On June 19th 2013, in Lazio Italy. New Jersey born James Gandolfini died of a heart attack at age 51. The Actor best known for his role in the Sopranos. What seems to be forgotten is everything he accomplished. The truth of the matter is his time on the Sopranos gave him a worldwide stage, but he had already arrived!
Gandolfini just like the character of Tony Soprano, was a Jersey guy. Unlike Tony he had more of an interest in acting than anything else. He graduated High school back in 1979; 23 years later made his Broadway Debut in “A Streetcar Named Desire” which lead to the beginning of a career for the actor.
In 1993 he had a role as Virgil in Tony Scott’s “True Romance” and a year later he was considered for the role of Vincent Vega in “Pulp Fiction” by Quentin Tarantino. With his performance as Virgil in “True Romance” considered a breakout role had he landed Vega that may have been where is star rose to a level of legend.
Has Hollywood goes it wasn’t in the cards, but Gandolfini wasn’t stopped or even slowed by the missed opportunity. He would be casted in 5 movies over the next two years “Angie” and “Terminal Velocity” in 1994 then “Crimson Tide”, “Get Shorty” and “Le nouveau monde” in 1995. In that time he made friends that would keep him in great films. He worked with Tony Scott 4 times, Denzel Washington 3 times and was reunited on film in “The Taking of Pelham 123” with both of them as well as John Travolta.
Before he started work on “The Sopranos” he was in 10 more films. Including a villain role in “8MM” where he played a porn director who made a snuff film of the wrong girl. He prepared extensively for the role talking with porn directors to make his character more real. In the same year the Sopranos began on HBO.
Life after the first couple of seasons on “The Sopranos” changed for James. It is amazing to think he almost did not take the role because of the portrayal of Italian Americans on the show. It is hard to think of any other actor being Tony. That maybe the reason the marriage of Gandolfini and “The Sopranos” was so remarkable.
It did however have a price when Gandolfini filmed “The Mexican” where he co-starred with Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt he lost 40lbs only to have a quick turn around and gain it back. This was a man that loved the art and would do what was necessary. He also gave up the role of Carl Hanratty in “Catch Me if you Can” do to a conflict with filming “The Sopranos”. I am certain that Gandolfini was fine with this as he put bartending and bouncing in his review.
Gandolfini continued to work hard at making movies in his spare time from “The Sopranos” he co-starred with Robert Redford in “The Last Castle”. He was in 6 feature films during the time on “The Sopranos” gained 2 credits for soundtracks and did 1 short film. The man stayed busy adn this was alongside the publicty he did for “The Sopranos” inculding a voice over for a Video Game “The Sopranos: Road to Respeact”.
After “The Sopranos” He continued to make movies and stay relevant the Hollywood landscape. “Where the Wild Things Are”, “Welcome to Riley’s”, “The Taking of Pelham 123”, “Killing Them Softly” and “Zero Dark Thirty” to name a few. He is also tied to 2 movies that are in post production so even with us saying goodbye to the man the legend as a chance to entertain us one last time.
With all that said the most sobering part of all of this is that Gandolfini leaves behind 2 children, Deborah Lin his widow, Marcey Gandolfini his ex-wife. Countless friends, co-workers and people that he has helped along the way. The man that terrified us on “The Sopranos” was a gentle man in real life and he will be missed.
“I’m a neurotic mess. I’m really basically just like a 260-pound Woody Allen”.- James Gandolfini