Wednesday June 19, 2013 the entertainment and acting world lost a true giant when James Gandolfini succumbed to a massive heart attack and fell asleep in death. Gandolfini will forever be remembered as Tony Soprano on one of the greatest television shows of all time and his character may be one of the best as well. Tony was superbly written and thought out. The depth that went into the character could only be written so deep, Gandolfini brought it to a different level all together.
While being remembered as Tony Soprano is a phenomenal legacy to have, it is also a little bit sad that some people will never know what a terrific actor Gandolfini was. Tony Soprano is a key example of how great he really was but only looking at his other work shows how good he really was as Tony. I’ve decided to take a look at some of my favorite Gandolfini roles and some of his most diverse.
Winston is a hitman, true, and that is close to the Soprano character but Winston has a twist, he’s gay. He not only is gay, he has a conscience and doubts his way of life. He brought a humanity to the character that was desperately needed. It was the character that stood out and made the movie better than it was.
Doug Riley is stuck in a 30 year marriage with a wife who has never gotten over the loss of their 15 year old daughter and while Doug has become numb to his life as well he begins to show signs of breaking out. On a business trip to New Orleans he unexpectedly get’s hooked up with a 16 year old prostitute and begins to help change her life. This character is so complex on the inside while being bland on the outside and near emotionless. He does a beautiful job letting his inner self come through a little bit at a time.
There isn’t much more opposite of the head of a mafia crime family than the head of the C.I.A. Therefore when he played the Director in the award winning film about the 10 year hunt for Osama Bin Laden his brief time on film had to make an impact. The few words he spoke resinated and gave credibility to different characters and where they stood and what empowered them. Usually when a bigger name actor is cast in a smaller role it is because the expertise is needed despite the size of the role. His expertise was just what that character and film needed and got.
When I said that being C.I.A. Director was as opposite as you could get I meant it but playing a crooked southern politician in 1950’s Louisiana is just about as opposite as well. Tiny Duffy is a crooked man working with major politicians to help swing an election but when it doesn’t go their way he is forced to join the man trying to bring them down and he has all but become his lap dog. With a pretty decent southern accent he had the ability to play the character with the confidence of Tony Soprano until it was needed for him to be brought down to the low level and he filled those shoes just as well.
Gandolfini returned to HBO for this film which did well at the Golden Globes and various festivals. Craig Gilbert was a true life person who was a television producer who is credited with creating what is now known as reality TV. He had the idea to follow a seemingly normal family and when the cameras come the normal goes away. He struggles with the morality of what he is doing and trying to keep his feelings for the wife and mother of the family, in check.
Gandolfini will be greatly missed and it is safe to assume now that a Sopranos movie is not going to happen. So as we reflect on his career and the things he did, remember these words from The Sopranos theme song: “ She said, you’re one in a million. You got to learn to shine.” Shine he did.