June 20, 2013 at 5:53 am #281744
Yeah, very shocking and unexpected. So much potential for the future… Underused by cinema but will certainly remain remembered for his stunning performances.June 20, 2013 at 6:27 am #281745
While I’m not typically a fan of singling out one person’s death at award ceremonies, I actually think there should be a special tribute to this man. He so completely redefined drama series acting with that character. Maybe get David Chase or Edie Falco to come out and say a few words, followed by a video montage.June 20, 2013 at 7:10 am #281746
Remembering James Gandolfini and Tony Soprano
The right actor in the right role transformed the way we looked at television.
by Alan Sepinwall Wednesday, Jun 19, 2013 9:20 PM
James Gandolfini, whose performance as Tony Soprano forever transformed the way we thought about the TV characters we invited into our living room, has died suddenly while on vacation in Rome. He was 51.
As the star of “The Sopranos,” what was so amazing about Gandolfini wasn’t so much the way he looked—TV had had overweight and/or balding leading men before (and at the start, Tony wasn’t that big)—but the way that he acted. He was a mobster, and an unapologetic one. Tony Soprano took what he wanted, rarely cared about who was hurt in the process, and at times was more animal than man.
We had been told all our lives that we would not watch an ongoing series about such a man. A bruising, foul-mouthed giant with a dent in his forehead was the villain, not the protagonist. TV had always made compromises, always made sure that “flawed” heroes were ultimately redeemable and lovable.
Tony Soprano was not. And we loved him, often despite ourselves.
Much of the credit for the show, and the character, comes from “Sopranos” creator David Chase, but Chase has said that Tony wasn’t fully-formed until Gandolfini was cast in the role.
The Jersey-born Gandolfini was one of three finalists for the role, along with fellow character actor Michael Rispoli and E Street Band guitarist Steve Van Zandt. Van Zandt was eliminated quickly, but as then-HBO president Chris Albrecht told me when I interviewed him for my book, the show could have gone in two different directions based on the final choice.
“Rispoli was great,” Albrecht explained. “He was funnier than Jimmy, just because of the normal rhythms that he had. And we talked about it, and David said, ‘It’s a very different show if you put Rispoli in it or Jimmy in it, but the show I envisioned is the show that’s got Jimmy in it. It’s a much darker show with Jimmy in it.’ I think we sat with that for a moment. ‘Dark’ is not really a word you ever want to go for in television, but the other one was ‘more real.’ So we cast Jimmy.”
Gandolfini “just inhabited the tone of the script,” Chase told me. “At one time, I had said that this thing could be like a live-action ‘Simpsons.’ Once I saw him do it, I thought, ‘No, that’s not right. It can be absurdist, it can have a lot of stupid shit in it, but it should not be a live-action ‘Simpsons.'”
While filming the series pilot episode, a bit of Gandolfini improvisation forever cemented the tone of the series. In one of the episode’s final scenes, Tony discovers that his nephew Christopher (Michael Imperioli) has considered writing a screenplay about his life in the mob. The script directions said Tony would slap Christopher lightly across the face; Gandolfini instead picked up his smaller co-star to make abundantly clear how unhappy this development would make Tony.
“And I went, ‘All right, I got it. This is big shit. This is serious,'” Chase recalled.
Chase, upon hearing the terrible news of Gandolfini’s passing, said in a statement, “He was a genius. Anyone who saw him even in the smallest of his performances knows that. 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. For (wife) Deborah and (children) Michael and Lilliana 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 an unknown when he took the part—if you’d noticed him at all before that, it was likely in a brief but memorable turn as a smiling gangster who fights with Patricia Arquette in “True Romance”—which meant we had no preconceptions about him or about Tony. Tony was who Chase (with that early unintentional prodding from Gandolfini) told us he was: a complicated, at times even empathetic, sociopath.
Tony Soprano was a monster, but an oddly relatable one. He struggled with his family, whether enduring the caustic disapproval of his mother or the misbehavior of his kids, and went to therapy to deal with panic attacks and a wide-ranging feeling of depression. But he also had no compunction about strangling a man to death while taking daughter Meadow on a college tour. He was vulnerable. He was charming. He was cruel and vindictive and angry and practically drowning in self-pity.
