James Gandolfini R.I.P

June 21, 2013

James Gandolfini, the triple Emmy Award winning actor, best known for playing mob boss Tony Soprano in The Sopranos TV series, is dead. He was on holiday in Italy when he had a heart attack and died. He was 51.

james gandolfini_sepia

Spoiler alert! I’m going to feature some clips of The Sopranos. If you’ve never seen the show and you want to in the near future, you should stop reading here.

James Gandolfini was a Jersey boy, born in Westwood, New Jersey, to Italian parents. He was introduced to acting while living in New York. He was in the Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire and films including True Romance, Terminal Velocity and Get Shorty. Then Tony Soprano came-a-calling.

Good shows come down to the quality of the writing, but what really brings these shows and their characters to life is the quality of the acting. In playing Tony Soprano, a troubled mafia boss and family man, Gandolfini brilliantly managed to make him both repellent and likeable. I’ll just pop in a couple of clips from the show, which ran for six seasons from 1999-2007.

Some of the best scenes, in my opinion, were with Tony Soprano and Dr Jennifer Melfi, beautifully played by Lorraine Bracco. We’re complex human beings and those scenes showed Soprano as more than just a hardcore wiseguy.

The song Don’t Stop Believing by Journey was cute as featured in the pilot episode of Glee. In the final scene of the finale of The Sopranos called Made in America, the ending of which divided audiences, it was much darker. There was a feeling of foreboding. The more times I watch this clip, the more I’m convinced that Tony was whacked.

Post-Sopranos he appeared in Broadway’s God of Carnage and other films like The Taking Of Pelham 123, Where The Wild Things Are, Killing Them Softly and Zero Dark Thirty.

Here’s a clip from the film In The Loop, a spin-off of the British TV political satire The Thick of It. It features Gandolfini and Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker squaring up to each other. Tucker is the aggressive and foul-mouthed Director of Communications for the government. They’re mean. They’re filthy. They’re magnificent.

I didn’t know this, but looking at Wikipedia, I found out he recently produced two documentaries. Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq about injured veterans from the Iraq war, and Wartorn: 1861–2010 looking at how post traumatic stress disorder affected soldiers and their families through wars from 1861-2010.

He leaves behind his wife and children, as well as a legion of shocked, upset fans and fellow actors. The people of Jersey have spoken of him with pride. I can’t imagine the participants of Jersey Shore would be afforded the same respect. From all the tributes I’ve read about him, the following words used to describe him appeared again and again: genius; talented; kind; generous; humble and gentle giant. Makes me wish I’d met him now.

I raise my glass to you, James Gandolfini. It’s been a pleasure watching you. Bada Bing, big fella.



  1. Thanks for the spoiler alert Pie,.. I’ve never seen the Sopranos and would like to, so jumped straight to the comments because I appreciated the warning.
    I’m going to see if the video /dvd place locally has it for to rent.

    • I wouldn’t normally put out a spoiler alert, but because I put in the last scene of the final episode, I thought it would put daylight on magic to those who hadn’t yet seen it and wanted to. Of course, if you don’t care for the programme, it won’t matter

      If you’re able to steal a box set, do. I need to get hold of one myself so I can be reminded of the brilliance of that show.

  2. I am so sad the man is dead he was absolutely fabulous in the Soprano’s, FABULOUS!!!

    • I thought he was brilliant!

      • I also liked him in Romance and Cigarettes. It was an odd film and I don’t think it was well received, but I thought it was great fun. And it had Christopher Walken in it – double happiness!

  3. I knew you would feature better clips than the news shows, Pie. I absolutely hate having to bring up the obvious health care aspect, but being in that world I still must. He weighed around 300 lbs, not muscle. By all accounts, he was a wonderful, generous, humble person, on top of his enormous acting talent. But being in denial about the risks of obesity can have dire, unanticipated consequences.

    • Thanks for the compliments about my choice of clips, Mikey. I only heard the news on the radio and read stuff online, so I don’t know what clips were used on TV, but if I managed to find a good set from so many on YouTube, then that’s great.

      Moving on to the health aspect. You’re right to flag this up. There’s an obesity epidemic in some parts of the western world, particularly the US and the UK. I can still be shocked by how big the body can get if it’s not looked after properly. I imagine people of a certain size, and middle aged men in particular, were shocked into contemplating their lives on hearing the news about Gandolfini. Whether they’ll actually do something about it remains to be seen.

  4. Those clips are just wonderful, although it makes me sad to watch them. He was such a great actor. The Sopranos was my favorite show of all time.

    I hope he was having a great time in Italy.

    • I was thinking the same thing. Reports were saying he appeared to be in good spirits, so I think he did have a good time. We’re lucky to have access to his work if we want to get a Gandolfini fix. His family, on the other hand, would rather he was still with them.

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