The patriarch and antihero of HBO's Sopranos mob series was in Italy for the 59th Taormina Film Festival:
The actor was 51.
He's survived by wife Deborah Lin, the couple's baby daughter and a teenage son from a previous marriage.
TMZ says he was in Sicily to participate in the fest with director Gabriele Muccino.
[Added at 4:53 p.m.]: According to IMDB the Jersey-born actor got his start in New York theater.
His Hollywood breakthrough came when he played a hit man in the 1993 film True Romance, which was written by Quentin Tarantino.
He wowed us with his role as a sleazy talent scout in the 1999 thriller 8MM.
But it was Gandolfini as an introspective Tony Soprano, mafia boss, family man, that burnished his image for American drama buffs.
[Update at 12:36 a.m. Thursday]: HBO sent us a statement from producers Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders that says, in part, that Gandolfini "passed away today while on holiday in Rome, Italy":
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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.
Another statement, from the network, also was forwarded. It reads:
We're all in shock and feeling immeasurable sadness at the loss of a beloved member of our family. He was 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. 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.