And Gandolfini played every facet of that character beautifully. When I heard the sudden, shocking news of his death, my mind immediately flooded with images of Tony Soprano at either his most horrible or human: Tony goading his sister Janice into rejecting the lessons of her anger management class because he can’t stand to see her happier than he is; Tony brawling with Ralphie Cifaretto over the death of the horse Pie-O-My; Tony asking his senile, mean Uncle Junior, “Don’t you love me?”; or Tony needling Janice and Bobby Bacala during the most violent Monopoly game ever played.
It was raw, astonishing work, year in and year out. It turned Gandolfini from an unknown into an icon, in a transformation he was never comfortable with. I’ve encountered many actors who are aloof about dealing with the press out of a sense of ego; Gandolfini’s unease seemed to come from a more genuine place. This was new to him, and too much. Early in the run of the series, he sent Christmas cards to TV critics to thank them for the nice things they had written about the show, and even put his home address on the envelopes. Later, on a night when he was receiving an award from the Television Critics Association, I saw him surrounded by reporters who wanted to interview him; he looked like a cornered animal, and when he won again in later years, he sent a video message.
Because of that discomfort, I don’t know that Gandolfini was that disappointed that the movie business never knew what to do with him, either during or after the run of “The Sopranos.” He had small, often interesting parts—a gay hitman in “The Mexican,” a moderate general in “In the Loop,” the frustrated father in Chase’s feature debut “Not Fade Away”—but always to the side of what the movie stars were doing. Some of this was typecasting—several times (most recently with “Zero Dark Thirty”), I heard moviegoers laugh in recognition at Tony Soprano popping up in the middle of somebody else’s movie—but also the difficulty of finding anything close to the perfect alchemy of actor and role that Gandolfini found with Tony Soprano. He was, again, a character actor, and a great (if underused) one.
And his work on the show made possible Vic Mackey, Al Swearengen, Walter White, Don Draper, and every complicated, riveting anti-hero (or worse) who followed him. “The Sopranos” was an enormous hit, and told the business that the old rules need no longer apply.
Much has been written and argued about the last scene of “The Sopranos.” Did Tony live? Was he shot in the back of the head by Members Only Guy? And, either way, why did David Chase construct that closing sequence and blackout that way? I’ve always been a believer in the “Tony lives” theory—that what Chase is showing us is the miserable, paranoid feeling that comes with life as Tony Soprano, and that his only punishment is a life that, like the Journey song playing on the jukebox at Holsten’s says, goes on and on and on and on.
I don’t know that I’m right about my theory, and Chase has made clear he’s never going to explain it himself. But as horrible a human being as Tony was, it gives me a small bit of comfort on this surprising, terrible day, to imagine Tony still alive, waddling out of his SUV and into the pork store, or calling up Dr. Melfi for one more shot at therapy.
James Gandolfini is dead, robbing us of several decades of amazing performances. Whatever happened when the lights turned out at Holsten’s, Gandolfini’s performance means that Tony Soprano will live forever.June 20, 2013 at 8:03 am #281747
James Gandolfini will always be in our hearts and his work always in our memories
R.I.PJune 20, 2013 at 9:16 am #281748
James Gandolfini’s ‘Sopranos’ Family Mourns ‘a Genius’
Edie Falco: “The love between Tony and Carmela was one of the greatest I’ve ever known”
James Gandolfini’s “Sopranos” family eulogized the actor who for six seasons of the HBO’s mob drama served as the patriarch of a TV empire.
Calling Gandolfini a “genius,” “Sopranos” executive producer and creator David Chase said he was “one of the greatest actors of this or any time.”
“He was a genius. Anyone who saw him even in the smallest of his performances knows that,” Chase said in a statement. “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 acknowledged that the actor “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,” he added.
Gandolfini died suddenly in Rome on Wednesday of a heart attack. He was 51.
Read on for further remembrances from Gandolfini’s “Sopranos” family.
Edie Falco: “I am shocked and devastated by Jim’s passing. He was a man of tremendous depth and sensitivity, with a kindness and generosity beyond words. I consider myself very lucky to have spent 10 years as his close colleague. My heart goes out to his family. As those of us in his pretend one hold on to the memories of our intense and beautiful time together. The love between Tony and Carmela was one of the greatest I’ve ever known.”
