Actor James Gandolfini (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)
ATLANTA -- Two travelers from Metro Atlanta took what may be the final pictures of James Gandolfini, the HBO Sopranos star.
Blake Kahn of Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood, and Dee Duncan of Roswell, were at dinner in Rome with family and friends when they ran across the star Tuesday night.
Kahn told 11Alive's Jon Shirek by phone Thursday that they were dining at Sabatini Restaurant, sitting outdoors, and Gandolfini and his 13 year old son were at a nearby table. Everyone was respectful of them, Kahn said, no one wanted to intrude. But it was clear, he said, that Gandolfini and his family were happy, enjoying the evening out together. And, Kahn said, looking back at it, Gandolfini appeared to be in good health.
Dee Duncan said it was a magical atmosphere. There were jugglers and magicians in the square, in the Trastevere section of Rome. Gandolfini and his son and everyone else at dinner, Duncan said, were in great spirits.
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Gandolfini had been expected to appear at the Taormina Film Festival on Thursday, reports Variety.
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Gandolfini died Wednesday, apparently of a heart attack, while on vacation in Rome, the network said. He was 51.
"We're all in shock and feeling immeasurable sadness at the loss of a beloved member of our family," the network said in a statement. "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. Our hearts go out to his wife and children during this terrible time. He will be deeply missed by all of us."
The beefy actor, who played Mob patriarch Tony Soprano in the award-winning drama that ran for six seasons, had small film and theater roles when he was cast by David Chase in the drama, which became the network's top-rated series soon after premiering in 1999. He was a New Jersey native with deep Italian roots; both his parents were born and raised there.
Gandolfini won three Emmy Awards as best actor in the role, played opposite Edie Falco's Carmela, and helped establish the network's reputation as a home for edgy, complex series.
Gandolfini recently had roles in films Zero Dark Thirty and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. Gandolfini's current projects included Fox Searchlight's Animal Rescue, HBO's Criminal Justice and the CBS show Taxi 22.
He is survived by his wife, Deborah Lin, and a son, Michael.
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