The Sopranos star was holidaying in Italy when he died, scheduled to attend The Taormina Film Festival in Sicily to receive a special prize and participate in a round table discussion about Italian-American views on cinema.
“He was so happy to be in Italy, to reconnect with his Italian roots, and he was very excited to come to Taormina and receive this award,” Taormina artistic director Mario Sesti said.
Tom Richardson, Gandolfini’s assistant, said: “The family had a marvelous day together, and when he returned to the hotel Jimmy [Gandolfini] went to the bathroom and that is when something happened.”
NBC quoted Antonio D’amore, manager of the Boscolo Excedra hotel, as saying it was Gandolfini’s 13-year-old son, Michael.
Michael then called for help and hotel staff rushed to the room, according to NBC. Workers reportedly tried to resuscitate him before the ambulance arrived.
He was still alive when the ambulance arrived.
Dr. Claudio Modini, head of Policlinic Umberto I hospital emergency room, said Gandolfini was pronounced dead after resuscitation efforts in the ambulance and hospital failed.
An autopsy would be performed starting 24 hours after the death, as required by law, he told The Associated Press.
The U.S. Embassy will help prepare Gandolfini’s body for return to the United States.
Festival organisers said instead they would organise a tribute “to celebrate his great achievement and talent.”