LOS ANGELES (AP) — James Gandolfini's lumbering, brutish mob boss with the tortured psyche will endure as one of TV's indelible characters.
But his portrayal of criminal Tony Soprano in HBO's landmark drama series "The Sopranos" was just one facet of an actor who created a rich legacy of film and stage work in a life cut short.
Gandolfini, 51, who died Wednesday while vacationing in Rome, refused to be bound by his star-making role in the HBO series that brought him three Emmy Awards during its six-season run.
No cause of death was given by HBO and Gandolfini's managers Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders in a joint statement confirming his death.
Coroner Antonio Spasola at Rome's Policlinico Umberto I hospital, in the upscale Parioli neighborhood, declined to give a cause of death. Officials at the morgue confirmed that Gandolfini was brought there.
"He was a genius," said "Sopranos" creator David Chase. "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."
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."
Organizers of the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily were scrambling to put together a tribute to Gandolfini, who had been expected to attend the festival's closing ceremony this weekend and receive an award. Organizers Mario Sesti and Tiziana Rocca said Gandolfini will instead be honored with a tribute "remembering his career and talent."
Sesti and Rocca said they had spoken to Gandolfini hours before his death "and he was very happy to receive this prize and be able to travel to Italy."