Transcript for James Gandolfini, Known for Playing Tony Soprano, Dead at 51
So January 10 1999. That's the day The Sopranos pilot first aired on HBO -- the day James Gandolfini became a household name. And the day that began a new TV -- guard. Well today is the day we've lost the face of that vanguard. For. Sometimes an actor finds -- ruled -- just connect. The role of a lifetime. James Gandolfini who died suddenly today at 51 was Tony Soprano. Port 86 episodes over six seasons on HBO Gandolfini seared America's eyeballs with his all out portrayal. Have a New Jersey mob boss plagued by self doubt and petty problems. Capable of staggering and ruthless violent. With news of his passing apparently of a heart attack while he was in Italy. The world has lost not only an immensely talented actor but also a cultural icon. But success was a long time coming for Gandolfini. I had such anchor -- and -- -- and we Olivia Neal a lot of people -- everybody to us you're -- pilot you're not sure why that's probably why you're. Probably why are all sitting there. -- and express something you don't know what it is get -- -- began his career playing cold hearted mob enforcers in films like true romance maybe you can help him look at professional. Terminal velocity. You can determine -- manslaughter charge against you and Chris was just kept getting cast as those rough characters and -- kept selling the roles. As his career develops Soto whose portrayal of some of society's roughest characters in the 1996 film the juror he played -- hit. Hit man with a punch in that district in the driveway but it. And so by the time the world met Tony Soprano in 1999. Get affinia become a -- master is bringing to life that gray areas between. Crime and civility that -- Evil and humanity and. And that was the secret of the success -- Tony Soprano. BC com that got shot and he got a white what do we do know he wasn't just a homicidal mob PO -- brutal tough guy. He was in a sense of every guy life. He had problems even though they're little pieces that just don't match up. And you have no choice but to put them in a little -- placing your brain where you say help to stop feeling that another time I'm not. -- -- -- -- I don't love you anymore like I don't want Q we're not in my own. -- He was a family man and sometimes troubled family I pro -- if it was children playing in mostly due to run them. Carrots. That you don't earn just answering her question that he was thinking oh my god damn big news -- British felt. And he was in a way a dream how did Tony Soprano coming to your life. And into our office but got the script and I remember reading it I was laughing out loud. And I said there's no way out I will be able to listen let's have that before. I really thought that. They would pick someone look different the -- how different. In what way. Suave good looking must feel so -- You -- to somebody a little more leading man -- Visit. It was Tony sopranos journey of self discovery combined with his vicious -- machinations. That -- the show so relentlessly watchable so enormously influential. -- it brought James Gandolfini tremendous phrase three Emmys and worldwide fame. Fans remembered him tonight in Hollywood. Email that Davis is right on and I -- now I have. They make -- play that -- any better what he was the great actor really enjoyed in The Sopranos and really enjoyed him another move yourself. On Twitter among countless accolades New Jersey governor Chris Christie. James Gandolfini is passing is an awful shock he was a fine actor a Rutgers a lump and that true Jersey guy. After The Sopranos ended its original run in 2007. Gandolfini -- to branch out. Playing for example then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in 2012. Retelling of the hunt for Osama bin Laden zero dark thirty. But the mob rolls back and I don't take the and -- he played alongside Brad Pitt in last year's killing them softly telling ABC Cynthia McFadden in a rare television interview. He had to be talked into playing another tough guy. I wanna do another. Another month for a long time. And is one. But watch them -- I don't know what tricks I couldn't validity of the -- for the standard and. In a statement tonight HBO said. Were all in shock and feeling immeasurable sadness -- the loss of a beloved member of our family. He was 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. I some dark moments and I think it's it's home. It's useful I have a place to put them. I know in place of his characters and in I think it this channeled into creativity. Some of the stuff that will have I think and then this way it's my way of -- Florida -- get in mountain and sometimes I learned from doing so. This sopranos ended famously in the middle of a meal at a diner. Cut off a -- Now abruptly death has taken James Gandolfini. And he leaves behind a wife and three children including an eight month old girl. But like all iconic roles Tony Soprano lives -- and threw him. So does the gifted man who still unforgettable he brought that character to life. And -- died too young.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.