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Remembering James Gandolfini

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by Leonard Maltin
June 19, 2013 8:57 PM
4 Comments
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James Gandolfini in "Not Fade Away"
Photo by Barry Wetcher - Courtesy of Paramount Vantage James Gandolfini in "Not Fade Away"

James Gandolfini’s name will always be synonymous with Tony Soprano, the character he brought to life so unforgettably on David Chase’s ground-breaking, compulsively watchable HBO series The Sopranos. Part mobster, part family man, harassed by his witch of a mother but vulnerable enough to talk to a psychiatrist, Tony Soprano was no ordinary gangster…and Gandolfini made each facet of that character believable. It’s difficult to accept the news that he has died at the age of 51.

After attaining “overnight” stardom on cable television, his first choices of movie roles were not propitious, and I wondered—along with many other fans—whether he could escape the straitjacketing of being typecast as a New Jersey mobster. But in recent years he found other colors to play in a variety of interesting roles: the straight-faced military man in Armando Iannucci’s political satire In the Loop, a grieving father who reaches out to a young woman in need of help in Welcome to the Rileys, a hit man who goes on a bender in Killing Them Softly, the C.I.A. director in Zero Dark Thirty, and a forlorn father trying to reach out to his teenage son in David Chase’s Not Fade Away, to name a few.

I was also lucky enough to see him on Broadway in God of Carnage, in which he commanded the stage alongside Hope Davis, Jeff Daniels, and Marcia Gay Harden. Watching him try to harness his volcanic temper and sense of resentment against some “entitled” fellow parents was riveting.

The news of his death is still shocking, but his presence will continue to resonate for many years to come.

         

 

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4 Comments

  • Rob Edelman | June 21, 2013 1:16 PMReply

    Gandolfini's too-early death is indeed shocking-- and oh so sad.

    Here is some Gandolfini trivia. A number of years ago, a stage version of "On the Waterfront" made it to Broadway-- ever-so-briefly. A pre-"Sopranos" Gandolfini appeared in it as Charlie, Terry Malloy's older brother: the character played by Rod Steiger onscreen.

  • BC | June 20, 2013 11:20 AMReply

    Spike Jonze casting Gandolfini's soulful voice as the monster Carol in "Where The Wild Things Are" was particularly inspired.

  • Marc Schenker | June 19, 2013 10:50 PMReply

    My favorite Gandolfini movie will always be "Night Falls on Manhattan" by Sidney Lumet. Few actors had the emotional range of James and he expressed his character's fatal flaws with true depth. Rest in Peace, old man, you're now in good company.

  • mike schlesinger | June 20, 2013 7:39 PM

    Absolutely! One of the most underrated films of the 90s, and he was a large part of what made it so remarkable.

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