Sicily film festival pays tribute to Gandolfini

Organisers of a Sicilian film festival said Thursday they were planning a special tribute to "Sopranos" star James Gandolfini following his sudden death in Italy.

The award-winning US actor, who died of a heart attack in Rome on Wednesday, was due to receive an award at the TorminaFilmFest in Sicily at the weekend.

Festival organisers said they were "deeply saddened" to learn of the death of Gandolfini, who rose to global fame as the star of the US television mafia drama "The Sopranos".

Organisers Mario Sesti and Tiziana Rocca said the tribute would highlight the "talent and career" of the burly 51-year-old actor.

"He was the American actor that better than anyone else has been able to interpret the Italian-American (character) with his personality full of contrasts, ambition, pain, humour," they said in a statement on the festival website.

"He was the representative face of the golden age of television but also a memorable (film actor)," they said.

Italian doctors battled for 40 minutes to try to save Gandolfini before he was declared dead at a Rome hospital on Wednesday.

"The cause of James Gandolfini's death was a heart attack," Claudio Modini, head of the emergency room at the Umberto I hospital told AFP, adding that it was not yet clear why he had suffered one.

"He arrived in hospital at 22:40 (20:40 GMT), but he was already dead. After twenty minutes of CPR, time of death was declared at 23:00," he said.

The New Jersey-born actor, born to an Italian bricklayer and cafeteria worker, had been staying at the Hotel Exedra in the centre of Rome.

The first ambulance arrived on the scene eight minutes after it had been called, but despite their desperate attempts, the paramedics failed to revive Gandolfini, Italian media reports said.