Michael Imperioli: “Jimmy treated us all like family with a generosity, loyalty and compassion that is rare in this world. Working with him was a pleasure and a privilege. I will be forever grateful having had a friend the likes of Jimmy.”
Tony Sirico: “Jimmy was one of my closest friends in life. He helped me with my career as well as my personal life, We visited troops together in Iraq and became very close. He will be missed and I love him.”
Vincent Pastore: “He was a brother, a great friend and a great actor. When you were in a scene with Jimmy, it shined. He was a perfectionist, but always wanted to make sure you were happy with the scene as well. He will now become even bigger in death than he was in life … When I would see Jimmy, I would laugh with him and hug the guy. Now when I think of Jimmy I cry and will cry for some time to come. God bless Jimmy and his family. Rest in peace.”
Steve Schirripa: “Jimmy was a dear friend and like a brother to me. He was a great actor and a great father. I will miss him terribly. I am very sad.”
Steven Van Zandt: “I have lost a brother and a best friend. The world has lost one of the greatest actors of all time.”
Lorraine Bracco: “We lost a giant today. I am utterly heartbroken.”
Terence Winter: “I’m truly crushed at the passing of my friend Jim Gandolfini. He was a gifted, fearless actor, respectful of everyone he met, and extraordinarily generous in every possible way. My heart goes out to his wife and children.”
Aida Turturro: “I’ve not only lost a great friend, but a true brother, on screen and off. James was the most generous actor to work with, but more so, a man with a heart of gold. I love him and my heart goes out to his family.”
Steven Zaillian: “I worked with Jim before ‘The Sopranos’ and after it, and throughout these many years he has always been the same man. A real man, like they don’t make anymore. Honest, humble, loyal, complicated, as grateful for his success as he was unaffected by it, as respectful as he was respected, as generous as he was gifted. He was big, but even bigger-hearted. I’m so saddened to lose my friend, and sadder still for his family.”
Drea de Matteo: “Fughedabout losing one of the best actors of our time … we lost so much more … anyone from the Soprano family will tell you he was one of the most generous, real and humble human beings ever…with a presence that could shatter planets when he walked into a room. A King through n through. So very sorry for his family.”
Matthew Weiner: “I’m shocked along with the world about the loss of a great artist and friend. My heart goes out to his family and to the whole ‘Sopranos’ cast and crew who loved him as deeply as he loved them.”
Various “Sopranos” crew members: “He was the head of the Soprano family on and off screen …. he took care of us all no matter who we were. His generosity was limitless. There are no words to truly describe how much he was loved & how much he will be missed!!”June 20, 2013 at 9:47 am #281749
James Gandolfini: Much More Than Tony Soprano
Robert Bianco, USA TODAY 10:21 a.m. EDT June 20, 2013
He created a brilliant character on HBO’s acclaimed drama, but he’d also expanded his skill set before his death.
Sometimes, one blinding flash of brilliance is all we get.
That’s seldom easy to accept, and never more so than with James Gandolfini, the Sopranos star who died unexpectedly Wednesday at the age of 51. This was a man whose talent and career seemed to be expanding, not contracting—a great actor who had added “producer” and “documentarian” to his skill set, and who was poised to make another run at TV stardom. To his fans, at least, this was not a man who was ready to fade to black.
Life, however, had other plans for him and for us. We may never see his planned return to HBO in the miniseries Criminal Justice. We’ll never know whether he had a follow-up in mind for his wonderful documentary Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq, a thoughtful, movingly empathetic film that was a testament to his ability, and his desire, to set stardom aside.
Not that Gandolfini ever came across as a star, either in interviews or on screen. That was part of his appeal. Shy and reserved with the press (witty when relaxed, brusque when pressed), on screen he projected a solidity that, depending on whether his eyes joined in or went cold when he smiled, could either be regular-guy inviting or thuggishly threatening.
Or, in the case of Tony Soprano, a bit of both.
For six seasons in his landmark HBO drama The Sopranos, Gandolfini gave a performance that will forever be cherished as one of TV’s best and honored as one of the medium’s most difficult. TV abounds in flashy villains and damaged anti-heroes, but Tony Soprano was something else: a mundane, banal, unimaginative suburban husband and father with mother issues whose business ran on murder. To hold our interest playing a man like that, to make us root for him to succeed while fearing what he’ll do next—that’s a gift.
