James Gandolfini dead: Actor who played Tony Soprano on 'The Sopranos' dies, according to reports

James Gandolfini -- who played Tony Soprano on HBO's Emmy-winning drama "The Sopranos," has died in Italy, HBO representatives and Gandolfini's managers tell the Associated Press.

Gandolfini, 51, was on holiday in Rome when he may have suffered a heart attack, HBO's vice president for program publicity Mara Mikialian told CNN .

Gandolfini was in Italy to attend the 59th Taormina Film Festival in Sicily -- and he was scheduled to participate in a festival event this weekend with Italian director Gabriele Muccino, according to TMZ.com .

Gandolfini won three Emmys for his portrayal of Tony Soprano. He played the conflicted mob boss in the groundbreaking HBO series from 1999 to 2007.

In a statement, HBO called the actor a "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." The channel expressed sympathy for his wife and children.

The actor appeared recently in "Zero Dark Thirty" and "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone." He had been working on Fox Searchlight's "Animal Rescue" and TV show "Criminal Justice" as well as "Taxi 22."

In a December 2012 interview with The Associated Press, Gandolfini said he gravitated to acting as a release, a way to get rid of anger. "I don't know what exactly I was angry about," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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