Actor James Gandolfini has died during a trip to Italy, according to multiple reports.

The 51-year-old The Sopranos star allegedly suffered a massive heart attack.

He was in Italy to attend the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily, and was slated to appear at an event with director Gabriele Muccino later this week (begs17Jun13).

The three-time Emmy Award winner, a former bouncer, is best known for his role as mob boss Tony Soprano, who he played on Tv from 1999 to 2007. He also appeared in last year's Zero Dark Thirty and the films Get Shorty, True Romance and Crimson Tide.

Away from the cameras, the press-shy New Jersey native was famous for trying to avoid fame - a reluctant star, Gandolfini was rarely spotted on red carpets or at big events.

He became a father for the second time just last year (Oct13) when his wife, former model Deborah Lin, gave birth to a baby girl. He also has a son with ex-wife Marcy Wudarski.

His big break came in 1992 when he landed a role in a Broadway version of A Streetcar Named Desire, opposite Alec Baldwin and Jessica Lange and he also won acclaim for his role onstage in God of Carnage in 2009.

A statement from executives at HBO - the network behind The Sopranos - reads: "He was 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. He touched so many of us over the years with his humor, his warmth and his humility."

And former Hbo boss Chris Albrecht, who brought The Sopranos to Tv screens, adds, "Jimmy was the spiritual core of our Sopranos family, and I am stunned at this devastating loss. He was a great talent, but an even better man."