'The Sopranos' mobster James Gandolfini has died

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The creator of HBO series "The Sopranos" is remembering its star, James Gandolfini, as a "genius" of an actor.

HBO and Gandolfini's managers say the 51-year-old died Wednesday while on vacation in Italy. No cause of death was given.

Gandolfini's portrayal of the brutal but emotionally delicate crime boss Tony Soprano was the center of one of TV's greatest drama series and turned the mobster stereotype on its head. Sopranos' creator David Chase calls Gandolfini "one of the greatest actors of this or any time," adding that much of his genius "resided in those sad eyes."

Gandolfini grew up in New Jersey, and the state's governor calls the actor's death "an awful shock." Saying he was a "huge fan," Gov. Chris Christie says Gandolfini was "a fine actor, a Rutgers alum and a true Jersey guy."

Gandolfini won three Emmy Awards for his role as Tony Soprano and worked steadily in film and on stage after the series ended. He earned a 2009 Tony Award nomination for his role in "God of Carnage," and his film roles included playing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in "Zero Dark Thirty."

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