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James Gandolfini has gone down in history for his portrayal of mafia boss Tony Soprano in HBO's The Sopranos.

The actor – who died in Rome on June 19, 2013, at the age of 51 – went to great lengths to ensure that he gave his all to the part of the iconic gangster.

Playing the Neapolitan-American crime boss led to James winning three Emmy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards and a Golden Globe.

Before his tragic death, the star detailed how he would deprive himself of sleep and hit himself to make sure he got Tony right on camera.

Italian-American star James portrayed the career-defining role of Tony from 1999 to 2007 and when asked how he was able to convey the rage of the character with ease, he explained that the winning formula was cutting back his hours of rest.

Sharing on his technique, he shared: "Lack of sleep will p** you off to no end.

James Gandolfini's role of Tony Soprano has gone down in TV history
(Image: Channel 4)

"Sleep two or three hours a night for two nights before you have a really violent scene. Every single thing that anyone does will piss you off."I'll do a lot of weird things; bang my head on things."

Proving he was dedicated to playing Tony, he added: "You do whatever you need to do. You could put a rock in your shoe, a very pointy rock. Walk around with that all day. I mean it's silly, but it works.

"You're mad…"I'll try anything to get where I have to go, as long as it's not gonna hurt anybody."

James also said that he would drink six cups of coffee before shooting a violent scene to help get him worked up.

The acting sensation followed the Meisner technique – which encourages students of the acting rules to not to “think too much.

The Meisner technique involves three main components that work hand in hand: emotional preparation, repetition, and improvisation.

The actor died in Rome on June 19, 2013, at the age of 51

James studied the technique for two years under the instruction of Kathryn Gately who helped him channel his emotions into acting.

He reflected in one interview: "I remember one thing she did for me that got me to a new level was — I had such anger back then. When you’re young a lot of people do. Everybody does.

"You’re p****d — and you’re not sure why — because you want to express something, but you don’t know what it is. She kept telling me to go ahead, but I never wanted to. I think she told a partner to do something to me and he did it, and I destroyed the place — and then at the end of it — I remember my hands were bleeding a little bit — and she goes, 'See, everybody’s fine. Nobody’s hurt. This is what you have to do. This is what people pay for. If you don’t want to do it, get off — these are the things you need to express and be able to control.'"

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In 2013, James was found unconscious on the floor of room 449 of the art deco Boscolo Exedra Roma by his teenage son.

Gandolfini was rushed to hospital but was later pronounced dead as a result of an enormous heart attack.

The world was left reeling over the tragic loss of the iconic actor at just 51 years old.

The star would deprive himself of sleep and hit himself to make sure he got Tony right on camera
(Image: Channel 4)

It has now be revealed that prior to his death, the actor had enjoyed several decadent meals and guzzled lots of alcohol before the fatal incident.

According to the New York Post, the actor had been battling with his booze habits in the run up to his death.

He had also previously attended a number of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and was allegedly battling a 'cocaine addiction' among his demons.

When he arrived in Italy, the larger-than-life personality was eager to explore the city and retrace his Italian heritage in the days prior to the awards ceremony.

Gandolfini's assistant, Tom Richardson, explained that the late actor had stepped out for a day of sightseeing in the hot Italian weather before returning to the hotel.

"The family had a marvellous day together, and when he returned to the hotel Jimmy [Gandolfini] went to the bathroom and that is when something happened," Richardson said back in 2013.

He also confessed to drinking six cups of coffee before raging scenes
(Image: Channel 4)

Hours before his death the actor had headed out for dinner with his teenage son, Michael.

According to the New York Post source, at the time Gandolfini ordered a pina colada with two additional shots of rum on the side with his meal.

He then ordered an identical round of drinks, two beers, as well as lots of deep fried prawns and foie gras.

The source said: “everything [Gandolfini] ordered was fried. Obviously, that’s going to cause problems with your heart.”

By the end of his sitting, he had guzzled eight alcoholic drinks and large amounts of fried food before heading up to his $671 per night suite that overlooked the Piazza della Repubblica fountains.

Three hours later, James was found by his teenage son lying on the marble floor in the suite bathroom.

According to the hotel source, six men carried the actor out of the room in a blanket before he was rushed to the emergency room.

He was declared dead after medics had spent almost 20 minutes trying to keep the star alive.

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In the day's following James' death, the actor's body remained in a Rome morgue while his ex-wife flew out to be with their son in Italy following the tragic incident.

Following an outpouring of shock across the entertainment world, on June 23 his body was flown back to the United States.

He faced an enormous funeral service in New York City before his body was cremated and his ashes given to his mourning family.

The Soprano actor's legacy has lived on long after his tragic death in 2013.

His performance as Tony in The Sopranos has been enshrined as one of the best moments in television history, and garnered him countless awards and posthumous recognition.

His son Michael Gandolfini has since been cast to play a younger Tony in the 2019 version of The Sopranos.

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