According to reports from TMZ, 'Sopranos' actor James Gandolfini has passed away in Italy at the age of 51.

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Gandolfini, who played NJ crime boss Tony Soprano on the hit HBO series is believed to have suffered a heart attack.

In a statement, the cable channel, and Gandolfini's managers Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders, said he died Wednesday while on holiday in Rome. No cause of death was given.

"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," said Armstrong and Sanders.

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.

James Gandolfini was in Italy to attend the 59th Taormina Film Festival in Sicily -- and he was reportedly scheduled to participate in an event this weekend with Italian director Gabriele Muccino.

Gandolfini's first noted role was playing a hitman in the 1993 hit "True Romance"  and then rapidly became a Hollywood legend when he was cast as Tony Soprano in 1999.  He won 3 Emmy awards for the role of the NJ crime boss during the show's 6 season run.

Gandolfini also appeared in a number of huge movies including "Get Shorty," "The Castle," "The Mexican" and "Zero Dark Thirty."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.