David Chase Pays Tribute to James Gandolfini: He Was 'Genius'

Famous friends and fans of James Gandolfini, who passed away in Italy at 51 years old, paid tribute to the Sopranos actor on Twitter shortly after his death. Now, David Chase, the Sopranos creator that worked closely with Gandolfini for six years and then some, has spoken out about his late friend and collaborator.

In a statement released to press, Chase — who worked with Gandolfini most recently on his directorial debut, 2012's Not Fade Away — labeled the actor a "genius." "Anyone who saw him even in the smallest of his performances knows that," Chase said. "He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time. A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes. I remember telling him many times, 'You don't get it. You're like Mozart.' There would be silence at the other end of the phone."

Chase continued: "For [wife] Deborah and [son] Michael and [daughter] Liliana this is crushing. And it's bad for the rest of the world. He wasn't easy sometimes. But he was my partner, he was my brother in ways I can't explain and never will be able to explain."

Gandolfini was in Italy to attend a film festival. The cause of the Emmy-winning actor's death is still unknown.