James Gandolfini

Multiple Emmy winner James Gandolfini labored for years as a character actor before becoming a leading man in 1999 when he landed the role of the patriarch of the supremely dysfunctional Soprano family in HBO's hit TV series.

Born Sept. 18, 1961, in Westwood, N.J., Gandolfini set out for New York City in 1983 to study at the Actors Studio. After working nearly a decade as a bartender, he got his big break in 1992 when he appeared opposite Alec Baldwin and Jessica Lange in a Broadway production of "A Streetcar Named Desire." Gandolfini made his big-screen debut later that year in A Stranger Among Us, and roles in films such as Terminal Velocity (1994), Crimson Tide (1995) and Get Shorty (1995) followed.

During his run on "The Sopranos," Gandolfini continued to appear in movies, including The Mexican (2001) and Lonely Hearts (2006), while his subsequent work includes the thriller Zero Dark Thirty (2012). He died from a heart attack June 19, 2013.