James Gandolfini: Why Did The Sopranos Star AKA Tony Soprano Die?

James Gandolfini Update: Favorite Scenes From The Sopranos

Tony Soprano
Tony Soprano
James Gandolfini.

The tributes and a mountain of Internet content of all types are still flowing in, including this blogger’s favorite Tony Soprano scene with NFL Coach Eric Mangini. The actor who famously played Tony Soprano on the HBO Series The Sopranos died yesterday at the age of 51. In this Zennie62 video blog, the report was that he had a heart attack:

Since HBO sadly took “The Sopranos” off the air in June 2007 (a move I think was unnecessary) James Gandolfini played in a number of movie roles, most recently Zero Dark Thirty and Killing Them Softly.

But how did Mr. Gandolfini die and why at such a young age?

According to reports, the star of such movies as True Romance and Crimson Tide was in Italy for a film festival and suffered either a heart attack or a stroke, however it’s possible that one could trigger the other: stroke, then heart attack. The New York Daily News reports that Mr. Gandolfini was with his 13-year-old son Michael, when the heart attack happened while James was in the bathroom. He was said to have been alive when he was in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

The USA Today says that James’ wife Deborah Lin, his afforementioned 13-year-old son, Michael, his nine-month-old daughter Liliana and other family members came along on the trip – a family vacation. They stayed at the five-star Boscolo Exedra hotel in Rome, and where he was said to have suffered a fatal heart attack in his room just before 10 p.m. in Italy.

He was also there for the closing ceremony of the internationally well-known Taormina Film Festival in Sicily. There, he was to receive an award Saturday and participate in a roundtable conversation on American cinema with film director Gabriele Muccino and actress Marisa Tomei.

The Taormina Film Festival left this statement on its website:

6/20/2013 – Taormina FilmFest dedicates a tribute to James Gandolfini
James Gandolfini was expected to TaorminaFilmFest on June 22 to preside a TaoClass that the festival dedicated to the great interpreters of film and television and to receive the Prize City Taormina. “We are deeply saddened, had heard James Gandolfini few hours before and was very happy to receive this award and the possibility of this trip to Italy – declare Mario Sesti editorial director of Taormina FilmFest and Tiziana Rocca general manager -. He was the American actor that better than anyone else has been able to interpret the Italian-American with his personality full of contrasts, ambition, pain, humor. He was the face representative of the golden age of television, but also an interpreter memorable cinema. We are organizing in this time a tribute that the Taormina FilmFest will dedicate to mention the career and talent.

James Gandolfini was said to have been obese, but that in itself is not a ticket to an early death. Gandolfini’s only reported health issue was a knee operation he underwent after his scooter was hit by a taxi in 2006. CNN’s Chris Cuomo reports that Vincent “Johnny Sack” Curatola says that Jim Gandolfini “was solid… he ate wisely and lived wisely.”

However, Larry King said, on CNN and Fox last night, that Gandolfini loved food, “and didn’t push away from the table.”

And the New York Post reports that Gandolfini, The Westwood, NJ,-born actor, had a drug and cocaine addiction problem and went to rehab for it in 2002. That claim was made by his then wife public relations executive Marcella Wudarski, who’s 13-year-old Michael’s mother. In 2002, People Magazine reported that Gandolfini admitted to problems with drugs and alcohol in the past, and that his divorce from Marcella, or Marcy, was “friendly.”

TMZ reports that drugs or alcohol do not appear to have played a role in his death.

His passing reminds this blogger of the death of a good friend Michael McGuire, who was 48 years old, and this was in 2009. Michael was overweight and his father told me that he had a habit of eating something like eight slabs of bacon in one sitting. As one ages, bad eating habits, combined with a lack of exercise and a slowing metabolism, plus the damage from drug and alcohol abuse in the past, can catch up to you.

His passing also reminds me of the death of Oakland media entrepreneur Sanjiv Handa, who was also overweight, and had poor eating habits.

James Gandolfini will be remembered not just as Tony Soprano, but for the many roles he has played, and in movies like comedies The Mexican, Surviving Christmas, Romance & Cigarettes, action movies The Last Castle, the Coen brothers’ The Man Who Wasn’t There and All the King’s Men and drama like Crimson Tide.

Stay tuned.

Mr. Gandolfini