I.A. in “Zero Dark Thirty,” Kathryn Bigelow’s dramatization of the hunt for Osama bin Laden; and a hit man in the 2012 crime thriller “Killing Them Softly.”

Mr. Gandolfini also produced the documentaries “Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq” and “Wartorn: 1861-2010,” about the history of post-traumatic stress in the military. …

[New York Times]