The film's director Michael Roskam offered this statement to TheWrap regarding Gandolfini's tragic death:
"It was such an honor to work with Mr Gandolfini and nothing but a pleasure to see him perform. He was one of the greatest. I'm so sad and thinking about his family. I wanted to make him proud with the movie we made together and now it will be in his loving memory."
See photos: James Gandolfini's Most Memorable Roles
Gandolfini played the owner of a bar that Hardy's character worked at. Enter a pit bull and a romance sparks between Hardy's character and Rapace's character.
Written by Dennis Lehane ("Shutter Island," "Mystic River"), the film is slated for a 2014 release.
The 51-year-old actor died while on vacation in Rome, Italy of a possible heart attack, an HBO spokesperson confirmed to TheWrap.
In addition to "Animal Rescue," Gandolfini has another movie slated to release in the next year, the untitled project from director Nicole Holofcener.
"I'm so heartbroken and shocked," Holofcener told TheWrap. "I'm honored to have known him and worked with him. He was wonderful."
He also just finished shooting a new HBO limited series, "Criminal Justice."
Jeff Daniels, who costarred with Gandolfini in the Broadway production of "God of Carnage," praised the actor's work ethic and reflected, "I now miss him like a brother."
“If Broadway has a version of a guy you want in your foxhole, Jim Gandolfini was mine," Daniels said. "During our time together in 'God of Carnage' we played 320 performances together. He didn't miss one. Sadly, I now miss him like a brother.”