Thursday, June 20, 2013

James Gandolfini R.I.P.

James Gandolfini, best known for playing Tony Soprano on The Sopranos, died 19 June 2013 at the age of 51. The cause was a heart attack.

James Gandolfini was born on 18 September 1961 in  Westwood, New Jersey, but grew up in  Park Ridge, New Jersey. He acted in school plays while attending Park Ridge High School. He attended Rutgers University, from which he graduated in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts in communication studies. After graduating from college, he worked a variety of jobs including driving a truck and managing a night club. It was in 1985 that he became interested in acting after going with a friend to an acting class.

 James Gandolfini made his film debut in a bit part in the horror movie Shock! Shock! Shock! in 1987. In 1992 he made his debut on Broadway in a revival of A Streetcar Named Desire. In 1995 he appeared on Broadway in a revival of On the Waterfront. In the Nineties Mr. Gandolfini appeared in such The Last Boy Scout (1991), A Stranger Among Us (1992), True Romance (1993), Mr. Wonderful (1993), Terminal Velocity (1994), Crimson Tide (1995), Get Shorty (1995), Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997), Fallen (1998), and 8MM (1999). He made his television debut in an episode of Gun and appeared in a new television adaptation of 12 Angry Men. It was in 1999 that he began his 6 season run as gangster Tony Soprano on The Sopranos.

In the Naughts  James Gandolfini appeared in such films as The Mexican (2001), The Last Castle (2001), Lonely Hearts (2006), All the King's Men (2006), The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009), and Mint Julep (2010).  He provided the voice of Carol in Where the Wild Things Are (2009).  He appeared on Broadway in God of Carnage. In the Teens he appeared in such films as Killing Them Softly (2012), Zero Dark Thirty (2012), and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013). His final film Animal Rescue will be released in 2014. He is due to appear on an episode of the television show Criminal Justice later this year.

James Gandolfini was an extremely talented actor. After all, it was not simply David Chase's writing that made Tony Soprano a four dimensional character, but Mr. Gandolfini's talent as an actor as well. In a lesser actor's hands Tony Soprano might have simply been a violent sociopath, but Mr. Gandolfini made him a much more complicated character. Not only was he believable when killing a rival, but he was believable when attending his children's school events as well.

While Mr. Gandolfini played more than his share of mobsters before and after Tony Soprano, he certainly was not limited to those roles and actually had great range. Perhaps no role was further from Tony Soprano than Carol in Where the Wild Things Are. Carol can be violent, like Tony, but at the same time there is a childishness and tenderness in him that was totally lacking in Tony Soprano. Quite simply, Carol is a kid in a wild thing's body. He also played a very different role in In the Loop, that of  Lieutenant General Miller. Not only does Lieutenant General Miller appear to have little to no ego (unlike every other character in the film), but he seems to treat the whole possibility of war in the Middle East as a game. In the Loop demonstrated Mr. Gandolfini's gift for comedy. James Gandolfini played a wide range of other roles, from sensitive hit man Winston Baldry in The Mexican to hopeless romantic iron worker Nick Murder in Romance & Cigarettes. He was a talented actor whose life ended all too soon.

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