As the world mourns and reels from the death of Sopranos star James Gandolfini, new details continue to emerge about the Emmy-winning actor's sudden passing in Rome, Italy on Wednesday, June 19. At just 51 years old, the Italian-American icon was in Rome with wife Deborah Lin, his 13-year-old son, Michael, nine-month-old daughter Liliana and other family members, USA Today reports.
Gandolfini was also in the region for the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily; he had intended to attend the festival's closing ceremony this weekend, receive an award and participate in a roundtable discussion with Marisa Tomei. Us Weekly can confirm that Gandolfini and his family were staying at the five-star Boscolo Exedra hotel in Rome, and is believed to have suffered a fatal heart attack in his room just before 10 p.m. local time. It's believed that his son first alerted hotel staff about the medical emergency.
"We all had a marvelous day together, and when he returned to the hotel Jimmy [Gandolfini] went to the bathroom and that is where something happened," Tom Richardson, Gandolfini's assistant, told USA Today. "His sister said he was still alive when the ambulance took him away."
"We can confirm that the 51-year-old man was brought here. Upon arrival . .. we found his heart had already stopped," a hospital spokesman tells Us. He was pronounced dead at 10:40 p.m.
TMZ reports that Gandolfini's first wife, Michael's mom flew to Italy immediately to be by her son's side following the tragic incident.
"He was so happy to be in Italy, to reconnect with his Italian roots, and he was very excited to come here and receive this award," Mario Sesti, Taormina's artistic director, who spoke with the star hours before his death, told USA Today.
About a week ago, Gandolfini "was in great spirits" hitting the red carpet solo at the the Stella by Starlight Gala (benefitting the Stella Adler Studio of Acting) in NYC June 10, an observer tells Us. "He was really there to support his friend Elaine Stritch. He was a bit goofy with the photographers, stood still for a moment on the carpet then stuck his tongue out at them!" the observer adds.
An example of Gandolfini's magnanimous spirit was evident that night, the observer notes: "When he entered the dining room and walked to the head table, he realized there was no chair or place sitting for him by mistake. He was incredibly patient and gracious as he waited for the staff to scramble and add a chair," the witness says. "He just waited with a smile on his face and chatted with whoever approached him. He was a mensch!"