Italy hospital: Gandolfini died of heart attack

US Actor James Gandolfini attends HBO's World Premiere of two new episodes of 'The Sopranos' at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Tuesday 27 March, 2007. Peter Foley/EPA

US Actor James Gandolfini attends HBO's World Premiere of two new episodes of 'The Sopranos' at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Tuesday 27 March, 2007.

Peter Foley/EPA

ROME, Italy - Italian doctors said Thursday, June 20, that they tried resuscitating US actor James Gandolfini for 40 minutes before declaring his death from a heart attack.

Gandolfini, who played an abrasive Mafia boss on the hit TV series The Sopranos, was taken ill late Wednesday, July 19, while staying at a hotel in Rome, ahead of a scheduled appearance on Saturday, June 22, at a film festival in Taormina, Sicily.

An autopsy on the 51-year-old was ordered for Friday, June 21. "It is standard practice when a patient arrives at a hospital already dead," said Claudio Modini from the Policlinico Umberto I, where Gandolfini was taken by ambulance.

The organizers of the Taormina FilmFest said they were "deeply saddened" and announced a tribute for Gandolfini, whom they hailed as a "representative of the golden age of television, but also an interpreter of memorable cinema."

In addition to his role as Tony Soprano, the award-winning actor also starred in several Hollywood movies such as the crime caper Get Shorty (1995) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012), in which he played former US defense secretary Leon Panetta.

Born in September 1961 in New Jersey to an Italian-American family, Gandolfini was raised as a strict Roman Catholic, and worked as a bouncer, bartender and nightclub manager before turning to acting. - Rappler.com