By dramatic necessity, Tony had to be crude and a brute, or he wouldn’t come across as real to us. But there also had to be something else to him, a yearning for more—even if that “more” was simply a desire to hold on to his house and his pool—or we’d have no reason to keep watching. What Gandolfini brought to the role, so uncompromisingly written by creator David Chase, was the skill and the courageous willingness to show us all sides of Tony: the humanity that allowed us to sympathize with him, the brutality that kept us at arms length.
It was a role that required a bit of everything, and Gandolfini gave it everything. He was funny at times, horrifying at others, and always completely alive and present. Surrounded by one of the best casts TV has ever gathered, Gandolfini was never obscured.
There should have been more. We deserved more, and so did he. But if Tony is all we get, Tony must be enough.June 20, 2013 at 10:21 am #281750
Heartbreaking.Marcus Snowden (The Artist Formerly Known as msnowden1)ParticipantJune 20, 2013 at 11:09 am #281751
I was hoping that Gandolfini would win an Oscar, maybe even a Tony. It’s a shame that will never happen. His death has robbed us of many great performances that he still had in him. He basically changed television singlehandedly. He made it possible for TV shows to revolve around flawed antiheros, such as Don Draper, Walter White, and Nicholas Brody. Before The Sopranos, notable movie actors doing TV was considered uncool. After the success of Gandolfini, you have all these movie stars starring in TV series, such as Kevin Spacey, Glenn Close, Holly Hunter, the list goes on and on. I call that “The Gandolfini Effect”.June 20, 2013 at 6:25 pm #281752
I agree with whoever said he deserves some special tribute homage at the emmys or something, he deserves this and much more for changing the way television is made, one day has passed and I’m still not over it, reading this statements from his friends and co-stars from the sopranos makes me wanna cry, what a terrible loss.June 21, 2013 at 10:02 am #281753
Official: James Gandolfini died of heart attack
by Lynette Rice
As suspected, actor James Gandolfini died Wednesday of a heart attack. Autopsy results that were released by a spokesman for his family attributed his death in Italy to “natural causes.”
“James came here on a vacation with his family . . . he had a wonderful day. He visited The Vatican and had dinner at the hotel with his son awaiting the arrival of his sister,” according to a statement from Michael Kobold. “Today we received the results of the autopsy, which stated he died of a heart attack, of natural causes. The autopsy further states that nothing else was found in his system.
“We are all devastated by this loss. James was a devoted husband, a loving father of two children, a brother, and cousin you could always count on. We thank you for the privacy you have afforded us during this difficult time.”
Gandolfini, 51, was in Italy with his son Michael when he suffered a heart attack in his hotel room. The Emmy-award winning actor was in the country to receive an award at the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily.June 21, 2013 at 10:51 am #281754
Updated on James Gandolfini’s ‘Sopranos’ Family Mourns ‘a Genius’
And also: James Gandolfini Death: Hollywood Reacts to ‘The Sopranos’ Star’s Passing
http://www.thewrap.com/tv/article/james-gandolfini-death-hollywood-reacts-soprano-actors-98531June 21, 2013 at 7:58 pm #281756
James death hit me hard, just like Natasha Richardson did…..So young, so talented…i feel awful!!!!!!June 24, 2013 at 7:33 am #281757
James Gandolfini’s Funeral to Be Held Thursday
6/23/2013 by Erik Hayden
The service for “The Sopranos” actor will take place at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in Manhattan.
The funeral service for actor James Gandolfini will be held this Thursday at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in Manhattan at 10 a.m, HBO confirmed in a statement.
A spokesperson for the Gandolfini family, Michael Kobold, stated that Sopranos actor’s remains would be returned to the U.S. from Italy by Monday evening. “The provisional plan is to depart Rome tomorrow afternoon and arrive in the U.S. in the evening,” Kobold said on Sunday.
Gandolfini, 51, died last Wednesday while on vacation in Italy with his family. Hospital officials in Rome confirmed in an autopsy that the cause of death was a cardiac arrest.
“We are all devastated by this loss. James was a devoted husband, a loving father of two children, a brother and cousin you could always count on. We thank you for the privacy you have afforded us during this difficult time,” read a previous Gandolfini family statement by Kobold.
The actor is survived by his wife, Deborah Lin, and two children.
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